For some unknown reason, I had never tasted tarte Tatin until recently, and it was a revelation. I like apple pie, but often find it a bit bland. Tarte Tatin is not at all bland: the apples are soaked with caramel, chewy around the edges, and the crust has a wonderful shatteringly crisp quality that I’ve never encountered in a regular fruit pie. As soon as I tasted it, I vowed that I would try making one myself.
The basic concept really isn’t too complicated, and there seems to be some flexibility, based on the difference between the various recipes I looked up. The foundation is a caramel sauce made with sugar and butter, the apples are laid on the caramel, and pie crust is laid on the apples before baking, then the whole thing is turned upside down before serving. I found variations involving cooking the caramel in a separate pan, then mixing it with the apples, but I went with an approach of cooking the butter, sugar and apples together in a skillet, without stirring, until the sauce caramelized with the juice from the fruit.
Another simple variation is whether to use puff pastry or pie dough. I had some pastry in the fridge, but I felt more inclined to a simple crust, so I just mixed up a single-crust amount of my usual recipe, based on the Joy of Cooking’s Pie Dough Cockaigne.
This is a great example of the kind of food that you should really get other people to make for you, just so you don’t have to see how much butter really goes into it. Between the crust and the filling, this had nearly one and a half sticks of butter! But it’s so good that it’s worth turning a blind eye to the calories. And besides, it’s full of apples, so it’s good for you!
I’m obviously going to need more practice making these – my first attempt was delicious, but not very beautiful. Guess we’ll have to have another one…
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan and On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 4 Tbsp butter
- pinch of salt
- cold water (about 1/3 cup?)
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- about 5 apples (I used Braeburns, but any flavorful, firm apple would do)
- 3/4 cup white sugar
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Mix up the pie dough, roll into a disk and set aside (you can refrigerate it if you’re working ahead).
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Sprinkle the sugar over the butter, remove from the heat, then arrange the apples in the pan, as snugly and artistically as possible. Put the pan back over medium or medium-low heat. The sugar and butter will bubble up around the apples. Keep an eye on it as it cooks, it will eventually turn a dark caramel color. This took me about half an hour (Dorie says 15 minutes, Susan says an hour, so I just split the difference). Don’t stir.
Lay the crust over the apples and tuck in the edges. Into the oven with it.
Bake 30-40 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden. Then, without hurting yourself or anyone else, place a large plate over the top of the skillet and invert it. I spilled quite a bit of caramel doing this – I think I need to use a different pan. Rearrange the apples if they became mussed – you may need to scrape some out of the pan.
Make sure to give the tart a few minutes to cool, otherwise the hot caramel may cause injuries. Serve with unsweetened whipped cream (or creme fraiche if you can get it).