An apple tart, cooked upside-down

The year is about 1898. Two sisters are rushing around welcoming clients and preparing a meal for a group of guests at their hotel in Sologne, France. In her haste, one of them realizes that she forgot to prepare a dessert. She spots some apples that have already been peeled, and with mad speed she throws them into a skillet with butter and sugar and tosses it into the oven.

She continues the service while the scent of butter and apples begins to fill the kitchen. She suddenly realizes that there is no crust! What was this dessert to be? Just gooey apples? In lack of a better plan, she covers the apples with pastry dough and puts the dish back in the oven. But when she takes it out again, the visual aspect is not particularly appealing.

So she flips it over onto a plate to discover gooey apple caramel delight. To everyone’s surprise, the accidental tart is a big hit and soon becomes the specialty of the house. The Tatin sisters go down in history and are even cited in the first edition of the Guide Michelin in 1900.

Goes to show that sometimes mistakes can turn into delicious surprises.

The Hotel Tatin is still operating today

I’ve made many a tarte Tatin, but it is a recipe from the American Saveur magazine that has been the most moving. Crisp caramel aromas pierce the air around you when you bite into a slice, making your eyes tear up with joy. If you like deep dark caramel this is a tart for you.

recipe for tarte tatin from Saveur Magazine

I followed this recipe to a tee, except for the placement of the apples. I used fuji apples and rather than placing them on their sides, I placed them on their backs, still very tightly packed. I find the finished tart prettier when the rounded part of the apple is visible rather than the sliced edges.

You can go to the original recipe here.

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups flour
6 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the apples:
8 granny smith apples
12 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar

1. For the pastry: Sift together flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to work butter into flour until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in egg with a fork until dough just begins to hold together. Press dough into a rough ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough a few times, gather into a ball, then flatten slightly to make a disk. Wrap disk in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. For the apples: Preheat oven to 375°. Peel, quarter, and core apples. Melt butter in a 10″ cast-iron skillet over medium heat, then remove from heat and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Tightly pack apples around inside edge of skillet, standing upright on their sides, nestled against one another. Arrange remaining apples in similar position in center of skillet. (Apples will shrink as they cook.) Return to high heat and cook until butter and sugar caramelize to a rich brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, then carefully turn apples over to uncooked side with a fork, taking care not to burn your fingers. Return to heat and cook 5–8 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12″ circle. Drape pastry over apples and skillet, then tuck overhanging dough between apples and inside wall of skillet. Bake in oven until pastry is golden, 20–30 minutes. Allow tart to cool for 15 minutes, then loosen edges with a knife. Place a platter on top of skillet and invert quickly and carefully. Serve warm.



  1. Terry Southern

    Your posts are always so beautiful, I love reading and pretending I’m tasting. I am amazed by your talent, both in cooking and in writing.

    • Thanks, it’s great fun cooking and eating! I haven’t seen your new kitchen yet… I hope to make it over one of these days when my house renovating slows down a bit.

  2. Pingback: Autumn Foraging: Apples | kokblog

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