Apple Tarte Tatin, a.k.a. "tarte des demoiselles Tatin", is a famous French dessert - a simple apple upside-down-tart. Originally made only with butter, sugar, apples and a pastry crust, history is unclear about exactly where this recipe was created but credit is given these days to the sisters Tatin.
Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin ran the Hotel Tatin in the late 19th century in Lamotte-Beuvron about 100 miles south of Paris in the Loir et Cher Department of Central France in the historic region of Sologne. Stéphanie did most of the cooking and one story says, on an over-worked day, Stéphanie started making a traditional apple pie and left the apples and sugar cooking too long. Smelling the nearly burned mixture and trying to rescue the dish, she put the pastry-base on top of the apples, quickly finished the cooking by placing it in the oven, and then turned it upside-down before serving. She was surprised by how much the hotel guests liked the dessert and it became a specialty of the hotel. Another version of the tart's history is that Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside down "by mistake" which I find difficult if not impossible to believe.
According to Friends of the Tarte Tatin, "some scholars have pointed out that upside-down tartes have long been a specialty of the Sologne region. There are references to a 'tart solognote', which may have been a forerunner of the tart Tatin, but the documentation supporting these claims is thin." Rather than argue whether they borrowed from the past, we should celebrate the Tatin sisters for leveraging that past into something truly original and really yummy.
The following recipe is from The Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells, who says she loves it so much that she makes it for her birthday in November, "instead of cake!" It may sound complicated but it's truly not and you will be rewarded with incredible aromas while it cooks and equally incredible flavors when it's done. I would never have thought of serving a dessert with crème fraîche, but it works really well with this tart. Bon appétit!
Pâte Brisée (Flakey Pastry)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons ice water
- Place flour and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend.
- Add the butter and process until well blended, about 10 seconds.
- With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until the mixture begins to form a ball, about 10 seconds.
- Transfer the dough to a piece of waxed paper, form, into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- Roll the dough out form a 10-inch round.
- Place it on a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a sheet pan.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Tarte Tatin Benoît
3/4 cup sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thick slices
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 pounds large apples (about 8), peeled, cored, and halved (e.g. Fuji, Jonagold, Winesap, King of the Pippins, Calville)
1 recipe Pâte Brisée
Crème fraîche or whipped cream, for garnish
- Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a 9-inch tarte Tatin or heavy ovenproof (cast iron) skillet.
- Place the butter slices evenly over the sugar.
- Drizzle with the vanilla extract.
- Beginning at the outside edge of the pan, stand the apple halves on end on top of the butter. They should all face in one direction, with the rounded edge of the apple against the edge of the pan and the cut side toward the center. Pack the apples as close together as possible. Make a second circle of apple halves inside the first. Place one apple half in the center of the circle (rounded side down unlike the one in this photo!) to fill any remaining space. (As they cook, the apples will shrink and give up their juices. They will also naturally slide into place as they shrink, with the rounded sides sliding to the bottom. Remember that when you invert the tart, you want to see nice rounded halves of apple.)
- Place the skillet over low heat and cook the apples in the butter and sugar, uncovered, until the butter/sugar mixture turns a thick, golden brown and just begins to caramelize, about an hour. The liquid should remain at a gentle bubble. Baste the apples (ice tea spoon) from time to time to speed up the cooking and to make for evenly cooked fruit. (If the apples seem to lose their place, you can carefully nudge them back into formation.)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place the Tatin pan on a baking sheet (lined).
- Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place it on top of the apples, gently pushing the edges of the pastry down around the edge of the pan.
- Place in the oven and bake until the pastry is golden, 25-30 minutes. Do not be concerned if the juices bubble over - this is normal.
- Remove the tart from the oven. Immediately invert a rimmed serving platter (pizza tin lined with parchment paper) over the tart pan. Quickly but carefully invert the tart pan and the platter together so the pastry ends up on the platter, with the apples on top. Should any apples stick to the bottom of the pan, remove them and place them back in the tart.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with dollops of crème fraîche.