Earlier this year, my fiancé and I visited Paris. We ate tarte tatin almost every day and very quickly became aware of the places that hit the mark, but also of those that did not. It is for that reason that I am calling this my authentic tarte tatin.
Tarte tatin is one of those desserts that is quintessentially French and it is sold everywhere. One of my favourite memories from our trip to Paris was when we were sat in a little bistro, on a corner in the Quartier de l’Odéon, eating a truly authentic tarte tatin and drinking espresso (or wine, in Manasseh’s case!)
Where did it all start?
As with any well-known dessert, I am always curious to know how it came about as well as how it got its name. In the case of the tarte tatin, its origins are somewhat conflicted. However, what we do know for sure is that it was created accidentally at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron (to the south of Paris) in the late 1800s.
The hotel was run by two sisters; the most commonly accepted story being that one of the sisters, Stéphanie, had started to make her usual apple pie but, after a long day left her exhausted, she inadvertently left the apples cooking for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, putting the whole pan in the oven. Hotel guests appreciated the upside-down dessert so much that they decided to make it part of the menu. The name, naturally, is taken from the sisters’ surname (and the name of the hotel, incidentally.)
Authenticity is key
When it comes to desserts that are so well-known and loved the World around, I try to stick to the traditional recipe as much as possible. However, I also think that a baker should put their own mark on anything they make. In this case, my only real diversion from an authentic tarte tatin is the use of light brown sugar instead of white sugar. The slight molasses flavour that the light brown sugar adds depth without altering the dish so much that it is no longer recognised as authentic. My recipe is similar to one we had in Luxembourg. I am therefore happy to consider it authentic (albeit not ‘standard’).
Authentic Tarte Tatin
For the filling:
- 100 g light brown sugar
- 60 g butter
- 6 Braeburn apples cored and peeled
For the pâte brisée:
- 150 g plain flour
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 115 g salted butter
- 1 egg large
- 2 tbsp milk to glaze
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- In an oven-proof frying pan (I like to use a cast iron pan), melt the sugar and butter together on high until it begins to bubble and thicken. It will continue to darken when placed in the oven later so don’t let it go too far.
- Meanwhile, cut the apples into thick slices (about 8ths).
- Once the butter and sugar have melted, place the apple slices into the pan tightly. Remember to layer them the opposite way to how you want them to look as you will see the reverse side when it is finally flipped.
- Place the pan in the over to bake for 30 minutes.
Time to make the pastry (pâte brisée)
- In a clean bowl, rub the butter into the flour until you have a fine breadcrumb.
- Next, mix in the caster sugar before adding the egg.
- Bring the pastry together by stirring until it is almost fully together then finish by kneading/folding it on itself 3-4 times. This helps to work just enough gluten to keep the pastry together without creating a tough crust.
Bring it together
- Roll the dough to a thickness of around 5mm and cut a disc slightly larger than the diameter of your oven-proof pan.
- Once the apples have baked for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and place the pastry disc on top of the apples.
- Carefully tuck the edges of the pastry down, around the apples (being careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan!)
- Glaze the pastry with milk and place the tarte back in the oven to bake for a further 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
- Once baked, immediately flip the tarte onto a serving dish and serve warm with ice cream or crème fraîche.