Many French desserts seem intimidating, but the apple tarte tatin is much easier to make than you might think — and you definitely should think about making one.
The upside-down apple tart only requires a handful of ingredients and no specialty bake ware. As long as you have an oven-safe pan in your kitchen, you could be ready to make your own caramel-topped tart in no time.
What’s in an apple tarte tatin?
This tart has three components: the caramel, the apples and the pastry.
Sugar and butter are cooked together in a skillet until the caramel turns golden brown. Adding the butter at the start of the cooking time helps to discourage the sugar from crystallizing, which gives the caramel a nice, buttery finish. Once the caramel is cooked, apples are packed into it.
What kind of apples should I use?
You can use any kind of apple to make your tarte tatin, but I always recommend good baking apples that have a crisp, firm texture. That means that you can use anything from Granny Smith to Jonagold (which is what I used). Avoid using apples that have a softer texture, such as Golden Delicious, because they can break down while they’re in the oven and not give you a perfect finished product.
I like to use apple halves — peeled and cored — because I like the look of large pieces of apple in the finished tart. You can cut them into quarters, which makes them easier to pack into the caramel in the pan. Regardless of how you slice them, the apples should be packed together as closely as possible. They will shrink as the tart cooks, and you don’t want to have too much un-appled space!
What is the dough made of?
The apples are covered with a sheet of puff pastry once they are arranged in the pan. You can use frozen puff pastry or homemade puff pastry. The light, flaky layers of the pastry are a wonderful contrast for the sweet caramelized apples after baking.
What kind of pan should I use?
You can use almost any kind of oven-safe skillet to prepare this tart. Just make sure the handle is all metal or can withstand a relatively high oven temperature.
If you can, choose a pan with relatively high sides — that makes it slightly easier to wrap the pastry around the apples.
With a pan that has a more dramatic slope to the sides, you may get a slightly flatter tart. Believe me when I say that the tart will taste good no matter what pan you bake it in, but it will look a bit prettier if it is formed in a deeper pan.
Troubleshooting the apple tarte tatin
There are a couple of common problems when it comes to this type of tart, but they are easy to deal with.
The first and most common problem is that the tart gets stuck in the pan.
This typically happens because it has been allowed to cool off too much. When this tart cools, the caramel hardens and can act like glue for the apples and pastry. If your tart has cooled for more than a couple of minutes, place it back on the stovetop to warm up the caramel before turning it out onto a serving platter.
Another common problem is that the tart has too much liquid in it.
The juicier your apples are, the more liquid they will release during cooking. If your tart appears to have produced a lot of juice, you can continue baking it for a few additional minutes, which will allow the caramel to thicken up again. Alternatively, you could return the pan to the stovetop just to reduce the caramel. Some apples won’t give you this problem, but I have found that you never know when it comes to fresh fruit — it’s good to be prepared just in case!
Classic apple tarte tatin recipe
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 6-7 medium apples
- 10″ square of puff pastry
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Peel your apples and cut them in half, removing cores.
Melt butter in a 9-inch skillet. Add sugar and cook over medium heat until sugar is a golden brown. The sugar on the bottom of the pan may be darker than the bubbling surface, so be conservative.
Turn off the heat and let caramel rest for 5 minutes. Arrange apples cut-side up in the caramel, packing them closely together.
While caramel is resting, roll out puff pastry gently on a lightly floured surface to smooth out any seams.
Place puff pastry over apples and tuck the edges and corners around the apples. Poke a few vents in the top of the pastry with a sharp knife.
Bake until pastry is golden brown and the apples are soft when poked with sharp knife, about 25-30 minutes. Let the skillet sit for about 5-8 minutes for the caramel to thicken. If the dessert must sit longer before serving, warm it by up placing the skillet on the stovetop for 1-2 minutes.
Place a large serving plate on top of the skillet and (carefully) turn tart out onto the platter. Serve warm.