Tarte Tatin

by Food Hound on March 3, 2011

in Desserts

Post image for Tarte Tatin

There are two universal truths.

1. Some things in life will not turn out how you hoped or expected.

2. You are responsible for making the best out of things when they don’t.

I did have a third universal truth, but the half-eaten piece of grapefruit at my foot proves that a Doberhound will not, in fact, eat whatever you put in front of her. She’s eaten wall plaster, but I guess citrus really puts her over the edge.

In life you get to have some amazing experiences, and some not-so-amazing experiences. I think the amazing experiences help you get through the not-so-amazing ones, and the not-so-amazing experiences make you appreciate the amazing ones.

When a not-so-amazing experience presents at your doorstep, do what you must to get through it. Cry about it. Grieve about it. Feel it. But the time comes for you to muscle up and move past it. That’s the hard part.

My solution is to call upon one of those amazing experiences and re-create it on whatever scale you can. Make yourself happy.

As you can imagine, many amazing life experiences in the world of the Hounds (thus far) involve… food. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Food makes me happy, and I’m totally not ashamed to admit it πŸ™‚

Recently, I found the need to call upon an amazing experience. The one I chose involves France (shocker!) and one of my all-time favorite foods: tarte tatin.

As I have shared on numerous occasions (but will share again because it was SO STINKIN’ AMAZING), the Booze Hound and I got stuck for an extra week in Paris when that Icelandic volcano that no one can pronounce erupted last spring. While stranded families clogged the phone/internet/airport lines, the Booze Hound and I decided that being stuck in Paris is something that most people only dream of, and by golly, we would take full advantage of it.

I love volcanoes!!

Using “Edible Adventures in Paris” by Chocolate and Zucchini blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, the ultimate guide to eating in Paris, we ate the best Paris had to offer in our price range. A birthday gift from my fabulous British friend, it is indispensable (to be said for effect in French, not English) for the traveler who wants to indulge in fabulous food from sun-up to sun-down. And I am such a personne.

But before she entrusted the book to my care, she told me that there was one thing she recommended I do that was not in the book. She wanted me to go Les Deux Magots for a cup of chocolat a l’ancienne. She said it was hands-down the best chocolat chaud in Paris.

And you just can’t argue when someone tells you that.

So when we found ourselves with time to kill in the City of Lights, we headed to Les Deux Magots. On a posh street in a posh district, it’s the place to people-watch to the highest level. It’s know for being stuffy and overpriced, which is accurate on both accounts, but I have to say that the praise for the chocolat a l’ancienne was not at all undeserved. It was thicker, richer, and more decadent than I thought possible. If there’s a better version anywhere, I’d like to taste it!

But one cannot live off chocolat alone, oui? So knowing full well that nothing could top my chocolat, I took and chance and ordered my favorite French dessert: le tarte tatin.

Tarte tatin was born as a culinary mistake back in the 19th century, sort of an apple-pie-gone-wrong situation. One caramelizes firm, tart apples in butter and sugar, then the crust is placed on top of the pan and the whole thing is baked in the oven. Then the pan is inverted to be served as an apple tart, best accompanied by creme fraiche.

What arrived at my place was nothing short of a masterpiece. The sweet, buttery caramel completely permeated the apples, under which sat a tender, buttery, savory crust. One of the top five best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

So there we sat: drinking liquid chocolate, eating tarte tatin, listening to all the fabulous French, and watching all the families dressed head-to-toe in Chanel (including kids and dogs) walk by. Oh, and we were outside because it was 70 degrees. In Paris. In April. And we couldn’t leave because we were stuck.

Life just doesn’t get better than that!

And so while skipping off to Paris just isn’t in the cards on any given day (but it should be!), I decided to recreate the moment by making my first tarte tatin. Even if I destroyed it, it’s still mostly butter, sugar and apples- it was bound to be good any way it looked. And who doesn’t feel immediately better simply by eating something buttery??

When it comes to tarte tatin, you pull out the big guns- you use Dorie’s recipe. Dorie Greenspan, tied with Ina Garten as this generation’s Julia Child, is the authority (in my book) on rustic French cuisine. Although I was incredibly disappointed not to see a tarte tatin recipe in her latest book, “Around My French Table,” Fine Cooking featured her recipe in a recent issue, and that’s the one I used.

Although it wouldn’t have won any beauty contests, what I made could go head to head with Les Deux Magots and make it interesting. And not only is the finished product incredible, but I find it incredibly soothing to just watch the apples cook in the caramel. You really do have to watch them, so why not enjoy it? And stick your fork in every once in a while to make sure it’s “browning appropriately?”

You can never control what happens in life, no matter how hard you try (believe me! I’ve tried!). But if a volcano can erupt and strand us in Paris during a week-long stretch of gorgeous weather so we could eat the best tarte tatin et chocolat a l’ancienne we’ve ever tasted while watching the Paris glitterati pass before our eyes… isn’t anything possible?

