Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Agony and the Ecstacy of Tart Tatin

Many years ago, while wasting spending my time as a Ski Instructor in France, I took my class to a restaurant at the bottom of the ski station for lunch. We were all hungover from the night before and feeling decidedly fragile. Obviously, we were in need of the hair of a dog, or in our case, the hairs of a large kennel full of hairy dogs. I noticed a large platter of Tart Tatin, made with whole apples, by the front door. It had been placed there to cool. To cut a very long and painful story short, we ate the whole lot. Sated, we sat back and licked our fingers clean, contented that we had used up our ski school time for a worthy cause. I have, since that fateful day, been searching for a recipe that could match the heavenly delights of that first encounter.

As far as quests go, this has to be one of the most tasty, yet frustrating things I've ever done. I've tried every recipe I could find, including the original one from the Tatin sisters, but none have revealed the true delight of this incredible desert. My most recent attempt was close, but still not perfect.

So, here's a challenge if you are up for it. If you have a Tart Tatin recipe that is fool proof, delicious and repeatable, send it to me and I will post them all in a large Tart Tatin edition.

In the meantime, here is my latest attempt.

Organic Apples

Peeled and quartered

Sugar and a drop of water

Bring to a boil

Rich caramel color
Add butter
Arrange quarters in pan and infill with extra apple (cut in half or thirds)

Sweet short crust

Remove from oven

Invert onto flat serving dish and wait to cool (if you can:)

You will need a flat bottom skillet that can be put in the oven and the following ingredients:

  1. 8 Golden Delicious apples (or Granny Smith)
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold)
  4. 50ml of water (Cold)
  5. Plain flour for dusting
Pastry (you can use puff if you like, but the original recipe calls for sweet short crust)

  1. 1 cup of plain flour
  2. 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  3. tbls of castor Sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. Pinch of salt
  6. Enough  cold water to fill a 1/4 cup with the egg yolk already in it

Pastry (Make this first)
  1. Put the flour, salt and sugar into a Cuisinart, or similar brand of processor, and pulse for a second or two.
  2. Cube the cold butter and add to the flour. Pulse until the flour crumbs until you get pea sized pieces of butter.
  3. Add the egg and water and pulse again until the pastry clumps.
  4. Leave to rest in a cool place until you have completed all of the filling prep
  1. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Don’t worry if they turn brown – you won’t notice in the finished tart. Put the sugar in a 20cm ovenproof frying pan (measured across the base) with 50ml water, then melt the sugar slowly over a low heat. Once the sugar has melted, turn up the heat and bubble for 5 minutes or so to give a golden caramel (don’t let it get too dark – see photos above).
  2. Take the caramel off the heat immediately and stir in the butter – it will foam quite vigorously. Arrange the apple quarters on top, cut-side up, so they fill the pan – slice any leftover apple into wedges to fill in the gaps (the apples will shrink as they cook). Put the pan back over a gentle heat, then cook for 5 more minutes. Turn the heat off and let the apples cool completely.
  3. Heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness sufficient to cover the apples, then lay over the cooled apples in the pan. Trim the pastry using the edge of the pan as a guide, then carefully tuck it inside the edge around the apples, making sure they don’t move. Bake for 30 minutes until dark golden. Remove from the oven, stand for 5 minutes, then carefully invert the tart onto a flat serving plate (larger than the pan) being careful not to slop any hot caramel over your hands. Let it cool before serving.
Get cracking and send me your results


  1. Wally your recipe looks great! I've struggled with this dish, I have nothing better I can assure you. And I'm going to tell you something really embarrassing: the last time we went to Paris I bought what I thought was a tarte tatin copper pot, why I had that idea in my little head I have no clue. Anyway turns out it is a pommes anna pan, quite beautiful and I use it to make tarte tatin anyway.
    I'm going to use it to make your recipe, I must go get some apples!

    1. The 2 pans are very similar. You'll have to make Pommes Anna too as it is delicious.

  2. OK Wally - here is my recipe, not the classic method but works rally well - and is so popular I have to have it on the menu every year!
    Tarte Tatin – for about 6 – 8 people


    Plain Flour – 6 dessert spoons
    100g butter
    Caster sugar – 7 dessert spoons
    2 large egg yolks
    4 nice apples


    First make the pastry. In a bowl sift in the 6 dessert spoons of plain flour. Then add 75 g of unsalted butter cut into small cubes. With you fingers, gently rub the butter and flour together until it looks like fine bread crumbs. Then add 2 dessert spoons of caster sugar and rub into the flour and butter mix. Then add the 2 egg yolks. With a knife mix all this together; it should start to come together into clumps. With your hand try pushing the mixture together into a ball – if it is still too crumbly add a small amount of cold water. Once mixed together and is a nice ball of pastry, flatten the ball slightly, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for about an hour.

    When you are ready to make the tart, peel, de-core and quarter the apples and set aside. In a heavy based metal tart tin place 25g of butter and set on a low flame to melt. Once melted add 5 desert spoons of caster sugar and mix with the melted butter over the heat. After a few minutes the sugar and butter will combine to make a honey coloured caramel – take your time and watch the mixture carefully as it can burn. It is ready when the mix is a nice honey colour.

    Remove the pan from the heat and place the apples, outer curve down in the pan in circles working from the outside in – think jig saw puzzle and try to fit them all in. If you have too few apples cut some more, if you have too many, eat them.

    Roll out the pastry and place over the apples tucking any spare or overlapping pastry into the pan.

    Place in a pre-heated oven (200 C) for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the pastry is browning nicely.

    When cooked remove from the oven. Place a large plate face down over the pan and with great manual dexterity flip the pan and plate over. Gently shake and rotate the pan to free the apples and caramel and lift off the pan. If there are any bits of apples left in the pan gently lift them out with a knife and replace them in the tart.

    This can be eaten hot or warm – great with fresh cream.

    1. Cheers Motz. let the quest continue.

  3. Hi Wally
    You are already a Legand with yummy food.
    Looking forward to sending you some great recipes your way :)

    Thank you dearly for taking the time to leave the Kitchen to visit me over at my place and best of all encouraging my passion by leaving a beautiful comment.

    Now get back in the kitchen and whip up something yummy !

    A beautifully inspiring weekend to you.

    Ps. I am Now à followers of your kitchenette site :)

  4. Hi Wally........as previously confessed, I cannot cook, well I can but only boiled eggs - to perfection as well. Anyhow, my talented daughter is a chef supreme and she's passing on this recipe with a bit of a twist in ingredients. Save a piece for me...!

    Banana and rosemary tarte tatin

    150g/5oz caster sugar

    25g/1oz butter

    2-3 sprigs rosemary (optional)

    4-6 bananas, sliced thickly

    375g/13oz pre-rolled puff pastry

    To serve:

    500ml/16½fl oz crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream

    Preparation method:

    Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

    To make the caramel, put the sugar in an ovenproof pan and heat gently without stirring until it turns golden brown. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir in gently. Add the rosemary to the caramel, if using.

    Carefully place the sliced bananas over the caramel, until the base of the pan is covered. Set aside.

    Take the puff pastry and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out slightly to form a square and then cut out a circle slightly larger than the pan. Lift the pastry over the banana and caramel mixture and tuck the edges down the side of the pan around the bananas. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is brown.

    Remove the tart from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before turning it out. Taking care not to burn yourself with the hot caramel, place a plate on top of the pan, and invert so that the tart slips out.

    Serve with crème fraiche or ice cream, or both! Tuck in!!!

    1. I'll try this as soon as possible. Thanks Helena.


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