I have a confession to make. This is my third time trying to make this tart. The first time it sort of fell apart. The second time it burned. I was so determined to make it and I’m still not really sure why. It seemed so chic and…classically French.
What makes a tarte tatin what it is is the process of cooking the apples underneath the pastry and then flipping it upside down…or right-side up. I gave up on the classic for a little while and tried my hand at potato leek with thyme. I got the hang of it!
In order for it to work you need a buttered non-stick skillet (about 9 inches / 23 cm ) and precise cooking – see below. Once I knew how to make one type of tarte tatin, it was only a matter of trying my hand again at the classic. It’s really fun to make and the fact that you flip it upside down makes it a bit more forgiving as far as pastry skills go.
I really prefer making my own pie dough. It tastes better and isn’t full of artificial fillers. Check the ingredients on any store bought dough you’re considering before buying. The recipe here is adapted from the recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friburg. I cut the recipe in half, reduced the salt and changed the method a little bit.
350 grams / 12 oz bread flour
1 tsp salt
225 grams / 8 oz cold salted butter (very cold)
70 grams / 2.5 oz lard or vegetable shortening (very cold)
Approximately 1/3 of a cup ice water
** A well known pie dough making hack is to grate frozen butter or lard. This is a great idea and makes the process much easier. However, know that if you do grate it you should refreeze for 10-15 minutes in case it’s warmed up from your body heat or the friction of the grater.
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and lard and quickly mix without handling it too much until just incorporated.
Sprinkle on the ice water and mix just until the dough comes together. It should still look chunky.
Flatten with a rolling pin, cover and let rest in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. My preferred method is to roll it out on a large sheet of aluminum foil, then fold over the edges and put it into the freezer as is. When I take it out I can flip it upside down and lay it onto the apples then peel off the foil with little damage to the dough.
When the dough has chilled enough, you’re going to use it to cover the apples. I used a 9 inch 23 cm non-stick skillet that was about 2 inches / 5 cm high. You’ll probably have some dough leftover if you use the same size…maybe make a hand pie? If you go larger, remember to also make more filling.
**Makes about 700 grams / 1.5 lbs of pie dough.
5-6 medium sized baking apples like McIntosh or Gala
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP salted butter (melted) + a bit more to butter the pan
1 tsp cinnamon (I’m obsessed with Vietnamese cinnamon at the moment)
Dash of salt
Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C with a rack in the upper 1/3.
Peel and core the apples then slice them into 1 cm wedges.
Toss them in a bowl with the sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt.
Arrange them in a buttered non-stick skillet in whatever way looks nice to you. I did a sort of swirl on the outside and another swirl going in the opposite direction on the inside.
Cover with the pie dough above or store bought. I like to gently push the edges down to envelope the apples.
Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until pastry has turned golden.
Allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes and then place a plate over the tart and, using both hands, flip both upside down so the tart slides onto the plate. It should slide out without any issues.
Garnish with powdered sugar, toasted walnuts, or salted caramel.