I learned from the famous French chocolatier and pastry chef Maurice Bernachon that people love to see black specks of vanilla bean in their desserts; it’s proof that real vanilla beans were used in the recipe, and that always means better flavor. His tarte Tatin is traditional, with the exception of the whole vanilla bean baked right into the caramelized apple topping.
In this easy version of the French classic, I use maple syrup instead of making a caramel, and bananas (which don’t really need cooking) instead of apples. The effect is still one of soft fruit, rich buttery juices, and crisp pastry. It makes an excellent year-round dessert, and happens to contain no added sugar. You can make it in a cake pan or even in a heavy frying pan.—Gale Gand and Julia Moskin
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 vanilla bean (use a whole vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise)
2 to 3 bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick coins
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Choose a baking pan: Use a heavyweight 9- or 10-inch cake pan or a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet.
2. Unfold the pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly roll a rolling pin over it to smooth out any creases and make it a little bit thinner. Using your pan as a guide, cut a round of dough that is about 1 inch bigger than the pan all the way around. Transfer the circle to a sheet pan, prick it all over with a fork, and keep it refrigerated. (See note)
3. Heat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC) degrees. Meanwhile, put your pan on the stove and add the butter to it. Turn the heat to medium and heat until the butter is melted. Add the maple syrup and vanilla bean and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and position the vanilla bean in the center of the pan. Arrange the banana slices (I like to place them in a spiral or in concentric circles) to cover the whole bottom of the pan.
4. Lay the pastry circle over the bananas, pressing the extra pastry around the sides of the pan so that it comes up the wall of the pan (rather than down around the bananas). The pastry will shrink during baking to fit the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. (See note)
5. Just before serving, warm the bottom of the pan for 1 or 2 minutes on the stove, over low heat (this will melt the caramel slightly and loosen the tart from the pan). Place a serving plate over the pan and quickly flip them over to turn the tart out, with the bananas facing up. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Note: The pastry circle can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Once baked, the tart should be served the same day it is made.
Recipe © 2003 Gale’s Bread and Butter, Inc. and Julia Moskin. All rights reserved.