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Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream from my kitchen.
A classic warm Tarte Tatin made in my kitchen and served with Vanilla Ice Cream.

I haven’t made a Tarte Tatin in ages. Even though making a Tarte Tatin was the whole reason why I bought the 8-inch All-Clad Master Chef Fry Pan on sale, which, by the way, is the perfect size and shape for this tres riche dessert.

This decadent dessert was actually created out of a mistake. The story goes, that Stéphanie Tatin – one of two sisters who owned and operated the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron south of Paris – left a pan of apples simmering in butter and sugar too long on the stove while she was busy multitasking in the kitchen. In an attempt to save her dessert, she threw the pie crust onto the top of the apples and put the whole pan into the oven to cook the crust. And that was how a Tarte Tatin was born.

The name of this dish always confused me for some reason. Tarte is French for pie. Tatin is the name of the person who first made it. Tartine is an open faced sandwich, which doesn’t have anything to do with this dish, but is part of my lingual confusion.

It’s not until I first made this dish that I realized how overloaded with fat and sugar it is. Making one really puts the calories into perspective and I no longer eat large pieces of this dessert!

Tarte Tatin

Apples cooking for a Tarte Tatin.
Apples simmering in butter and sugar on the stove.

You will need to simmer the apples in an oven proof pan, like a cast iron skillet, or a chef’s pan, one in which the handle can go in the oven.

4 crisp apples, like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji. You don’t want apples like Macintosh that will cook down to sauce. The apples you use for this dish have to be able to stand the heat.
1/2 of a stick of butter
1/2 of a cup of sugar.

Pie Crust:
1 cup of pastry flour
1/2 stick of butter
pinch of salt
dash of lemon juice
4+ tablespoons of ice water

To begin:
Peel and quarter the apples.
Melt the butter over a medium heat on the stove.
Mix the butter and the sugar together.
If it thickens, spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the apple quarters into a circle around the pan, fill the middle of the circle with apple too.
Turn the heat up. Your pan will dictate how high the flame should be, my pan is medium high, a cast iron pan would probably be high.
Let the apples simmer in the butter and sugar until the mixture carmelizes – starts turning brown.
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, you will remove the pan from the burner/flame but before that happens, you should have enough time to make the pie crust below.

Making the crust:
While the apples are simmering – or before you start the apple process – make a pie crust by mixing the above pie crust ingredients together.
Make this in a place where you can keep an eye on the apples simmering.
At first, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or by cutting the flour with two butter knives, one in each hand, striking back and forth.
Once the butter has been cut down to pea size then add the liquids (water and lemon juice) and spread those through the flour.
Then get in there with your hands and mix up the pastry dough.
You want to be careful to make sure that all the flour is absorbed, but not wet, and that you don’t overwork the dough.
If the dough is too wet, add more flour to it.
If you’ve made the crust ahead of time, just set it aside for when you are ready to do the following:

Form the dough into a flat disc at least 8 inches wide – as wide as your pan – or a little larger.
You can do this either by rolling, or just pressing the crust with your hands into a large disc shape.
I happen to like the rustic look of an uneven, hand-formed, crust.
If the crust is larger than the pan, the edges can, and should be, be tucked into the sides, so don’t worry about having too much pie crust dough.

Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.
Just as the Tarte Tatin came out of the oven.

Putting It Together And Baking:
When the butter and sugar have carmelized, remove the pan from the burner/flame, if you haven’t already.
Carefully place the crust over the top of the pan, being careful to either tuck the extra crust into the sides of the pan without burning yourself, or folding it back over itself so that it just meets the edge of the pan.
Put the whole pan into a 350 degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the crust has turned golden.
Remove from the oven.
Let sit until the tarte has cooled a bit.
Take a plate – one that the tarte will generously fit on – and place it over the crust.
Being VERY CAREFUL because it’s hot, flip the plate and the pan together, so that the tarte ends up on the plate, crust side down, apples up.

Serve warm with crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream, or vanilla frozen yogurt.

Note: When I flipped the tarte that I had made in the photographs above, I had a Julia Child moment where the apples slid off of the crust. No matter. I slid them back on as best I could. The tarte itself wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but it tasted divine.

Et voila!

Bon Appetit!

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