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Jun 10, 2010 10:40 AM

Apple Tarte Tatin Musings and Requested Opinions

hey all... planning to mess around with apple tarte tatin this weekend, and curious as to some opinions on the following questions/issues...

i'm going to make a sour cream/butter dough... not unsure about this.

debating on type of apple... granny smith vs. pippin vs. fuji -- i know big differences, and was considering a combo but not really thinking that's gonna be good. granny i like for the tartness and texture, but i'm also kind of a fuji whore (plus i have two bags to use up -- i'll make apple butter, if worse comes to worst).

debating whether to make the caramel separately, then add the apples and bake. or whether to simmer the apples and let them caramelize together. am i just being lazy? i also saw a recipe where they allowed the caramelization to happen, then cooled in an ice bath til a brittle formed and then placed that in a pan topped with apples and pastry and baked...

a fantasy of mine also involves using brown sugar, but i know it won't work as well... at least, i think it won't given the moisture. but oh man, i just prefer this stuff when i can use it. anyone have experience subbing some or all of the sugar for brown?

i also plan to add a little vanilla to my caramel... need to figure out when to do this as well, once i determine my method.

skillet vs cake pan (vs tart pan) - i need a new cast iron skillet. i was looking at recipes where people made it in a cake pan, and it looked convenient, but not sure how well it will really work. i also love the idea of a free form tart pan, but then that just seems to present an added challenge... maybe i'm wrong. i'm also concerned about de-molding, regardless of method, given that i'd be buying a new cast iron skillet, and it really won't be seasoned.

also plan to sprinkle a dash of sea salt over the caramel or fleur de sel, but when this is done, will depend upon which method i use. part of me wants to wait to sprinkle fleur de sel after the unmolding and inverting process...

alrighty... so that's my list of musings on the topic... i've made tarte tatin before, but i want to play for my mom's birthday. (and next time, i'm going to make a pumpkin or possibly ube tarte tatin... but that's for another thread, i suppose.)


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  1. I am about a streamlined tarte tatin -- a quick caramel (YES to brown sugar), then the apples, then the dough.

    My thought regarding the cast iron is this: season it the day before as best you can, make a really buttery caramel, and you'll be fine! ;) The keys to unmolding from a cast iron pan, IMO, are even heat (obviously not an issue since it'll be coming out of the oven), plenty of lubrication, and catching it about five minutes out of the oven before attempting to unmold. Furthermore, I don't think it's a huge issue with a tarte tatin because the fruit and caramel are primarily touching the pan, rather than with, say, a pineapple upside-down cake where there's starchy, moist cake trying to cling to the pan!

    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LauraGrace

      thanks! i got a pre-seasoned pan so all good there...

      wrt the brown sugar... have you used all brown sugar before? and done it the same way... butter and brown sugar in pan, let caramelize then add apples, simmer more? i was planning to do butter and sugar til golden like 5-10 minutes then add apples for 15-20 minutes then pastry and bake...

    2. I just follow the recipe in Julia Child's The Way to Cook, and it comes out perfectly. That's the only way I've ever made it, but it does sound a bit more like a fall/winter dessert to me...

      10 Replies
      1. re: roxlet


        i've made the Keller's/Bouchon's Tarte Tatin several times with much success. While the recipe is straightforward enough, the timing is off (e.g. the time it takes to cook the apples on the stove is closer to 2 or 2.5 hrs, vs the 45 min he says). It doesn't bother me though, as the final product has always been outstanding, and regularly requested by friends and family. I should note that I did purchase the Le Creuset 'tarte tatin' pan...and i think it's pretty crucial for success with this recipe. Please contact me with questions if you want!

        1. re: mgsalter

          Wow, 2.5 hours is a long time to cook those apples! Forty five minutes seems right to me, in a two-stage approach that lessens the risk of the apples (which should be firm to begin) turning to mush. First stage is at medium heat, to cook the apples, losing their moisture and allowing the sugar / butter to begin to caramelize. That should be about thirty minutes. Turning the heat up to medium high, and watching closely, allows the caramel to turn a dark brown, coating the apples with a rich and dark coating. I turn the apples from time to time at this stage.

          One observation is that most tarte tatins are a little too light of color, as if the cook is nervous of allowing a full caramel to develop.

          Other than these minor observations (with the addition that if you don't have vanilla sugar in your pantry, you should start now!), all the others are well taken.

        2. re: roxlet

          That's exactly the one I use as well. And I always making it in a cast iron skillet.

          1. re: MMRuth

            is the cast iron a problem? any other problems? i can help!

            1. re: mgsalter

              The top looks perfect. I think maybe you aren't rolling out the dough into a big enough circle? The recipe I use calls for draping it over the pan, and then going around and tucking in the dough.

