Tarte Tatin (or Tarte des demoiselles Tatin if we’re going to be really correct about it) is one of my favourite puddings and, being apple and pear season right now, it’s a perfect recipe for this time of year. I recently cooked apple tarte Tatin for the smallholding course at the farm but I’ve also been doing individual pear tarte Tatins with cinnamon as well as savoury versions including caramelised shallot tarte Tatin and balsamic fig and thyme tarte Tatin (which is absolutely delicious with duck and also with lamb, in which case the addition of rosemary works particularly well).
If you haven’t made tarte Tatin before, it can be one of those recipes that sounds and looks a bit daunting but is actually fairly easy. It looks and tastes fabulous and it’s always considered a real treat by people when you cook it so it’s definitely worth mastering. The main hurdle with tarte Tatin is a physical one not a culinary one – successfully inverting the finished result onto a plate whilst wearing suitably thick oven gloves without spilling any hot caramel. A bit like swinging a bucket full of water over your head – you just have to go for it.
Despite the potential for lots of versions, tarte Tatin is traditionally made with apples. I’ve researched this recipe quite a lot and I am fairly confident that my version is pretty foolproof.
If things do go a bit wrong though, don’t worry. Tarte Tatin was originally the result of a mistake anyway so you’ll be in good company. Just bundle the apple, pastry and caramel mixture into serving bowls with a big dollop of creme fraiche and you will be completely forgiven for the poor presentation the second your guests take their first mouthful.
For this recipe, you need a large (about 24cm diameter) ovenproof frying pan or skillet
- 6 normal sized eating apples or 9 small ones (e.g. Cox, Gala)
- 150g caster sugar
- 30ml water
- 50g butter, cubed
- a pinch of salt
- 500g puff pastry
- Vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche for serving
- - Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5
- - On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to approximately 5mm thick then cut out a circle about 5 cm larger than the pan you’re going to use to cook the apples in
- - Set the pastry aside
- - Peel, horizontally halve and then core the apples
- - Put the sugar and water into a large heavy-based skillet or ovenproof frying pan and place over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and then caramelises, turning a rich golden brown colour
- - Do not, under any circumstances, be tempted to touch or taste the caramel – it is extremely hot and will burn you badly
- - Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and a pinch of salt then place all but one of the apples in the pan and stir them around to coat them in the caramel
- - Using a pair of heat-proof tongs, turn the apples so that they are rounded-side down, cutting up the remaining apple into smaller pieces and using it to fill in any large gaps
- - Return to the heat and cook for another 5 minutes until the apples start to soften – the apples will release a lot of juice at first but the sauce will soon thicken again
- - Remove from the heat
- - Place the pastry on top of the apples and tuck in the edges around the fruit, again being careful not to touch the caramel
- - Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed up then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes
- - Place a large plate over the top of the pan (if you don’t have a plate that is larger than the pan, you could use a board) and, using thick oven gloves, carefully, and in one confident manoeuvre, invert the tarte Tatin onto the plate
- - Cut into slices and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche