Hearty Fall Cookery
Tarte Tatin is a French country classic, easy to prepare and an irresistibly appealing feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Traditionally cooked in an iron skillet, crisp apples fresh from the orchard are bathed in salted caramel, topped with pate sucre, and baked in the oven until well caramelized and bubbling up around a lightly browned crust, flipped out of the skillet and onto a platter and served with fresh whipped cream. Essentially a resourceful French cook’s cleaver alternative method of baking a tart upside down, obviously with economy of preparation in mind, the Tarte Tatin took its place in annals of French country cooking classics.
Of course the tarte tatin method applies to various other firm fresh fruits including plums, pears, peaches, apricots, and so on. For the recipe that follows I have included prunes, utilizing the availability of dried fruits as fresh fruit supplies begin to dwindle as the end of fall and the beginning of winter arrives.
Likewise, firm nearly ripe tropical fruits such as mangos, bananas, pineapples, and Asian pears are alternatives for a tarte tatin as the seasons change.
Pate sucre (sweet pastry dough)
- 8 tablespoons (4 oz/100grams)) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cut the butter into small pieces and refrigerate.
Sift the flour, powdered sugar, and salt together and set aside. Beat the egg yolks, brandy, and vanilla together and set aside.
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor (or bowl). Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture combines and looks like course meal. This can be done using a fork if you are making the dough by hand. Sprinkle the egg mixture over the flour mixture and pulse (or work with a fork) just until the dough comes together. Remove and place the dough on a lightly floured surface and take a small portion and smear the dough away from you using the palm of the hand and set aside. Smear the remaining dough and combine into a ball and then flatten the dough into a disc about 5 inches in diameter. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Remove the dough from the fridge; allow warming for a few minutes, and then rolling out to about 1/4 inch thickness and approximately 1 ½ inches larger than the pan you intend to use for the tarte tatin. Transfer the dough to a platter, cover with cling film, and refrigerate until you are ready to make the tarte tatin.
Apple and Prune Tarte Tatin: serves 6-8
- 3 pounds (1 ½ kilo) about 6 large hard cooking apples
- 6 oz pitted prunes
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz/ 75 grams) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 12” pate sucre (sweet pastry dough) crust, prepared ahead and chilled
Peel the apples, core and quarter and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400F/205C
Melt the butter in a skillet (cast iron or stainless steel) over medium high heat and when bubbling add the sugar and salt and stir for several minute. The texture will be course and clumpy at first, but it will eventually melt into a smooth caramel. Once the caramel begins to color, turn the heat down to medium, add the quartered apples, spooning caramel over the apples, stirring and turning from time to time. Continue to cook for 12-15 minutes or until the apples begin to soften and the caramel has thickened and rich amber in color. If you find the caramel is coloring to quickly as you cook the apples lower the heat somewhat.
Caution: The caramel is extremely hot so be careful as you proceed!
Once finished remove from the heat and add the pitted prunes and stir into the caramel.
Turn the apples rounded side down and arrange as you like placing prunes between the apples. Once you are happy with the arrangement press the fruit into the caramel using a spatula or silicone spoon.
Remove the chilled prepared pasty round from the refrigerator and place it over the surface of the fruit and caramel in the skillet. Gently fold the edges of the pasty over the fruit and down the sides parallel to the sides of the pan, encasing the fruit.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is nicely colored and the caramel can be seen bubbling around the edges of the
skillet. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 15 minutes.
Carefully run a flexible knife around the edge of the skillet to release the edges of the tart from the pan.
To umold the tart onto a flat platter, place the platter over the top of the skillet, being sure that it is centered. Using kitchen towels or oven mitts clamp the platter and the still hot skillet together and with one decisive action carefully invert the pan and platter releasing the tart from the pan onto the platter.
If there is any fruit that may not have released from the skillet, simply remove it and press it into the appropriate space on the surface of the tart. Remember, this is a rustic country tarte so don’t be terribly concerned with perfection. Once the tarte is served any minor flaws will be forgiven!
Serve warm, but not hot, with freshly whipped cream, Crème fraiche, or Greek yogurt, or ice cream.