I’m pretty sure that Lauren is going to be a teacher one day. Or a school principal. Or as my sister has always predicted, a passport inspector at the border, potentially FBI, best case scenario Navy Seal.
She has an unmatched eye for detail and is a stickler for the rules.
Her first few words were “fuff” and “fedde”, fluff and feather. She’d spot these with accuracy from her perch on the couch, tiny pieces of lint on the floor, or miniscule little feathers that had drifted down from our sofa’s down cushions. She would pick them up gently, hold them up to the light, and investigate them like a detective. It wasn’t long before she’d earned the nickname CSI.
Her rule abiding is even more impressive for a girl of her age. Even as a five-year old, she’s easily exasperated by bad behavior.
She recently found an old copy of US Weekly magazine, walked into the living room and pronounced “Ugh. This is unacceptable. This man is swimming in his underpants!”
Bathroom humor does not fly with her, period. The other day Sam came running over to us and said “Mommy, wanna hear something funny? The chef cooks the poop!” (Mom turned her head and snickered).
Lauren: “Sam, that is NOT a funny joke at all.”
Even her parents are targets.
After dropping her off at skating camp this summer, I urged her to go with her instructors.
“They’re not instructors mom.”
“OK, go with your teachers.”
“They’re not teachers either.”
“No, (eyes rolling), they’re Staffs.”
“OK, well I’m just going to wait for you in the changing room.”
“It’s not the changing room Mom.”
(Exasperated) “What is it Lauren?”
“It’s the club lounge.”
“Excuse me, but your club lounge has exposed cinderblocks and rivets in the wall. I’ll wait for you in the changing room.”
But I love her with my whole being. I still don’t understand how I’m related by flesh and blood to this little creature. Me, the one who blurts out to strangers that I’m weaning myself off sleep meds, or has a little too much to drink at the office party.
How on Earth did I give birth to a rule-maker. A rule-enforcer.
But she’s a part of me, no doubt. She loves me, and blows me kisses when I drop her off at her activities. She makes my heart beat out of my chest.
We went apple picking the other day, and she was so happy to pick the crisp apples off the trees.
I wanted to do something fun with our apples, not the usual applesauce. She wanted to help, she’s my number one baking companion.
We chose a Tarte Tatin. Sticky, gooey, caramel goodness baked on top of puff pastry. What’s not to love?
Never mind the horrible lighting – even in the best of light, it was a ragged-edged atrocity. It was so ugly that I almost threw it out. Although if you’ve been reading this blog, you’d know that I could never throw out good food, no matter how ugly.
So I wrapped it in foil, stuck it in the fridge, and vowed to show my beautiful girl that when life throws you lemons, you make a damn good Tarte Tatin alternative.
The next day, inspiration hit. I pulled out her favorite cookie cutter and stamped out her dessert.
And lo and behold, even my little future teacher approved. Victory.
- frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-ounce package)
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 7 to 9 Gala apples (3 to 4 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
- Special equipment: a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Roll pastry sheet into a 101/2-inch square on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Brush off excess flour and cut out a 10-inch round with a sharp knife, using a plate as a guide. Transfer round to a baking sheet and chill.
- Spread butter thickly on bottom and side of skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit vertically on sugar, packing them tightly in concentric circles. Apples will stick up above rim of skillet.
- Cook apples over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, 18 to 25 minutes. (Don't worry if juices color unevenly.)
- Put skillet in middle of oven over a piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake 20 minutes (apples will settle slightly), then remove from oven and lay pastry round over apples.
- Bake tart until pastry is browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes.
- Just before serving, invert a platter with lip over skillet and, using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert tart onto platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet. (Don't worry if there are black spots; they won't affect the flavor of the tart.) Brush any excess caramel from skillet over apples. Serve immediately.
- Tart can cool in skillet up to 30 minutes. It can also stand, uncovered, up to 5 hours, then be heated over moderately low heat 1 to 2 minutes to loosen caramel. Shake skillet gently to loosen tart before inverting.