Tarte Tatin (Upside-Down Caramelized Apple Tart)

This comes from Richard Grausman's book “At Home With the French Classics”. Workman Publishing, New York, 1988.

He tells us a bit of history:

“The tarte Tatin, an upside-down caramelized apple tart, was made famous by the Tatin sisters, who served this tart in their hotel restaurant in the early 1900s. It has been a very popular dessert ever since, and is my favourite apple dessert.

Every chef has his own way of making the tart. Some bake it totally in the oven, while others cook the apples on top of the stove and finish baking it with its pastry in the oven. I use the second method.

The pastry used in this recipe is normal tart pastry, but if you have puff pastry in your freezer, by all means use it, as do most restaurants in France. A half recipe of pâte brisêe is exactly the amount of dough needed, and the remainder can be frozen for another use. If, however, you are not sure of your pastry-rolling skills, use the whole recipe and roll out until ⅛ inch thick before using.

I use less butter and sugar than most tarte Tatin recipes call for, and because of this I occasionally indulge by serving crème fraîche along with the tart.”

Serves 8


  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C
  2. Peel, halve and core the apples. With the cut side down, trim off a small slice from one side of each apple half so that it can stand on its side.
  3. In a 25cm skillet (or a tarte Tatin dish if you have mortgaged your house), heat the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and lemon juice (if the apples are sour, use the water) and mix well. (The sugar will not be completely dissolved at this point.)
  4. Starting at the outside of the pan, stand the apple halves on their sides, one next to the other, filling the skillet tightly. Repeat, working your way into the centre. Fill any holes with pieces of cut apple. At this point the apples will stand a little above the rim of the skillet, but after a few minutes of cooking they will start to soften and you may be able to squeeze a few more bits of apple into the pan.
  5. Continue cooking over medium to medium-high heat for 25-30 minutes. The juice from the apples will first dissolve the sugar, then evaporate, and the sugar will slowly cook to the caramel stage. When the sugar bubbling around the apples is pale brown in colour, place the skillet in the upper third of the oven for 5 minutes. The apples will settle in the skillet.
  6. Remove the skillet from the ovenm and increase the heat to 250°C.
  7. Roll out the pastry as you would for a tart, keeping it round. When it is large enough to fully cover the top of the skillet, about 30cm in diameter, roll it up onto your rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the apples. The pastry will drop down the sides of the skillet. Run a paring knife around the edge, trimming off the excess pastry.
  8. Place the skillet in the upper third of the oven and bake until the pastry is lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the tart from the oven and run your knife around the inside edge of the skillet to make sure the apples and pastry are not stuck to it. Holding a round heat-resistant platter inverted on the pastry with one hand, and the handle of the skillet (wrapped in a pot holder) with the other, turn the skillet upside down and place the platter on the counter. Slowly, lift off the skillet, unmolding the tart. The apples will have some spaces between them. Run a long metal spatula round the outside of the apples several times, drawing them towards the centre.A border of pastry will be revealed as the apples are compressed. Use the spatula to smooth the top of the tart.
  10. A tarte Tatin is best served warm, and may be reheated if necessary.

Variation: Tarte Tatin aux Poires

Use an equal weight of Bosc pears, peeled and halved, in place of the apples.

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