Serves 6 to 8.
Note: If you are making your own pastry, plan ahead, as it needs two hours in the refrigerator. Or buy pre-made frozen or refrigerated pie crust or puff pastry in the grocery store. Follow package directions for preparation before use. It’s best to use a single variety of apple so that all cook the same. Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Haralson all work well.
• Quick Puff Pastry (see recipe; see Note)
• 6 to 7 apples, depending on size (see Note)
• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed (turbinado works well)
• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Make the Quick Puff Pastry (or have the pre-made version, thawed, or refrigerated pie crust on hand).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel apples, halve, then remove the core using a small spoon or melon baller.
In a 10-inch ovenproof saucepan, preferably nonstick, melt butter, then stir in brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook another minute.
Add apples to the pan in a single layer. A little crowding is fine; they will fit better as they cook and begin to soften. Pour lemon juice over apples. Cook for 10 minutes, turning apples frequently so they caramelize on all surfaces. For the final turn, arrange them cut side up in a pleasing pattern. With a spoon, carefully fill each core with some caramel. Turn off heat.
Remove pastry from refrigerator. On a well-floured surface, roll pastry into an 12-inch circle. (Or use a pot lid as a guide, trimming dough to a 12-inch circle.) If using pre-made, you may need to roll it a bit bigger. If puff pastry, will need to roll out and trim accordingly).
Carefully place the dough on top of the apples, using a spatula to work the edges of the dough closely around the apples.
Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Place a 10- to 11-inch serving plate with a slightly raised rim over the saucepan. With one hand holding the plate firmly against the pan and another (use a hotpad!) grasping the handle, turn over the pan so that the tart releases onto the plate. Scrape any excess caramel from the pan onto the apples. Serve warm.
Tart also can be baked earlier and set aside without inverting. Just before serving, reheat in 300-degree oven for 10 minutes to soften caramel, then proceed as above.
Quick Puff Pastry
Makes pastry for 1 tart.
• 1 1/2 c. flour
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted cold butter
• 1/3 c. plus 1 tbsp. ice water
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour. With a pastry blender or fingers, quickly work butter into the dough until it’s in pea-sized pieces. Add ice water and mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Turn dough out onto counter and knead a few times until it holds together.
Generously flour work surface, then roll dough into a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 14 inches long. From the long sides, fold the dough like a business letter, bringing one third over the middle third, then the remaining third over that, brushing off excess flour.
From one short end, roll the dough into a tight package, then press down to make a rough square. Wrap well in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 2 hours before using. (You can keep the dough refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. If you freeze it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.)