Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is my absolute favourite go-to recipe when I need to produce a nice dessert in a hurry. It’s the ultimate crowd pleaser: a classic tarte tatin consists simply of rich apple-flavoured butter caramel surrounding soft, tender cooked fruit on flaky, buttery, puff pastry. Served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, there is NOTHING BETTER. And your friends – particularly the ones who don’t bake – have no idea how simple it is. (People are resistant to the idea that something so delicious can be so easy to make.) The beauty of a tarte tatin is that you can make it in less than two hours with minimal fuss. If you’re an expert apple peeler and corer, you can make it in under an hour and a half. (That is, if you already have puff pastry or are using store-bought.)

I learned how to make a tarte tatin from my mother. My mother follows Lenotre’s method – and so, I suppose, do I. You know how when you eat a perfect food early in life it defines how that food should taste forever? That’s how I feel about this tarte tatin: it is the ideal against which all others must be compared.

A couple of notes before you begin.

In my opinion, it is not simply worthwhile but essential that you use all-butter puff pastry. The vegetable oil stuff may be fine for savoury tarts (and even on this I am unconvinced) but you can really taste the difference when making desserts. BUTTER IS BEST. I had planned to write a blog post on how to make puff pastry, but for the above tarte tatin I used store-bought (I told you I was in a hurry), so that post is yet forthcoming. In the meantime, should you want to start with a quick puff pastry recipe, you can’t do better than Katherine’s beautifully photographed tutorial at Two Bites at a Time. (Plus she uses the word, “fraisage,” which I love and find rather naughty-sounding – but I think that’s because it reminds me of frottage.) In England, I know that Waitrose carries all-butter puff pastry for about £3 for a package of two sheets (enough for two large tartes) and in the United States you can find it in Whole Foods for sure. For a while Trader Joe’s also stocked all-butter puff pastry, but I’m not certain if they still do.

Moving on. The only tricky bit to making a tarte tatin is flipping the hot tarte tatin onto the serving plate, since the tarte is baked upside-down in a skillet. My advice to you on this point is this: make sure that the skillet you are using is one that you can easily lift by yourself with one hand, as you don’t want to a) drop your tarte, or b) give yourself third-degree burns with molten caramel. (And yes, on one occasion that I wish I could forget, I did this – and have the scars to prove it.) So I guess I do have an additional piece of advice: don’t make a tarte tatin when you’ve got a hangover.

You will need:

A heavy-bottomed oven proof skillet that you can lift with one hand (failing that, you’ll need a nimble kitchen assistant to help you). I swear by my Scanpan – fancy Danish cast aluminum and titanium non-stick cookware that never ever flakes or chips. And it’s environmentally friendly!

A serving dish that is larger than your heavy-bottomed skillet

Ingredients:

(The following amounts are for a 10 and ½ inch tarte; you’ll only need to scale up the amount of butter and sugar if you’re doing something much larger)

8-10 good baking apples (Remember, the apples are the star, so use something you really like. My favourite baking apple is the pink lady.)

250 grams sugar (about nine ounces, or 1 and 1/3 cups) (Use more if your apples are quite tart, or if you like a sweeter caramel — you can always add as you go along.)

150 grams unsalted butter (about 1/3 lb, or about 10.5 tablespoons)

Approximately 250 grams of puff pastry (a little more than half a pound)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit).

Peel, halve, and core 7-10 apples (how many you’ll need depends on the apples’ size: you will eventually cram them fairly tightly into your skillet, so use your best estimate of how many you can fit).

In a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-low heat. When the butter is completely melted, place the apples cut side up in the skillet, trying to cram in as many as you can, as they will shrink.

Cook for 45 minutes to one hour over medium-low heat. If you wish, you can occasionally spoon the caramel bubbling around your apples over the apples, but I’m not persuaded that this is necessary.

Your caramel will pass through three stages. First, the butter and sugar will simply melt and bubble around your apples. Eventually, the mixture will turn into a clear thick caramel. At this point, your apples have probably lost some liquid but are still somewhat firm. You want to continue to cook the mixture until the caramel turns a butterscotch colour, and the apples are fork tender. (Your kitchen will smell heavenly.)

