Tuesday, 22 October 2013 22:08

Tarte tatin - the story of the French upside down cake

In preparation for my French Dinner at Mary’s Dinner Club I had asked a French friend what should be on the menu. A must for dessert she explained: Tarte Tatin. ‘It’s a bit complicated to make, but it’s very traditional.’ she added.

Actually, it’s not that it’s complicated, it’s just upside down! Looking up the recipe I found that the apples go at the bottom and the pie crust on top. The ‘base’ is caramelized sugar. When it’s nice and gooey and brown you add butter (so much for a low-calorie dessert), put apple wedges on top and cover it with your piece of dough.

A bit of Tarte Tatin history

I did look up how Tarte Tatin came to be and it turns out, it was first created by accident (almost thought so) way back in 1889 at the hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France. There are conflicting stories about whose ‘fault’ the pie is – Stéphanie Tatin’s or Caroline Tatin’s. Both stories imply that the sisters were overworked – plausible enough, considering they worked in gastronomy.

So either Stephanie burned the apples she was browning for a pie and wanted to ‘cover up’ the mishap by putting dough on top, or Caroline put the ingredients into the pie dish in the wrong order by mistake. Whichever the case, let’s be thankful to them for bringing it into existence!

Beware of other Tarte Tatin mishaps

In my case it was the first time to caramelize sugar. It seemed simple enough and was fun until I dripped a huge blob of caramelized sugar on the back of my hand and… in a quick reflex, licked it off. The result – a burn on my and the roof of my mouth – sugar caramelizes at about 250 ° C. Fortunately I have since found an easier recipe that involves less risk of burning yourself

Ingredients for Tarte Tatin

  • 3 kilos of apples peeled and quartered
  • 175 g butter
  • 400 g caster sugar

For the pastry dough

  • 200g flour
  • 100 g butter, cold, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Directions for making Tarte Tatin

  • Make the pastry and keep in the fridge
  • Melt butter in a heavy pie dish and add sugar
  • Place the apple slices to cover the entire dish
  • Simmer on the oven top until the juice from the apples has evaporated and the sugar caramelized
  • Let the apples cool slightly
  • Preheat the oven at 220° C
  • Roll out the pastry dough,
  • Place onto the pie dish and cut off any overlapping dough,
  • Press down lightly
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
  • Let cool for 10 minutes
  • Turn carefully onto a plate or platter and serve warm

NB: When choosing apples for a Tarte Tatin, pick some firm ones that will hold their shape while cooking, and not melt into apple sauce. The most common ones would be Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or Jonathan. Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, peaches, pineapple, tomatoes, other fruit, or vegetables, such as onion.

If you think this is easy enough and are ready to go beyond the Tarte Tatin, you will love this absolutely charming book filled with gorgeous, mouthwatering pictures Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes by Rachel Khoo

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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