Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin
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Classic tarte Tatin
Trés bon!

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).

Tarte Tatin

Yield: one 8-inch tarte

Tarte Tatin


  • 6 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs (120g) granulated sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 4-5 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and halved.
  • 1 Pâte Brisée chilled and ready to roll

Abbreviated Instructions

Place butter, sugar, and salt in an 8-inch cast iron skillet (a number 8 skillet) over medium heat. As sugar begins to melt, stir gently until everything is completely melted. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until caramel is a deep brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place apple halves in the caramel sauce, stem side up, tightly packed and arranged in concentric circles.

Place the pan back over medium heat, and cook until the bottoms of the apples are caramelized and soft. Use a fork to turn over and continue cooking until apples are tender and completely caramelized, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

If there's more than 1/2-inch of juice in the pan, carefully pour off some into a small saucepan. You can boil this into a syrup to drizzle over the tarte when serving.

Roll dough into a circle about 1 inch larger than the cast iron pan. Place over the apples and tuck the excess crust down along the sides.

Bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 25 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate.


Ingredient discussion:

mise en place
Only a few ingredients are needed to make a tarte Tatin. It’s caramelizing the apples that makes it shine.

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:

ingredients for caramel sauce
Sugar, butter, a pinch of salt, and heat is all that is needed to make the caramel.
Once the sugar melts, it'll caramelize quickly, so watch it closely or you'll have carbon.
Once the sugar melts, it’ll caramelize quickly, so watch it closely or you’ll have carbon.

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.

apples packed in a skillet
Pack the apples as close together as you can; they shrink as they cook.

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.

caramelized apples
We flipped the center apples first as they caramelized a bit earlier than the rest.

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.

cooling tarte Tatin filling
Once the apples are completely cooked and caramelized, let everything cool so you crust won’t melt when you put it over the top.

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.

placing the crust
Make the crust larger than the pan, so you can tuck it in around the edges.

Apply crust. Drape the crust over the apples, carefully pushing the apples together if needed.

tarte Tatin ready for baking
As you tuck in the crust, feel free to push the apples closer together (but do it gently).

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.

baked tarte tatin
Bake until everything is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

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.

turning out a tarte
Place a plate over the pan and invert both at once; the tarte should pop right out.

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.

tarte Tatin
Serve warm or cool. With whipped cream or plain. It’s all good.

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.

Worth the trouble?

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