This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany colour and become infused with the complex flavours of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures.
The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish. However, this sweet story conflicts with the fact that a similar upside-down apple tart called Tarte Solognotte (named after the Sologne region in France) existed long before the tarte Tatin, suggesting that the Tatin sisters’ creation was actually just an updated and improved version of the tarte Solognotte. Either way, it is a stunningly delicious yet simple and rustic dessert.
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 played safe here and chose apples, but I will definitely try other options as this dessert was enjoyed by the family 🙂 I must also say that the rough puff pastry used in this tarte is just fantastic! It doesn’t take that long to make it (compared to yeasted one), and it’s easy, too! It only took me about 2 hours total to make it from scratch 🙂 I will definitely be using it in other pie recipes 🙂
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 recipe makes ~20-23 cm Tarte Tatin.
Rough puff pastry:
- 125 g all-purpose flour
- 140 g unsalted butter, well chilled and cubed
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 60 ml ice cold water
The easiest and fastest way to make the rough puff pastry is using a food processor. You must work fast to keep the dough as cold as possible. Place the flour, butter and salt in, process until crumbly with pea-sized pieces of butter. Pour the water in and pulse just a few times, until the dough is kinda clumpy.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface lined with cling film – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour and streaks of butter, at this stage that’s totally fine to have it that rough. Quickly press and shape the dough into a square or disk, cover with the cling film and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. I speeded the process up putting my dough in the freezer for 10-15 min.
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the chilled dough out into a rectangle 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 so that one of the open edges is facing you, and roll out again into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. 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.
My kitchen is pretty hot, so I had to chill the dough in the freezer for 10-15 min after each fold in order not to let the butter melt.
After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight. I chilled mine in the freezer whilst preparing the caramel and apples.
- 3 medium apples*, peeled, cored and cut in quarters
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1 vanilla pod
- 200 g caster sugar
- 50 g unsalted butter, cubed
- pinch of salt
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- rough puff pastry, recipe above
- icecream for serving
[*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!]
Generally, a Tarte Tatin is baked in a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof skillet, however if you don’t have one, the caramel can first be cooked on the stove in whatever frying pan you have and then transferred to a cake tin (not a spring form!), the apples then arranged over the caramel, covered with the pastry, and baked.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Place the apples in a large bowl, add the cinnamon and vanilla seeds (reserve the pod) and toss with the lemon juice. Set aside.
Place the sugar in a skillet and melt over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a light butterscotch color and its temperature reaches 160ºC on a candy thermometer. Turn off the heat. The temperature will continue to rise.
Once the temperature reaches 175ºC, whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Make sure each piece is incorporated before adding the next, then add the salt.
Arrange the cinnamon stick, vanilla pod and apple slices over the caramel. Return to small heat and let the apples cook whilst you roll out the pastry.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 3-5 mm thick sheet, and trim it into a circle about 1” (2,5 cm) in diameter larger than your saucepan. Lay it over the filling, tucking in the edges between the apples and the sides of the pan. Poke the pastry with a fork all around.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 min, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit just until the caramel stops bubbling. Immediately place a serving platter (slightly larger in diameter than the skillet) over the pastry. Wearing oven mitts, 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.
Serve warm from the oven or at room temperature with icecream.