Whoa, there. Are you trying to click away from this post after reading the title because you think that it’ll be too difficult for you? Well, stop.
Like you, when we first saw this recipe (over 2 years ago) we thought that it would be beyond our capabilities. In fact, the original recipe is titled “Worth-the-Effort Tarte Tatin.” Worth-the-Effort? Nothing like making this seem nigh on impossible for anyone without decades of pastry-making experience. But, we here at Scratchin’ Central are going to let you in on a secret. Tarte tatin is pretty much just an upside-down apple pie. And, since it’s upside down, no one will even look to see if the crust is perfect.
Yep, an upside-down apple pie. That’s it. Now, doesn’t that sound as if this French dessert is something you can make? It does to us. So, follow along and see how easy this really is (Hint: you can do it.)
We will tell you that we modified this from the aforementioned recipe found The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook, by The Lodge Company (yes, that’s the author, at least according to Amazon).
If you don’t have a favorite pie crust recipe (and even if you have), we suggest using this crust recipe. Why? It always works. It’s the easiest we know of. It makes perfect crust. For the apples, we used a mix of some organic Galas and organic Fujis, but we think that a mix of pretty much any good baking apple will work well. Use unsalted butter because you only want a pinch of salt, and using salted butter would be overkill.
Procedure in detail:
Make caramel sauce. Place the sugar, salt, and butter into an 8-inch cast iron pan (a number 8 size), over medium heat. The butter will melt, followed by the sugar. When the sugar starts to melt, stir it gently with a wooden spoon until it’s completely melted. Turn the heat down to medium low and let the sugar caramelize to a nice dark brown, without stirring. A few wisps of smoke will come off the sugar when it’s pretty much ready. Remove from heat.
Add apples. Place the peeled apple halves standing upright in the caramel sauce. Pack them in tightly, in concentric circles, as they’ll shrink while cooking. Once packed, return the pan to medium heat.
Cook apples. Patience is key. Let the apples cook over medium heat. As they release their juices, you can turn up the heat a bit, but keep a close eye on the caramel sauce. If you smell burning sugar, lower the heat. Let the apples cook until the bottoms are caramelized and soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Flip and cook apples. Use a fork to flip over each half and let the apples simmer away until they’re caramelized on the top and soft throughout. Feel free to move the apples around a bit to help them cook. Once the apples are completely caramelized and soft, remove from heat.
Cool. Let everything cool to room temperature; it should take about an hour. If there’s more than a half-inch of liquid in the pan, carefully drain off some into a small saucepan. You can cook down this juice and drizzle it over the tarte when serving. We didn’t have excess juice, so we were good to go.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll crust. We roll out our crust between two pieces of baking parchment, which makes it easy, but you can roll out your crust however you want. Make a circle big enough so there will be about an inch of excess all the way around the pan.
Apply crust. Drape the crust over the apples, carefully pushing the apples together if needed.
Tuck in crust. Go around the edge of the pan, tucking the crust in between the apples and the side of the pan, again gently pushing the apples closer together.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake until the apples are bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Cool. Let the tarte cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting the next maneuver.
Flip. Place a plate upside down over the pan, and, using both hands (in oven mitts, because the pan will still be hot), lift and flip the pan and plate. Remove the pan; the tarte should be sitting right-side up on the plate.
That’s it. See, it’s really nothing more than an upside-down apple pie, right? So, why make it as opposed to making an ordinary apple pie? In a word: flavor. All that time you spend cooking the apples causes a huge number of chemical reactions in the sugars and juices, making hundreds of subtle flavors for your upside-down apple pie. Once finished, it tastes as though you used cinnamon and other spices in the apples, it’s a little smoky, and it tastes a bit like caramel. Basically, to use a phrase we’ve heard in reference to homemade candy, it’s the best durn apple pie you’ve ever slung a lip over. Is it worth-the-effort? Since most of the time you’re just standing watching apples cook, it’s not much effort, so: cinq étoiles.