              1. re: MMRuth

                i've found that the opposite works better actually. By keeping the dough at just the size of the pan, the dough is thicker, which makes for a heftier crust later that's even less likely to get soggy from moisture. When i've extended the dough beyond the pan, it inevitably falls off while baking, or breaks off when i flip it later. The apples are perfect: there's no substitute for the slow cooking to produce that super-concentrate apple-y flavor.

                1. re: mgsalter

                  Oh - I wasn't clear - I tuck in the dough down into the sides of the pan, not on the outside. And I long ago discovered the secret to no-sogginess - I am far too tired to find the link right now, but involves inverting the tarte as you did, and then putting it back into the pan until you are ready to serve it.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Hi MMRuth,

                    Is this what you were thinking of? It's in the link I posted, titled Julia Child TWC Tarte Tatin Recipe.

                    Adding my tips for reheating it later:

                    Here's my tip about the Tarte Tatin. When it is done, flip it onto a plate. Then, line the castiron pan with foil, flip it back in. And cover with foil - meaning - the apple side is in the pan, so no dough sogginess. Transport it like that, then briefly heat up in the oven before serving. I've made it the night before or the morning of. I keep it at room temp until reheating.

                    I remembered another step - a safety precaution! - I brush the foil with butter, put in a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper, before putting the Tarte Tatin back in. The trick with reheating is to make sure that the caramel doesn't melt again - sometimes I need to put it on the stove top for a minute or two to make sure that the caramel gets absorbed back into the apples.

                    Permalink | Report | Reply

                    By MMRuth on Nov 05, 2010 05:54PM


              2. re: mgsalter

                I know tarte tatin can be an extremely personal thing, and the most important thing is that YOU enjoy YOUR version, but I just have to say...
                That caramel is entirely too light, IMHO. I always use a cast-iron pan, with white sugar and butter to make my caramel. (Although I like the idea of using brown sugar, and imagine it would work just fine.) After making a deep, dark, European inspired caramel I stop it by placing the pan on a bed of ice. This forms a hard caramel shell onto which I can place my quartered apples (Sierra Beauties are my choice of apple here), getting everything all snug and tight before a light sprinkling of sugar. I then cover the apples with crostata dough and butter and sugar this before popping it into a 400F oven for about one hour. -If you have a deck or pizza stone, put it right on that.
                When it is brown and bubbly up the sides, I pull it out and pretty immediately invert it onto a pan before sliding it onto a rack to cool. If there is a lot of liquid pooling around the fruit, I'll stick a knife in the crust in a few places, so it can drip out onto a pan underneath my rack.
                I agree with MMRuth about the crust. Roll it out slightly larger than your castiron, thicker than the average tart dough (10 oz of dough for a 9 or 10" pan is a pretty good rule of thumb),and push it down the sides so you get a nice, overlapping edge that is really pretty when inverted.
                The apples in the photo above seem woefully overcooked as well. When I think of tarte tatin, dishes that are good for elders without teeth does not immediately spring to mind. That photo makes me think of them though.

          2. My French recipe (in French) says white sugar and regular pie dough. You have to be careful with very tender pie crust, as it will disintegrate when you turn it out of the pan!

            This recipe says to cook quartered apples (not sliced) until tender and the caramel has become a rich brown.

            Then tuck the crust around the edge of the pan (it recommends using a spoon handle for this task, then baking for 30 minutes (or until the crust is golden).

            1. Use Golden Delicious apples. More pectin than other varieties.


              6 Replies
              1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                every French recipe I've ever seen says Granny Smith.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Hi Sunshine,

                  I'm sure you're correct!

                  My recommendation to use Golden Delicious apples is based on a side-by-side comparison done in cooking school using Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Although the Granny Smith did do a good job, the Golden Delicious won by a fair margin. The slices stayed put after turning out the tart.

                  Actually, with both varieties, the key was making sure the apples were cooked enough in the saute pan to reduce the juices. Then they were arranged in the baking pan, draped with pastry and put in the oven.

                  Here's a link to a thread down below discussing Julia Child's Tarte Tatin.



                  1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                    I agree about the Golden Delicious - which is most often the apple of choice in France (well I say that, but I live in Switzerland - however, along the French boarder - and my close friends tsk tsked me when I suggested making any type of apple tart with Granny Smith). I have tried both and my personal preference is Golden Delicious.

                    1. re: marsprincess

                      isn't that weird? Everybody I know in this region makes them with Granny Smith.

                      More regional differences...

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        What region are you in? I think the nod to Golden Delicious around here is that they are locally grown and therefore are a preference.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    Julia Child's recipe calls for Golden Delicious, fwiw.

                2. consider using vanilla sugar for your caramel if you want to introduce some vanilla flavor. my last tarte tatin I made - the caramel got a bit too dark for my taste - it didn't let the apple flavor come through enough.

                  1 Reply