Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was another pick from my book club and another book that I didn’t think I would enjoy but did. The novel follows Bernadette Fox, an anxious, reclusive ex- architect who disappears right before a family trip to Antarctica. The story’s narration is a compilation of letters, emails and other documents that 15 year old Bee has gathered in hopes of finding her missing mom. The epistolary framework of this novel is a turnoff for some people but I found that it really worked in this case and helped round out the story.
As much as I enjoyed this book there is not a lot of food in it. The big exception to this is the correspondence between Soo-Lin and Audrey (the novel’s antagonists) discussing the upcoming brunch to recruit new students for the private school that Bee attends.
“I still have enough green tomatoes in the greenhouse to fry up for appetizers, plus dill, parsley, and cilantro for aioli. I’ve stored two bushels of apples and want to make my rosemary tarte tatin for dessert”. -Maria Semple
The idea of an apple and herb dessert caught my attention, so I decided to make Audrey’s apple and rosemary tarte tatin.
The tarte tatin is an inverted dessert. It is literally baked one way and flipped 180 degrees to get the finished product. This perfectly describes Audrey’s character, she starts off as an adversary to Bernadette. She spreads rumors, shames her on her lack of parental involvement in school activities, lies about her, and judges her at every turn throughout the novel. However, there is a turning point for Audrey and she does a “complete 180” and becomes somewhat of a hero by the novel’s end. I think it is fitting that Audrey makes a dessert that completely flips over ending right side up.
“You know how we thought Audrey Griffin was the devil? Turns out Audrey Griffin is an angel”. -Maria Semple
I based my work off a recipe I found from the New York Times and you can find that here. I changed it up because, to be honest, I wasn’t keen on making an 11 inch tarte tatin and the flipping had me freaked out so I had to modify the recipe to work with a 10 inch cake pan. I used a cake pan for easier flipping and also because Julia Child said it was acceptable to make this dish in one.
You all know I am super intimidated by pie crust, but I felt fine making this one. It was simple, and I was able to realize that even if it was ugly when I put it in the oven it wouldn’t matter because after the dish gets flipped, you can’t see it anyway!
The entire dish is pretty straightforward and simple but it did take a lot of prep time. I suggest starting this thing early if you are going to make it or prep parts of it in advance such as the pastry dough and prepping the apples.
The flipping part was a little scary but I felt better putting a platter over my cake pan and then flipping it over versus trying hold a skillet but that is just my preference.
I also found it helpful to wiggle the pan after the flip to make sure it all came out. Here it is after the flip:
Like Audrey, the villain turned hero of the story, Apple Rosemary Tarte Tatin is a great mix of sweet and savory. I really enjoyed the flavors of this dish but my family is not as enthusiastic about sweet/savory mixes. They did enjoy the idea of it being prepared one way and then flipped over though. I may bring this for my next book club meeting; they seem to have great taste in books, they probably have great appreciation for good food as well.
Audrey Griffin’s Rosemary-Apple Tarte Tatin:
For the Crust:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
For the Filling:
1 cup sugar
10 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered and cored
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- Make the Crust: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the yolk mixture and pulse again until mixture comes together. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.
- Place the sugar in a pot over medium-low heat. When the sugar begins to melt, stir until it melts completely and turns into a caramel-colored syrup. Remove from the heat. Pour into 10-inch cake round.
- Toss the apples with the melted butter and rosemary. Arrange the apples in the skillet on top of the syrup in 2 layers, making concentric circles.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out into a circle slightly larger than the cake round. Place the dough over the apples and fold in the extra dough, pressing it against the skillet to form a seal. Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 40 minutes.
- Let stand for 10 minutes. (I only waited 7) Quickly but carefully invert the pan over a large plate or platter. Serve warm with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.