Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tarte Tatin

Throughout history, humans gave a symbolic status to many natural elements and food items surrounding them. So what was the symbol of eternal youth in pagan Germany, the symbol of beauty in Mesopotamia, and a source of immorality in the garden of Hesperides? More importantly, what's the fruit that lured humanity into sin according to popular misinterpretation of the Bible? Yup, you guessed it, it's the humble Apple.

Apples are widely popular and incredibly versatile ingredients that go well in many savory and sweet recipes. Apples are the star ingredient of one of the most famous and delicious French recipes of all times: Tarte Tatin.

The Tatin sisters who worked at the Hotel Tatin in the village of Lamotte-Beuvron in France's Loire Valley, entered history through a random series of events. Stephanie Tatin was the hotel's cook, while her sister Caroline was the hostess. They successfully managed the hotel  located in the Loire Valley, a region many call the garden of France due to its abundance of fruits, vegetables and vineyards.

So how the Tarte Tatin came to be? In 1889, at the peak of the hunting season, the hotel was overwhelmed with hungry guests. While Caroline was taking care of the guests, Stephanie was running frantically in the kitchen from one stove to another preparing food. As she was preparing the traditional and well known apple pie, she forgot the pan of apples on the stove. The smell of caramelizing apples caught her attention. Fearing the apples might burn and in an attempt to save them, she put the pie crust on top of the apples and put the pan in the oven to cook it. Stephanie admired the result and so did the guests. And there you have it, out of a mere coincidence a sublime dessert was born. 

The original recipe has only few ingredients, apples (reines de reinettes or king of the pippins variety), sugar, butter and pie crust. However, throughout the years some variations were made such as adding spices or using puff pastry.

Organic reines de reinettes apples rich with their natural flavor are not easy to get hold of, so I always add spices to my apples to enhance the flavor. Many spices can be added, but cinnamon and apples are a marriage made in heaven.

You can use either a traditional pie crust or puff pastry for this recipe. I honestly prefer using puff pastry, it's lighter, richer and just adds a magical touch to this dessert. 

In order to make this delicous tarte tatin you will need:

  • 6 granny smith apples
  • 100 g brown sugar (demerara preferably)
  • 35 g butter
  • 30 g maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of fresh ground star anis and cloves
You can substitute the spices with vanilla and if you are a purist you can omit the addition of spices and vanilla altogether.

Follow these steps and you will surely make an excellent dessert.
Peel and core the apples, put them in a bowl full of water and the juice a a lemon. The lemon will stop the browning of the apples.

On a low heat and in an oven proof pan combine sugar, butter, maple syrup, salt and the spices. Let the sugar melt slowly and do not stir it, just move the pan gently to avoid that the sugar burns.
When the caramel is ready, line the apples in the pan keeping in mind that they will shrink after cooking. You can either line them in a pretty fashion or keep free form, whatever you prefer.

Let the apples cook for a while, turn them, and when you see that the caramel is bubbling, you can turn off the heat and let them cool for few minutes.

While the apples are cooling, prepare your puff pastry. Cut a sheet a few centimetres bigger than the pan you're using. Cover the apples with the dough, make few holes in the pastry so you won´t have steam condensation and cook in a preheated oven (200C) until golden brown which usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.

You can make your own puff pastry ( I will share the recipe in an upcoming post) or you can use a store bought one. Please make sure to use a brand that you trust and that actually uses butter to make the pastry, otherwise the taste won't be there. 
Leave it to cool for 5 minutes, place the serving dish over the pan, cover it with aluminium foil, then with some towels and turn it over, be careful not to spill any of the hot caramel!

The smell at this point overwhelms the senses. You know in advance that the caramelized apples along with the puff pastry soaked in this luscious caramel will be just heavenly.  

Serve warm with a sccop of ice cream, and listen to Piaff singing La vie en rose!! Indulge!


  1. So many love and energy Ri, keep on like that. I promise to read one day, I cant promise cook it... before I would go to the Moon ;), time is too short for me now. But the pic looks... wow... fantastic!

    1. Thank you my dear, I owe you so many recipes now! :)

  2. hola tus Tartas Me Encantan :) saludos

    1. Muchas gracias! Me alegro mucho, y habrĂ¡ mucho mas! :)