Now, of course, if you’ve been trawling the net in search of tarte tatin recipes, you might just get a little wary of the methods and equipment needed. That includes everything from obsessively basting the apples whilst staying clear of scalding hot caramel to having an oven-proof cast-iron skillet (Le Creuset, anyone?). Not to mention, making your own puff pastry.
Well, forget that, I say! Here’s a simple recipe to ensure minimal fuss for maximum oomph. Using store-bought frozen puff pastry and nothing more that some apples, sugar and a little butter, you can whip this delish dessert up in under an hour!
Now I’ve done this a few times to have some learnings, including tips if you want to bring over to someone else’s place. But first, the recipe.
Ingredients for Tarte Tatin:
3 or 4 apples (Granny Smiths are firm and hold up during the baking process. And the tart green apples also counter the sweet caramel base)
1 300g pack frozen puff pastry (from any supermarket. Defrost according to package instructions)
1 Cup caster sugar
2 Tablespoons water
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
A little melted butter for brushing the apples
A little cinnamon for sprinkling onto the apples
A 20 – 24 cm round baking pan (please don’t use pans with removable bases, the caramel will definitely seep out during baking! Also, don’t fuss too much about the size of the pan, just make do with what you have. This is one recipe where the ingredients will fit to whatever size you have as long as you aren’t way off the mark)
A little butter to line the pan
- Preheat oven to 190°C. Butter the baking pan and set aside. Assuming you’ve prepped the apples the night before (see tip #4 below), take them out of the fridge. If you haven’t, cut off the top and bottom of each apple, peel and core, then slice into crescent moon wedges. You could, of course, cut them horizontally into round shapes too.
- Dust apples with cinnamon powder.
- Flour the work surface and roll out the defrosted pastry to around 3mm thin. Roll out such that the circumference is bigger than your pan.
- Gently place your overturned baking pan onto the rolled out pastry and cut a circle around it, giving an allowance of about 5 cm all around.
- Set aside the pastry in the fridge to keep cool. (Not necessary if you can make the caramel quickly enough and you have the pan and the apples all prepped and ready to go. It’s better for the pastry to be chilled when you bake it.)
- Put the sugar into a saucepan, with the water, stir a little, then bring it to a boil on high heat. Do not stir it any further. If you like, you can have a small bowl of water next to you with a pastry brush, and keep brushing down the inside sides of the saucepan. This is to prevent crystallization.
- Keep an eye on the caramel (I don’t multi-task at this stage) and watch for the sugar to turn slightly amber and take it off the flame immediately.
- Pour it into your baking pan and immediately, start dotting the caramel with the cubed pieces of butter. The heat will melt the butter, no need to be a stickler about whether it’s evenly placed or not.
- Working quickly but carefully (you’ve heard all the warnings about hot caramel), start arranging the apples. I always start from outside in, concentric circles. Make sure you pack them tight and press down a little into the caramel. Brush apples with a little melted butter.
- Lay your pastry over the tin, and tuck the excess bit INTO the tin, not fold it over on the outside. Remember, this dish will eventually be turned out, upside down. Prick your pastry gently with a fork, to allow for steam to escape during baking.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or till puffed and golden.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes. Lay the serving plate (preferably one with a slight “lip”) on top of the pastry, then quickly and firmly overturn it. Remember, there’s bubbling hot caramel underneath, so wear oven mitts, be sure and quick about the turn and do it in an area where if spills happen, it’s no biggie.
- If any apples didn’t get turned out, just remove them from the pan and place them back onto the overturned tart.
- Best served immediately, with a scoop of ice-cream or cream.
- The debate rages on between puff or shortcrust. Some endorse shortcrust, as the sturdiness of it works well for this dish, whilst the puff will start getting soggy when the caramel starts seeping into the pastry, if you don’t eat the dish soon after baking. But nothing beats the lovely, caramelly crisp of a puff pastry, so my money’s on puff!
- You don’t need to achieve a deep, dark caramel colour when your sugar is being heated up. Just a light golden amber is good enough, as it will continue to cook in the oven.
- I like to mix my green and red apples, so I get a mix of sturdy, sour apples with the sweetness of the reds.
- I read some bigwigs absolutely insist on prepping the apples days in advance, leaving it uncovered in the fridge so as to dry them out. I do this too, but just a day in advance. So slice them up, and leave them uncovered in the fridge, overnight.
- If you’re planning to bring to a friend’s place, best option is to bake it at home (you can do this hours in advance), then re-heat in an oven for about 10-15 minutes at your friend’s place. On no account should you bring the unbaked, but prepared dish (with caramel, apples and pastry laid on top) over to your friend’s place to bake at a later time. I did that once, and it resulted in soggy and unpuffy puff. Has something to do with how delicate puff pastry is, with its many layers and how the pastry needs to be chilled when you bake it.
- You could even bake this a day in advance and then reheat when needed. I have not tried it this way, but I’ve read that it makes the dish taste better because the pectins in the apple would gel and bind them together.
That’s about it! Hope you enjoy making this crowd-pleaser!