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Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin (French caramelized apple tart)

(French caramelized apple tart)

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This ridiculously easy-to-make apple tart was purportedly created by accident at the Hotel Tatin south of Paris in the 1880s as a way to save an apple pie gone wrong.

You start a tarte Tatin on the stovetop, caramelizing apples wedges in a rich mix of butter and sugar. The tart is then finished in the oven, baked upside down with the crust on top and apples underneath. The whole thing then gets flipped over for serving.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Medium apples, peeled, cored and quartered -- 5 or 6, or about 2 pounds
  • Unsalted butter, room temperature -- 6 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- 2/3 cup
  • Salt -- 1/4 teaspoon
  • Puff pastry or pie crust, chilled -- 1 sheet or round

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the softened butter evenly over the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter. Starting in the center of the skillet and working outward, pack the apple quarters tightly into the skillet with the flattest side facing up. Sprinkle the apples with the salt.
  2. Sprinkle a little flour on a smooth work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the puff pastry or pie crust to around 1 or 2 inches larger than the diameter of the skillet. If using puff pastry, trim the sheet into a round to fit the skillet. Set the round on a plate or baking sheet, use a fork to prick it in a few places and place it in the refrigerator.
  3. Place the skillet with the apples over medium flame and heat until the butter melts and begins to bubble. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the apples until the sugar deepens in color and caramelizes and the apples become tender and partially cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Take care not to burn the apples or sugar, but the color may get quite dark.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and rearrange the apples if needed so they fit in the skillet neatly and tightly. Remove the pastry round from the refrigerator and lay it over the apples, tucking the edges down around them.
  5. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake the tart until the crust is cooked through and golden, 25 to 35 minutes.
  6. Remove the tart from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the skillet and give a couple gentle shakes to loosen the apples. Place a serving platter upside down over the skillet, then quickly flip it over to drop the tart right side up onto the platter.
  7. Serve slices warm or at room temperature with sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Tarte Tatin Variations

  • Apples: The best apples for tarte Tatin are firm and have a nice balance of sweet and tart. In France, the original varieties used are Pippins and Calville. Other varieties that work well include Granny Smith, Cortland, Honeycrisp and Jonagold. You can cut the apples into slices instead of quarters for a different visual effect.
  • Other Fruit: Different fruit can be equally delicious in a tarte Tatin. Pears are an easy variation in the fall. Pineapple works well as a wintertime dessert. Try peaches, plums or apricots in mid-summer. You can even wow guests with a scrumptious late-summer tomato tarte Tatin!
  • Spices: While not traditional, a tarte Tatin can benefit from a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg over the caramelizing apples.

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