The Amazing French Tarte Tatin

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French desserts.  What do you think of?  Creme Brulee? Chocolate Souffle?  Perhaps Profiteroles, Eclairs or Macarons?   Turns out, the Tarte Tartin is the most famous of them all.  I wasn’t even familiar with this upside-down, caramelized apple tart until my recent trip to Paris.  I was lucky enough to make the incredible Tarte Tatin at La Cuisine Paris — a wonderful French cooking school that overlooks the Siene in Paris.  During our French pastry class we made Tarte Tartin and Lemon Tarts – which I recently wrote about.  See that previous post for the buttery crust recipe (or pate brisee).  

The Tarte Tatin has a long and storied history.  The classic dessert was created in the late 1800s by the Tatin sisters Stephanie and Caroline who served the dish at the Tatin Hotel in a small French village.  Legend goes that the  entire dessert was a mistake — apples that got burned, a pie that was flipped upside down to try and save it.  No one fully agrees on the origin.  What ever, I just know it’s amazing. 


Tarte Tatin is a beloved dish in France.  The ingredients are very simple:  apples, sugar and butter.   The various methods for creating the perfect Tarte Tatin are chronicled in this post from The Guardian.  My recipe from La Cuisine Paris is written below (amounts are in grams).  If you don’t have a digital scale, the recipe we used in the class is close to the version from Smitten Kitchen.

Start by peeling about 7 apples — we used Golden Delicious.  The apples are cored and cut in half.  Some recipes quarter them, but I like the larger size.  If slices are too little they won’t hold up to the caramelization.  Add 1 cup of sugar and a stick of unsalted butter to a large pan, or use a cast iron skillet if you have one (some people swear by the cast iron skillet for this dessert!).  Cook the sugar and butter over medium heat until a light caramel and then add the apples.

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Continue to bathe the apples in the hot caramel mixture.

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 Cook the apples for about 20 minutes.  The sugar should cook to a light brown caramel.  The apples should be soft when you stick a knife in them. 

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 Once the apples are soft (not mushy), flip them over so the cut side faces up.

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Roll out your pastry dough and cut into a circle the size of your pan. Use your rolling pin to help you top the apples in the pan.

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Cover the pan with the pastry and fold the ends around the apples.

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Make a small slit in the dough to help it vent while baking.  Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes at  375 F.  

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Take out of the oven and immediately turn the pan upside down onto a large plate.  Serve warm with whipped cream.  We added vanilla bean to our heavy cream (which is the best!) and then the vanilla bean pods were braided as a garnish on top.  Divine.

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La Cuisine Paris Recipe for Tarte Tatin:

1.5 kg apples (Golden Delicious)
50 g butter at room temperature
25 g sugar
50 g melted butter
25 g sugar
Juice of 1 orange (optional)

Generously butter a large mold (round cake mold or frying pan) with 50 g butter at room temperature.  Sprinkle 25 g sugar on the bottom of the pan and cook to a light caramel. Peel the apples, cut into halves or quarters and arrange in a flower pattern in the mold.  Sprinkle with the remaining sugar, add the melted butter.  Place on medium heat for about 20 minutes; the sugar should cook to a light brown caramel.  Optional:  you can add the orange juice after 10 minutes.  Cover the apples with the short crust pastry, folding the ends around the apples.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 180 C. Take out of the oven and immediately turn the mold upside-down on to a large dish.  Serve warm.

Here’s Dorie Greenspan making Tarte Tatin

Additional recipes for Tarte Tatin:

The Kitchn
Fine Cooking
Michael Ruhlman
Dorie Greenspan
Los Angeles Times

 

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