Tarte Tatin is a classic French dessert. You can think of it as an apple pie version of the popular pineapple upside-down cake. In a Tarte Tatin, the apples are caramelized in sugar, then they are covered with puff pastry and baked. When it’s time to serve the Tart, it is inverted on a plate revealing the deep mahogany apples dripping with caramel sauce. The combination of the crisp and crunchy pastry vs the soft apples perfectly infused with caramel taste is simply irresistible
While apples are the classic and most common filling for a tarte Tatin, you can make one with almost any fruit or vegetable, sweet or savoury! I have an eggplant and smoked cheese tarte tatin recipe that I can’t wait to share with you!
Recipe 1: Rough Puff Pastry
Servings: one single pastry crust
1 cup (250 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2/3 cup (160 ml) (5 oz) (140 gm) unsalted butter, cold
¼ tsp fine salt
¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. With a pastry blender (or two table knives or food processor) cut in the butter until the mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the ice cold water. Toss the flour/butter and water together with a fork until the dough starts to clump together.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times just enough to bring it together into a square
Be careful not to overwork the dough: there should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough.
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out till it’s about 10” (25 cm) long.
Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle, and fold the top third down, like you are folding a letter. This is one fold.
Turn the dough a one quarter turn, and roll out again. Fold again – this is the second fold.
Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times, for 5 folds total. Your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold
If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky to do all the folds at once, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes between folds.
After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight.
Recipe 2: Tarte Tatin
6 large or 7-8 medium-sized apples (see “Notes” for the best type of apple for this dish)
Juice of half a lemon
6 tablespoons (90 ml) (3 oz) (85 gm) unsalted butter (or use salted and skip the salt)
1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (9½ oz) (265 gm) granulated sugar, divided
Rough Puff Pastry, above
Peel the apples and cut them into quarters. Remove the cores in such a way that each apple quarter has a flat inner side: when placed rounded-side-up, it should sit on a flat base.
Place the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-1/2 oz) (65 gm) sugar. This will help draw out some of the moisture from the apples and prevent an overly runny caramel. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Melt the butter in a very heavy, 9” or 10” (23 cm or 24 cm) oven-proof saucepan over medium heat, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) sugar.
Stir with a whisk until the sugar melts and becomes a pale, smooth caramel.
The sugar will seem dry and chunky at first, then will start to melt and smooth out.
If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce. Remove from the heat.
Discard the liquid that has come out of the apples, then add the apple quarters to the caramel, round side down.
They won’t all fit in a single layer at first, but as they cook they will shrink a bit. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, pressing down gently on the apples with a spoon to cover them in the caramel liquid.
Move the apples around the pan gently so that they all cook evenly, trying to keep them round side down. When the apples have shrunk enough to mostly fit in a single layer and are starting to soften but still keep their shape, remove the pan from the heat.
With a wooden spoon, arrange the apples, round side down, in a single layer of concentric circles covering the bottom of the pan. Set aside until the filling stops steaming before covering with pastry.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and trim it into a circle about 1” (25 mm) in diameter larger than your saucepan.
Lay it over the filling, tucking in the edges between the apples and the sides of the pan, and cut a few steam vents in the pastry.
Place the saucepan on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides) and place in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5 oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, increasing the oven temperature to moderately hot 400˚F/200°C/gas mark 6 during the last 5 – 10 minutes of baking if the pastry isn’t browning properly.
Using kitchen towels or oven mittens, grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the Tatin onto the platter.
If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them with a spatula. The tarte Tatin can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature.
Serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or crème fraîche.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Tarte Tatin doesn’t keep or store particularly well: it is best served warm from the oven, but can also be served at room temperature the same day it is made.
Blog-checking lines: For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.
The best apples for a tarte Tatin can be either tart or sweet, but they should be firm apples that hold their shape during cooking – otherwise you’ll end up with a pan full of applesauce. Good varieties available in North America include Granny Smith, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold.