Tarte Tatin

September 29, 2013

in Apple, Baking tips, Pies and Tarts, Recipes, Sauces

Tarte Tatin On Serving PlatterThis classic French tart, possibly invented in the 1880s, has a dubious history. But never mind. This is a special tart of apples baked in a buttery caramel syrup with the pastry on top. During baking the apples soak up the caramel and butter. After baking, if the juices are thin and runny, the cook concentrates the juices on the stovetop until they are completely absorbed by the apples. After upending the tart onto a dessert platter and cooling it until warm, it’s ready to serve.The picture above shows a tarte Tatin ready to serve. What makes this tart so special is the texture of the apples after they’ve imbibed the delicious caramel and butter. They become smooth and velvety and have an irresistible flavor.

The key to a great tarte Tatin lies in the choice of apple, and it’s important to use an apple that holds its shape during baking. Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are old reliables. But there are many more varieties today to choose from such as Braeburn, Cameo, Jonamac, Sweet Tango, Mutsu, and many more. Don’t use Fuji or Honeycrisp beause they lose a lot of flavor during cooking. And don’t use Macintosh because they’ll fall apart.

The pastry, also rich and buttery, combines with the apple in the mouth and makes the taste buds do cartwheels. Over the years, tarte Tatin has become legendary, partly due to its seeming simplicity, but mostly, I think, due to its uniqueness. A quick look at this recipe and the short list of ingredients tells you it’s going to be a cinch. But this is a recipe that demands your attention. And I’m here to guide you to a great tarte Tatin.

Making the caramel and butter. Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet or tarte Tatin pan and stir in the sugar.

Butter + Sugar 1Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. The sugar and butter become thick and bubbly.

Butter + Sugar 2The sugar begins to darken showing that caramelization has begun. At this point the sugar is still granular and has only just begun to melt.

Sugar Begins CaramelizingContinue cooking and stirring as the sugar melts further.

Sugar Later CaramelizingAfter several more minutes of cooking, the sugar melts and darkens into a completely smooth caramel with a layer of melted butter floating on top. Caramelization is complete.

Full CaramelizationThe caramel must be a deep dark brown or the caramel flavor will be very weak. Arrange a layer of apples on top of the caramel, and pile remaining apples on top.

Apples in PanPut the pastry on top of the apples and make four small slits to allow steam to escape during baking.

Pastry On TopBake for 1 hour. Transfer the pan to the stovetop and cook over medium-low heat until juices are completely absorbed by the apples. If the juices bubble at all, the bubbles will break lazily at the surface. This is the critical step in making tarte Tatin. If juices are runny, the pastry will soak them up when the tarte is inverted, giving you a soggy instead of crisp crust.

Tarte Tatin Baked StovetopWhen you’re sure the juices have been completely absorbed by the fruit, cover the tarte with a dessert platter and invert the two. Use potholders because the tarte Tatin pan will be hot. Lift off the pan, rearrange fruit if necessary, and cool until warm before serving. Tarte Tatin is at its best when very fresh.

Tarte Tatin On Serving PlatterAlthough this tarte is delicious plain, a small portion of lightly sweetened whipped cream (perhaps flavored with a touch of Calvados) or creme anglaise or top quality vanilla ice cream is always welcome.

Tarte Tatin Serving

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