Here’s a classic French recipe I’ve never made before. I’ve seen the upside down apple tart made on cooking shows many times but never bothered to try it at home. Yesterday I was watching my very favorite television show: The Great British Baking Show and Mary Berry made her Tarte Tatin in the master class series. She made it look so easy and gave several great tips for success. I love the simplicity of the ingredients. All you need is apples, crust, and a little sugar.
I got up off the couch and went to my best reference book for French classic recipes and techniques, Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques. I used his recipe for pate brisee (pie crust) and followed his instructions for parts of the recipe and Mary Berry’s tips for other parts. Tarte Tatin has been reinterpreted so many times it’s impossible to say what the ‘real’ or ‘original’ or even ‘the best’ technique might be. Here’s what I did:
1 pie crust – here’s the link to the recipe I use most often. You could use a store bought puff pastry for this recipe.
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
6 cups apples – sliced thin – This could be anywhere from 6-8 apples.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get out your pie dish so it’s in arms reach.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not use a non-stick pan when making caramel. Bring to a boil and keep boiling until it turns a golden caramel color. Pour the caramel into the pie dish and immediately swirl by tilting the pan to cover the entire bottom of the dish. I struggled with this step because my caramel hardened too quickly in my cold pyrex dish. Oh well, I pressed on.
Set the pie dish aside and allow the caramel to cool completely. Meanwhile, slice the apples evenly and thinly. Choose one or two good looking apples to use for the bottom of the pie. Place the first layer of apples on the cooled caramel in a nice design. Remember, this will be inverted and the bottom will become the top; you want it to look pretty. Fill the rest of the dish with the remaining apples. It’s okay if the apples come above the top of the dish a bit because they will shrink as they cook. Place the rolled out pastry or pie crust over the apples. Tuck in the edges all around the dish. Cut a small vent hole in the center of the pie. Place in the hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The crust should be golden brown. When you take the dish out of the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes. To ensure a caramel top that’s not too runny, carefully hold a dish towel over the crust while you pour the juices into your caramel saucepan from earlier. Next, invert the tarte onto a plate. Now, add 2 Tablespoons of sugar and heat to a quick boil. Pour this caramel sauce over the finished Tarte Tatin and serve just warm. The finished tart was intensely apple flavored and super delicious. The caramel is subtle and emphasizes the taste of the apples. The crust was crisp and buttery. Total success.