The Perfect Tarte Tatin by Deb Forkins November 19, 2013 by Jill Foucre Leave a Comment Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday. It is a day when family and friends celebrate each other with the gift of time, food, laughter and hugs. I have hosted our family Thanksgiving since my mother passed it to me, 25 years ago. While I am under contractual agreement not to mess with the traditional turkey, I take some latitude to change things up with a new appetizer, side or dessert each year. For months now, I have had the idea to add an apple tarte tatin in place of the apple pie that always makes its way onto the dessert table. So I undertook the preliminary steps to test out the French dessert. Here’s my story… I am not much of a baker….so imagine my intrigue when I learned that the tarte tatin was actually a baking blunder. Works for me! After all, tarte tatin is really just an upside down caramelized apple tart made by covering the bottom of a shallow baking dish with butter and sugar, adding and baking the apples and finally a pastry crust. How hard can that be? Well, based on all the internet blogs from amateur chefs, it can be tricky. Turns out, the French are very covetous of their beloved tarte Tatin, and even have celebratory festivals surrounding it. Legend has it that the two Tatin sisters, Caroline and Stephine, owned and operated the Hotel Tatin in the Loire Valley in France in the late 1800s. Stephine ran the kitchen and her specialty was the apple tart. On one very busy day, Stephine forgot the bottom pastry. Upon removing the tart from the oven, she quickly inverted it onto a serving platter, marched it into the dining room, and proclaimed it as her newest tarte. The guests loved it immediately, and voila! The Tarte Tatin was born. The dessert gained popularity when the famed Maxim’s Restaurant put it on their menu, allegedly after having spies visit the Tatin Hotel and make off with the secret recipe. So, after reading countless blogs and recipe tips online, I felt prepared. While it is very easy in theory with only a handful of ingredients, the actual execution can be tricky. Here are some things I have garnered from my “research”: Use apples with higher starch content (less water content) as they hold their shape during the caramelization process. Granny smith or golden delicious are good choices. Find a serving dish that fits snuggly on top of the pan you will be baking the apples in prior to starting. I used a nonstick 11 inch fry pan but Emile Henry also makes a beautiful tarte tatin two piece bakeware set. Let the tarte tatin cool off for 30 minutes after removing from the oven on a wire rack before inverting it onto the serving plate. I used Deb Perelman’s adaptation of Julia Child’s recipe, below, and with the few tips noted above, my first ever apple tarte tatin turned out magnificently. What is not to love about caramelized apples in a rustic pie crust? With a dollop of crème fraiche or whipped cream on top, move over apple pie…. your French cousin is in town for the holidays! Apple Tarte Tatin 8 medium apples 6 T butter 1 1/3 cup sugar Juice of one half lemon Your favorite pastry crust Peel apples, halve and core apples. Once cored, cut lengthwise into quarters (i.e. four pieces per apple) and cut a bevel along their inner edge, which will help their curved exteriors stay on top as they rest on this edge. (You can see this beveled edge here.) Toss apple chunks with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes; this will help release the apple’s juices, too much of them and the caramel doesn’t thicken enough to cling merrily to the cooked apples. Melt butter in your skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in remaining 1 cup sugar and whisk it over the heat until it becomes the palest of caramels. Off the heat, add the apples to the skillet, arranging them rounded sides down in one layer. Lay any additional apple wedges rounded sides down in a second layer, starting from the center. Return the pan to the stove and cook in the caramel for another 20 to 25 minutes over moderately high heat. With a spoon, regularly press down on the apples and baste them caramel juices from the pan. If it seems that your apples in the center are cooking faster, swap them with ones that are cooking more slowly, and rotate apples that are cooking unevenly 180 degrees. The apples will shrink a bit and by the end of the cooking time, your second layer of apples might end up slipping into the first — this is fine. Preheat oven to 400. Roll out your pastry to a 9-inch circle and trim if needed. Cut four vents in pastry. Remove skillet from heat again, and arrange pastry round over apples. Tuck it in around the apples for nicer edges later. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Once baked, use potholders to place a plate or serving dish (larger in diameter than the pan, learn from my messes!) over the pastry and with a deep breath and a quick prayer, if you’re into that kind of thing, unmold the pastry and apples at once onto the plate. If any apples stubbornly remain behind in the pan, nudge them out with a spatula.