While American food portions are known to be huge, nothing could have prepared me for the amount of food I’d eat in France. In America, I often share an entrée with someone else. If the portions are very large, then we’ll often have food to take home too, even after splitting. The ability to share food and take home leftovers allows me to eat a portion of food that feels comfortable for me. In France, most menus offer meals in a three-course manner, and they’re not to be shared. In fact, sharing is often frowned upon, and asking for a to-go bag is pretty much forbidden. I mean, sure you can ask, but don’t be surprised if you get a dumbfounded (or worse, judging) look. These kind of large meals in France made light desserts, like this apple tarte tatin, much appreciated.
In a way, this apple tarte tatin is very similar to the French apple tart I previously shared here. The main difference is the order in which the ingredients are added to your pan. With a tatin, which means upside-down in French, the fruit is placed on the bottom of the pan, rather than on top of a pastry crust or batter. If you saw my plum tatin cake, then you’ll completely understand why the French do this. Basically, the fruit has a chance to caramelize by sitting on the bottom of the pan. In the case of stone fruits, the juices of the flesh-y fruit also get a chance to seep into the rest of the dessert when the tart is inverted after baking.
This classic apple tarte tatin is everything you want in a tarte tatin. The apples are tender and sweet with the taste of caramel, while the pastry crust is crisp, light, and flaky. One of my favorite parts of this dessert is the crispy edges. The edges are essentially just baked pastry crust, but they’re extra crunchy with that distinct caramelized apple flavor; they’re almost like dessert croutons! This apple tarte tatin comes together in less than an hour so it’s also a wonderful dessert to make when you don’t have a lot of time to plan out something more elaborate. No one will be any the wiser!
Apple Tarte Tatin
for the pastry dough
- 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 c unsalted butter cold and cubed
- 1/4 c ice cold water plus more if necessary
for the apple layer
- 1 extra large crisp apple or 2 large crisp apples
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 c granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. To a large bowl, add the flour, salt, and sugar for the pastry dough. Whisk to combine. Drop in the cubes of cold butter and use a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands to crumble the butter into the dough. You should end up with dough clumps no bigger than the size of peas.
Stream in the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, and stir the dough together with a wooden spoon until you get a dough that's come together. It’s okay if there are some stray crumbs and dry spots. Lightly flour your work surface before turning out the clump of dough onto it. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze for 20 minutes while you prep the apple(s).
Peel the apple(s) before removing the stem(s) and core(s). Slice the apple(s) into quarters before further slicing each quarter into thin wedges. Melt the 4 tbsp of butter in an oven-safe, 10-inch pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly throughout the pan. After about 10 seconds, stir the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon to combine. Continue stirring until the sugar turns a pale amber color. Temporarily remove the pan from the heat.
Arrange the apple wedges in a spiral pattern, beginning from the outer edges. Transfer the pan back onto the heat and continue cooking the apples in the pan for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the wedges turn golden brown on the bottom. Once they do, flip each apple wedge over so that the other side of the apple wedges cook; about 3 to 5 more minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the pastry dough from the freezer and roll out onto a lightly floured surface. You can roll your dough out to 1/4 inch or 1/8 inch thick, your preference. Measure a 8 1/2 to 9 inch circle from your dough before cutting this dough circle out. Make a few long slits in the center of this dough circle.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully place the pastry dough circle on top of the apple layer. Quickly transfer to the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry turns light golden brown.
While the tarte tatin is baking, prep your counter space by placing a long paper towel sheet on it. Grab a wire cooling rack and two oven mitts. Once the tarte tatin is done baking, you're going to immediately invert it. To do that, you're going to wear your oven mitts and use one hand to grab hold of the pan, and then use the other hand to place the wire cooling rack on top of the pan. Quickly flip the tarte tatin out of the pan, over the sheet of paper towel (to catch any stray juices), while holding the rack tightly against the pan. Let it cool until it's warm or it's reached room temperature. Then slide the tarte tatin onto your serving plate. Optional: serve with ice cream.