My mother made caramel apples every autumn, spearing apples with wooden sticks, dipping and twirling them into hot, bubbling caramel, and then placing them on paper-lined trays to cool and harden, which seemed to take an eternity. I loved them. Ever since, the combination of apple and caramel has been a favorite of mine.
This tarte Tatin is my mother’s caramel apple all dressed up, French style. It’s essentially apples, enveloped with caramel and butter, resting on a thin crust of pastry. A fancy upside-down tart. The secret to making this dessert is patience and your choice of apples. I’ve been using Ida Reds, which have great flavor and hold their shape. If you can’t find Idas, try Northern Spy, or ask your supplier to recommend an apple with good flavor that won’t turn to mush when cooked for a long time. Eschew the common Granny Smith, MacIntosh, and Red Delicious. Although there are specialized Tatin pans I simply use my 9-inch cast-iron frying pan.–Jennifer McLagan
LC Pastry Prospects Note
French for “caramely apple goodness turned upside down on buttery pastry,” this tarte Tatin comes together with a lot of love, a lot of apples, a lot of that aforementioned caramely goodness, and a little pastry crust. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but for some of you, we know, pastry requires a lot of courage. If challenged by time or fear, you could simply swap out the lovely made-from-scratch pastry recipe below for store-bought puff pastry. Just be sure to splurge on the pricey but lovely all-butter Dufour puff pastry rather than the inexpensive and chemically-tasting one from Pepperidge Farm. (Mind you, puff pastry won’t be better. Just quicker. And please don’t tell Jennifer McLagan we even hinted at the prospect of not using her recipe, which draws on both butter and lard. The author of Fat and Odd Bits, she certainly knows her animal fats and their role in a quintessential homemade pastry crust.)
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Serves 6
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
Recipe Testers Reviews
This tarte tatin cooked up perfectly, with an abundance of dark caramel over tender apples and a delicate crust. I scaled up the recipe a little bit, because my pan was a little wider than the 9 inches specified. What you want is to really have the pan crammed full of apples at the start, as they do shrink. The apples don’t have to be in an even layer; they can be wedged in. Baking time was perfect to brown the crust, and the tart was easy to release from the pan. This made a beautiful tart with a dark, shiny glaze of caramel.
I had always wanted to make Tarte Tatin, so the timing was right with the apples in our garden being ready to eat! I took the easier route by using purchased puff pastry. I will absolutely make this recipe again. I followed the instructions to the letter, using a 9-inch enamel-clad cast iron pan, and it turned out perfectly! I also turned the apples over halfway through the cooking time. I couldn’t believe the softness of the caramel. Even after it cooled, it stayed nice and chewy. I served it with French vanilla ice cream, of course. Was told by my guests that I could make this again for them anytime! And I will.
Tarte Tatin takes the simplest ingredients and makes a delicious and complex dessert, if made properly. It takes patience to get it right and very clear instructions for those doing it for the first time. This recipe is very user friendly, and I love that she correctly talks about what kind of apples to use — all the difference between success and failure is in this part, and sometimes specific apples are suggested that not everyone can find. I would definitely make the crust. I am not a big fan of the puff pastry crust — store bought is not usually very good, and the one in the recipe is very easy. In adding the fat to the flour, the recipe says “pulse until granular.” I wouldn’t go that far. Having little bits of butter in it are OK and make a nice, tender crust.
Suggestions to cooks: In step three, after melting the butter, add the sugar and let it dissolve and get bubbly before adding the apples. Take off the heat, add the apples, and put back on the heat. I know the other way is easier, but adding the apples too early can result in them cooking too long. The butter-sugar mix will be VERY HOT, so be careful.
Don’t be afraid to keep the heat on medium or a little higher. The sugar/butter will be very bubbly, and kind of scary looking if you haven’t done it before, but it will caramelize better. And again, the apples won’t turn to mush. PATIENCE is required here — it’s not done until the caramel is flowing quite slowly and lava-like around the apples. If it’s moving too quickly, it’s too runny.
You will most likely have at least a couple of apple halves left after you have put the first apples in the pan. Keep them handy. As the apples in the pan cook they will shrink a bit. Very carefully fit additional apples in as they do. Your tarte will look better, and it will be very much easier to “flip” when you get to the end. As the instructions say, don’t think too much about that part, just do it! I just flip it onto a nice flat serving plate and don’t use parchment — but if it’s your first time follow her direction carefully and it will work.
This tarte tatin was absolutely fabulous! It was easy enough that anyone can have great results with this dish. The caramel was just sweet enough, but is better balanced with vanilla ice cream! I used a cast iron skillet for this, which worked well and made it feel like such a rustic dessert. The only thing I would have preferred was an easier way to get the dessert out of the pan in one piece. I found that it didn’t really want to come out of the pan when I flipped it over but finally worked itself out in pieces. That kind of messed up the presentation, so be careful when removing it from the pan. My family didn’t care though. We just scooped up the pieces and enjoyed its yummy goodness.