Here is the recipe of an all-time French classic dessert: the tarte Tatin! A tarte Tatin is not French for apple tart (“tarte aux pommes” in French). Indeed, a tarte Tartin is a particular kind of French apple tart. It’s a topsy-turvy apple and caramel tart, baked upside down so the apples stay soft and jammy and the pastry on top crisp — and then flipped over at the last minute. It’s a French pastry in which the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked. It originated in France but has spread to other countries over the years.
I do think this typical French pastry makes it the perfect dinner party dessert: impressive to look at and yet surprisingly easy to pull off. That’s why today, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite French recipes: Paul Bocuse’s tarte Tatin recipe!
A brief history of the Tart Tatin
The legend goes that the tarte Tatin has its origins in the kitchens of the Hôtel Tatin in the town of Lamotte-Beuvron, amid the forests of Sologne, just south of Orléans in north-central France, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin.
Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside-down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. The tarte became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. And the tarte Tatin was first served in Paris in 1926 at Maxim’s restaurant and remains to this day a world-renowned, all-time French classic dessert.
Tarte Tatin pan & skillet
The key to a successful tarte Tatin lies in the type of skillet you use. Cast iron, enameled cast iron (like the Le Creuset Tatin dish), or a special tarte Tatin mold (like the Mauviel copper Tatin pan or the Emile henry Tatin set), available at many kitchenware shops, are best. In any case, it should be heavy-bottomed, with a handle that can withstand the heat of the oven.
Paul Bocuse’s Tarte Tatin Recipe
- 100 g butter
- 1 pinch of salt
- 75 g sugar
- 220 g flour
- 2 g baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1.2 kg Golden Russet Apples
For the shortcrust pastry
- Melt the butter in a double-boiler, stirring it with a whisk. Let cool for a few seconds. Add the salt and mix. Add the sugar. Mix. Add the flour in a steady stream, while continuing to mix. Once the dough begins to come together, take out the whisk and continue to mix with a spatula. Work in the baking powder.
- Break the egg into a ramekin, beat it with a fork, then pour it into the dough. Mix it until the dough comes together into a ball. Flatten it slightly, put it on a plate, and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
For the caramel
- Heat the sugar over high heat in a saucepan. When the sugar has turned a nice, golden color and is beginning to foam, mix it with a wooden spoon. Add the butter. Mix until the butter is melted.
- The caramel should have a good color without becoming at all brown. Allow 3 to 4 minutes or so.
- Pour the caramel into an 8-inch (20cm) metal baking dish. Split the vanilla pod in two without separating the two halves. Put it into the pan, right in the middle, to form a “V”.
For the tart
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half vertically. Arrange the apples, standing them upright in the pan. Fill in the center, and fill up any gaps.
- It is important for the success of the tart that the apples are all the same thickness. Peel them immediately before cooking to make sure they do not oxidize when in contact with the air.
- Place the pan in the bottom of the oven and cook for 1 hour. Check that the apples are cooked. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the dough on parchment paper, and flour it lightly. Roll it out into a circle about 1/8-inch (3mm) thick. Lay the lid of the dish upside down on the pastry, and cut the pastry out to the same interior dimensions as the lid. Cutaway the excess.
- Prick the surface of the dough all over, using a fork. Trim the greaseproof paper to within 1/2 inch (12 mm) of the edge of the dough. Slide the dough, on the paper, onto a baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes. Lay the cooked pastry on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool and harden.
- A few minutes before serving, gently warm a serving plate. Place the pastry disk over the apples. Unstick the apples by holding the pastry with one hand and turning the pan from all angles.
- When the apples are unstuck from the bottom, turn out the tart. Lay the plate upside down over the pan, invert, and lift the pan away. The tart is ready to be devoured!
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Bonjour and welcome to Leonce Chenal, a modern lifestyle platform created and curated by a French woman for lovers of everything French. I’m Leonce, born and raised near Annecy, France. Through this website, I want to share with you the passion I have for my home country and for the French art de vivre. Merci for visiting and à bientôt! —Leonce