This is one recipe where I checked with the experts – Julia Child, Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver, Jacques Pepin, and even the Le Parasian blog (thank goodness for Google translation). I watched videos and studied their recipes for similarities and differences in ingredients and techniques.
Let me start with what a Tarte Tatin is. Simply put it is a caramelized apple pie. It was created in France in the late 1800s by two sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin from Lamotte-Beuvron (Loir-et-Cher). There are many legends and folklore about this dessert. Most dismiss the lore as nonsense. For example, the pie has not been placed upside down in the baking dish… Stéphanie has not forgotten the dough… the dish did not fall out of the oven and was not turned over on a plate. [I think of it as an apple pie baked upside down.]
What is thought to be true… the Hôtel Tatin was opened by the two sisters in 1894 in Lamotte-Beuvron, and they served this dessert to hunters, lords, and bourgeois Parisians. According to historians, the tatin is a seasonal dessert linked to the apple harvest.
Now on to the making of this recipe! Oh, what a test of my patience this recipe was. I made it twice! The first time the caramel turned on me and over caramelized. The second time I undercooked the caramel sauce to prevent burning the sauce as I did on the first try. At least the apples were edible in version two.
Frankly, I was afraid to make this recipe a third time and figured I would just feature the experts’ finished pies above.
It all started so nice. Peel and core the apples. Coring the apples was challenging with a spoon and/or a knife. I didn’t want to buy an apple corer just for this recipe. I do have an apple corer/slicing tool but didn’t want the apples sliced – and the tool does both at the same time. If I ever do decide to make this recipe again, I would slice the apples – Julia and Jacques did!
Making the caramel was easy enough just melting the butter with the sugar. I added a few tablespoons of brandy to give it a kick.
Now it got challenging. How to add the apples before the sauce overcooks.
At this point in version one, I knew I was in trouble. Over-caramelized! Version two looked anemic. I cooked version two a little longer but it wouldn’t caramelize. Ugh!
I know, I know – disastrous first batch and undercooked looking second batch. I also couldn’t figure out how the experts could keep the apples so nicely snugged together – my apples separated once flipped. But that was the least of my challenge. Getting the apples caramelized without burning was the goal I was trying to achieve.
I figured the only way I could salvage version 2 was to put it back in the oven on broil. That helped finish the caramelizing of the apples and made for a very tasty dessert!
So at this point, I will share with you my recipe loosely based on the “experts” renditions. However, I would encourage you, should you wish to make this French dessert, to check in with the experts and their recipe variations before tackling this dish.
French - Tarte Tatin aka Caramelized Apple Pie
- 1 pre-made pie crust
- 4-6 apples I used honeycrisp
- 1 cup sugar
- 4-6 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon for each apple
- 2 tablespoons brandy
Prep: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the sugar, brandy, and butter in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof pan. Stir to combine. Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture will eventually begin to turn light brown.
Arrange the apples rounded side down in circles. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Lay the pie crust on top of the apples. Tuck the pastry in around the edges of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and crispy.
Let the tart cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pastry and CAREFULLY flip the platter and the pan over.
The Tatin sisters could never have imagined their caramelized apple pie would become so popular!