While the mixture is cooking, or, if you like, once your caramel and apples are ready, roll out the puff pastry on floured parchment paper quite thin (ideally no more than one to two millimeters) to a size a bit larger than your skillet, being careful to work it as little as possible so the butter does not melt. Flip the rolled pastry over your skillet, folding and tucking the edges firmly around the apples.

Put the skillet in the hot oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

(You will see that I had to patch a little tear. No harm done, as the pastry is quite forgiving.)

Now, while the tarte is still very hot (i.e., as soon as it’s out of the oven), place the serving dish over the tarte. With your dominant hand on the skillet handle and your other hand flat on the bottom of the serving dish, quickly flip the whole lot, place the dish on your work surface, and lift the skillet away from the tarte. The tarte will come cleanly out of the skillet.

Serve warm, with a dollop of crème fraiche, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or on its own.

Makes about 10 servings.

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39 thoughts on “Classic Tarte Tatin

  1. Susan,
    I, too, am familiar with the agony of burnt flesh due to hot caramel. Not fun!

    This looks really good. I have yet to try my apple peeler/corer so when I bust that out I will have to try a traditional tarte tatin. Nice job!!

    daisy

    • Thank you very much Daisy! The only frustrating thing is that I baked it at the last minute for a friend’s party and so couldn’t take pictures with natural light. (But it tasted lovely.)

  2. I also love tarte tatin, and all the variations too – pear, apricot, plum. I think it’s because I love puff pastry so much. I always buy it though – I’ve never made my own even though I plan to one day!

  3. Have friends coming for dinner and wondered what to do for dessert. Since I have fresh apples, pastry, butter and sugar, I think I can do this. Will get back to you. House should smell delicious anyway. Thanks.

      • Tart was delicious and a big hit. I did make one mistake – left it in pan too long and it didn’t come out like yours. No problem though, I just cut it in the pan and loosened it with a spatula, flipping it over on the plate. Served with ice cream and it was fantastic! Next time I’ll flip it over sooner. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Hi, I just had a look through your blog after you commented on mine and all I can say is WOW. Your pictures are great! Even if I don’t eat eggs or diary or meat I could try making vegan versions of your recipes 🙂

    • Hey, thanks so much — that’s terrific praise! My budget is downsizing even more so I think I’ll do a lot more vegetarian (if not vegan) recipes. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I love a good tarte tatin – it’s perfect for a cook (like me) who doesn’t bake very much. It’s relatively straight-forward to put together and really very forgiving. My favourite is with pears, and if there is any way of working almonds into it as well I would be in hog-heaven. Great recipe.

    • I’m wondering whether, if you sprinkled the tops of the fruit with toasted sliced almonds before putting the tarte in the oven, they wouldn’t cling to the fruits’ tops in glorious caramelly joyous union.

  6. Holy cow, does that look delicious. Can’t wait to try it, even if I do get some scars. They’ll fit right in with the scars I have from Chopping onions after a bit too much wine. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Just made the most spectacular Tarte Tatin to date from your recipe! I used my stainless Demeyere pan and I much prefer it to cast iron — no sticking, minimal mess. Additionally, Pink Lady apples are my new fave for pies and now Tarte Tatin. Thanks for the recommendation, Zu!

    • You’re welcome Snart! I think using a stainless or ovenproof nonstick pan makes a huge difference, and it also makes the tarte a nicer shape. Glad the recipe worked out so well for you. xxxx

  8. This tarte tatin is great. I’ve made it twice following your recipe. I also tried it with cooking apples, just because I have a freezer full. I cooked my butter and sugar for a long while (holding my nerve) first then added the apples at the end and cooked them for just ten minutes. It was pretty good.

    • Hi Rebecca, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment — it means a lot! I’m glad that this recipe has been successful for you. And good for you for experimenting with the cooking apples! I’m sure it was delicious.

      Susan

  9. Pingback: fall recipes round-up | daisy's world

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