This upside-down caramelized apple tart is an iconic recipe of French cuisine. I give you the classic recipe and story befind.
The French Tarte Tatin is a traditional apple pie with a twist: it’s cooked upside down, apples down below and pastry up top, and flipped onto the presentation dish while it’s still hot. This way the apples are slow-cooked in caramel, which makes them soft and flavorsome, while the pastry remains crispy. Why upside down? What a strange idea!!
The story behind French iconic tarte Tatin
There are many different stories on the origins of this dish. It was created – inadvertently, as for many pastries – by two sisters by the name of Tatin who ran a famous restaurant in the small town of Lamotte–Beuvron (170 km / 110 miles South of Paris) in the early twentieth century. The restaurant, which actually still exists under the name “Relais Tatin”, was at that time a hunting lodge and was the scene for three possible scenarios.
On the very first day of the hunting season, Stephanie Tatin apparently made a drastic error – according to stories she either let the preparation burn in the oven creating the caramel, or dropped the dish – and tried to cover her mistake by hiding the apples under the pastry. Yet another version is that the young cook, distracted by thoughts of her lover, added the ingredients in the wrong order.
Whether it was last minute action to save a messed-up dish, or simply human error, the common point of these legends is the need to get a dessert ready at all costs so that the customers will have something to eat. This apple pie quickly became a specialty of the restaurant. The renowned food critic Curmonsky discovered it by chance, loved it and promoted it in Paris. First served at the famous Parisian restaurant Maxim’s, it instantly became a master piece of French cuisine.
Error or rush-job by the Tatin sisters? Pre-existing regional dish revisited? Myth invented by Curmonsky to create a buzz? Doubts still linger…
French Iconic Tarte Tatin, Upside-Down Caramelized Apple Pie
- 12 apples Choose a variety that is neither too firm nor too soft when cooked ideally Cox's orange pippin (Reinettes) variety. Apples of the same size will improve the visual aspect.
- 50 gr butter
- 75 gr sugar
Pie pastry (homemade see step by step here) or ready-made
- 250 gr flour ideally all-purpose flour
- 125 gr butter
- 50 ml water (cold)
- 1 egg yolk 20 gr
- 1 pinch salt
Preparation of the pie pastry. Follow the step by step guidelines here (with a slightly different crust, you can choose either one).
- Gently with your fingertips mix the flour, salt and finely-diced butter. The texture should become like sand. Tip: As much as possible try to avoid having your skin in contact with the butter - therefore quickly pour the flour around the butter - and avoid mixing too long with your fingers otherwise the butter will melt.
- Add the water and the egg yolk. Mix them in, again with your fingertips, until you have a smooth uniform mixture. You can also do this with your mixer (with the leaf utensil).
- Knead the dough twice (Put the dough on a floured surface, crush it with the palm of your hand and reshape a ball. This process aerates the dough so it will not shrink in the oven). Cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 1 to 2 hours.
Prepare the tart
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F).
- Peel the apples, remove the cores and cut them into quarters.
- Prepare the caramel. In a pan that can go on your stove or in a pan, place sugar and cubed butter. Melt. When you get a nice caramelized colour, stop the heat (if in a pan, pour in tour tin).
- Arrange the apples neatly on the caramel (the round part facing the caramel). You can fill gaps with small pieces of the remaining apples. Number of apples depend on the size of your pan, be sure it is generously garnished with apples.
- Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for a few minutes so that it won't be too cold. Lay it out on a clean, floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to stretch it to a circle of the correct size (1 cm bigger than you pan).
- Put it on top of the apples, with a spatula, tuck the edges of the pastry into the pan, between pan and apples.
- Bake for 1 hour at 160°C (320°F).
- Unmold right out of the oven. Place a plate on top of the mold, flip and unmold. Doing this when still hot will prevent the caramel from hardening.