Confession time. I love tarte tatin. From the moment I first tried it at a wonderful little restaurant in Lyon, I couldn’t help but fall madly in love. Those soft, caramel-coated apples kissed with the merest touch of cinnamon and blanketed by that flaky, buttery pastry! Heaven on the lips. Especially if served warm, with a nice blob of crème fraîche — or even better, a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
But that’s not my confession, of course. I’m here to tell you that I’ve tried to make my own tarte tatin many times. And failed. Again… and again… and again. Why is anyone’s guess. I can produce just about any French dessert with my eyes practically closed, but oh no, not a tarte tatin! Sometimes the pastry was too soggy. Other times I burnt the caramel (and the pan I made it in). And sometimes it looked OK, but just didn’t taste quite right.
Until today, when some slightly wrinkled little apples gave me the push I needed. Facing my fears and fully aware that this attempt might lead to failure yet again, I installed myself in the kitchen, turned up some Charles Aznavour (a little romance always help, no?) and set to work like a French girl on a mission.
I made the pastry, rolled it out on a sheet of parchment paper and then popped it in the fridge while I peeled the apples, made the caramel and preheated the oven. An hour later I had produced the most beautifully delectable tarte tatin ever! All of those failures were suddenly forgotten! A thing of the past!
Just don’t ask me why it worked this time around. The only thing I can say is that I’m thrilled to bits it did!
Here’s the recipe. Now excuse me while I go cut myself another slice…
Paola’s Tarte Tatin: Serves 8
Note: Preferably, the tarte tatin should be made in an authentic tarte tatin pan measuring 25cm. One that can also be used on the stove. You can also use an ovenproof pan of the same size.
For the pastry:
pinch of salt
110g cold butter, cubed
40g margarine, cubed
2 tsps water
For the filling:
8 small apples (about 750g) peeled and cored
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 tsp cinnamon
200g granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C. In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the flour, salt, butter and margarine until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Then add the egg and the water, and pulse again until the dough comes together. On a sheet of parchment paper roll out the pastry to a circle that is slightly larger than the pan you will be using. Put the pastry in the fridge while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
Cut the peeled and cored apples in half, add the vanilla and cinnamon, and toss well to mix.
Put your tarte tatin pan on the stove and slowly melt the butter. Once the butter is almost fully melted, add the sugar and stir well for about a minute or two. Now increase the heat to about medium and leave the caramel until it starts to turn golden and smell wonderful. This will take about 10 minutes. Whatever you do, do not stir! Simply swirl the caramel every now and then.
Add the apples (cut side down) and then gently turn them around (cut side up) so they are completely coated with the caramel. Turn down the heat a bit, and leave the apples to cook for about five minutes.
In the meantime, take your pastry out of the fridge. Once the apples are cooked, take the pan off the heat, and carefully cover the apples with the pastry making sure to tuck in the sides and fold over any remaining pastry. Prick the pastry a few times with a fork.
Bake the tarte tatin for about 45-50 minutes. Leave to cool on a rack for at least ten minutes before turning it out on to a plate. To serve, place a plate on top of the pan, put on some oven gloves, and flip the whole thing over so that the tarte tatin ends up on your plate. Enjoy as is, with some crème fraîche or with some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
Paola Westbeek is a food, wine and travel writer who is passionate about French cooking, old-fashioned chansons, Rembrandt and life. Paola is available for all kinds of recipe development, food and wine writing, and culinary advice. For more information visit: inmylife-paola.blogspot.com