Tarte Tatin
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's feature in Fine Cooking
Serves: 6
  • Dough:
  • 1¼ c AP flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 T cold, unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 T cold water
  • Tart:
  • 5-7 firm Granny Smith apples
  • ½ (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¾ c sugar
  • Creme fraiche for serving, if desired
  1. Make the dough:
  2. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until coarsely mixed into the flour. Add the egg mixture in three additions, pulsing after each. Continue pulsing until you have a soft, shaggy dough that holds together when pinched.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
  4. Between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment, roll the dough into a circle that's about ⅛" thick and 11 inches wide. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then cover and refrigerate. (The dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 2 months).
  5. Prepare the apples:
  6. Peel, core and quarter 4 of the apples.
  7. Put the butter in a 10" heavy-duty, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. When melted, use a pastry brush to coat the sides of the skillet with butter. Cover the butter with the sugar and cook just until the sugar is evenly moistened, about a minute. Remove pan from the heat.
  8. Put the pan over medium heat and cook until beginning to bubble, about two minutes. Continue cooking until the apple juices are mostly boiled away and the caramel is a deep golden color, about 15-20 minutes. Adjust the heat and reposition the skillet as needed for even cooking. The heat shouldn't be too low (the apples will get mushy) or too high (you'll burn the caramel). As the apples shrink, gently nudge the top layer of apples into the gaps.
  9. While the apples cook, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. When the apples are done, remove pan from heat and let it sit for a few minutes to let the caramel settle down. Meanwhile, let the dough sit at room temperature until pliable.
  11. Bake the tarte:
  12. Place the dough on top of the fruit and tuck in the overhang. Bake until the pastry is golden, 25-30 minutes. Let the tarte rest in the skillet until the bubbling caramel quiets down, 3-5 minutes. Gently run a table knife around the edges of the pan to loosen any apples stuck to the sides.
  13. Cover the skillet with a large serving platter-preferably one with a rim-and cover your hands with oven mitts. Carefully invert the tarte onto the platter and remove the skillet. If some apples have stuck to the pan, use the table knife to lift them out and gently press them back into the tarte.
  14. Let the tarte cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve with creme fraiche on the side. While the tarte is best warm, it can be served at room temperature.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon March 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

The chocolat chaud at Les Deux Magots is indeed very good! I am also a big fan of the chocolat chaud at Angelina’s, on the Rue de Rivoli. You should try it, if you haven’t already. πŸ™‚


Chow and Chatter March 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm

lovely post my parents were delayed coming here due to the Volcano adore Paris πŸ™‚ and love your philosophy on life


Velva March 4, 2011 at 1:35 am

We were flew into Iceland on our way to Paris, last Summer. I was sure we were going to get delayed. We did not.
Let me say, I love food too! It makes me very, very happy too. πŸ™‚

This was a great post. I smiled. I could visualize the chocolate chaud and why a tarte tatin would be so enjoyable to make after an amazing trip.



Eliz March 4, 2011 at 2:47 am

FH, loved the post! I concur with Shannon – haven’t had the chocolat chaud at Les Deux Magots but can vouch for the chocolat at Angelina. Tres delicieux! I also love tarte tatin and hope you found it easy to make. Here’s my take; the lemon adds an incredible touch (and it’s Julia, so you can’t go wrong). I also put real lard in the dough, because, as you know, I love the pig from nose to tail πŸ™‚


Vive la France!


kellypea March 4, 2011 at 2:59 am

I have always, always wanted to make tarte tatin and have to admit I’ve been a bit scared. Go figure. So thanks for this. It’s going on my list. Btw…I’d love volcanoes if I was you as well. That same darn volcano is to blame for the ridiculous prices we paid to take my inlaws to England last Fall. Lucky you for making the best of it and paragraph #3 is soooooooo true. Nice attitude. Nice. p.s. I haven’t forgotten the award you bestowed upon me…


Jess March 4, 2011 at 5:19 am

This post is exactly the kind of thing I needed to read, after the kind of week I’ve been having. I’m working on the “using the cards you’re dealt” mantra, for sure. That tarte tatin looks incredible, and your story about Paris sounds even more amazing!


Design Wine and Dine March 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I think it DOES look beautiful!!! Yes…I can imagine being strandid in Paris for a week is one of those things you never forget – damn you I am jealous AGAIN!

Great post that I think we all can relate to πŸ™‚


Katerina March 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm

At least something good came out of this erruption at least for you two. Tarte Tatin is an all time classic. I love it!


Rita March 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm

What a great post! I love your universal truths. Have always wanted to make tarte tatin; now that I have your recipe, I will surely give it a try when I get home.


Tammy March 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm

This was a wonderful post. I have never heard of tarte tatin before reading this- how very interesting though. It sounds fantastic and looks scrumptious!

Have a beautiful weekend!



blackbookkitchendiaries March 4, 2011 at 7:16 pm

this looks amazing! thank you for sharing this post …have a great weekend.


Angela March 5, 2011 at 1:27 am

You have a lovely philosophy. I would love to try this yummy treat.


Mary March 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I love your philosophy. How wonderful you were able to taste it in Paris :-). The tarte tatin looks and sounds delicious. I’ve always used Julia’s recipe, but next time I think I’ll give yours a try. Have a great weekend. Blessings…Mary


Joanne March 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm

very well put my dear. It’s definitely the memories of the amazing experiences that get us through…and the little ways in which we can recreate them at later dates. This tarte tatin looks beautiful and when I make it I will take great pleasure in knowing that I’m eating a little bit of paris’s finest.


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