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Tarte tatin, where have you been all my life?!

April 30, 2011

It’s funny how insignificant some challenges can seem once you’ve conquered them. Like slightly wholegrain cheat’s puff pastry, and of course, tarte tatin. I don’t know why, but the idea of caramelised apples held together with caramel and pastry seemed like a big deal. Well, I wasn’t wrong – this is a big deal in terms of flavour, but it was so much simpler to make than I thought it would be. I’ll be making it all the time now. Really. This is the first time I’ve made tarte tatin, and it turned out amazing.

Here were the silly little things that had held me back:

  1. I didn’t have a big enough cast iron pan. Pff. So I used a smaller one. No biggie. Actually this is a little dangerous, as I can make them for lunch (like I did today) and there’s no worrying about leftovers.
  2. I didn’t want to buy pastry, because it’s a rip off, never tastes as good and has a whole bunch of numbers. I want pastry. See next point.
  3. I didn’t want to spend a whole day making pastry. So I used a quick puff pastry that took about ten minutes. I even used 1/4 wholemeal flour, and it turned out better than I thought, plus it retained crispiness really well.
  4. I didn’t have the right apples. So I got a few during my next shop, and mixed em with the apples I did have. Turns out the apples I had were fine to begin with.
  5. What if the apples stuck to the pan?! First, they didn’t. Second, if they do, just pick them off, and pop them onto your tart. Tada!
Key point to remember: relax. You’re about to experience some serious scrumptiousness. From scratch. Also I know the recipe seems long but it’s just me waffling lots. Sorry. It’s mostly helpful notes etc.

Laid back apple tarte tatin

makes one 8-9″ pan – if using a bigger pan just multiply all the ingredients by 1.2 or 1.5

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen/Orangette, Masterchef Masterclass NZ, and Joy the Baker for inspiring this! And this great video for the pastry.


  • 80g cold salted butter, roughly cut into 1cm ish cubes
  • 100g “high grade” or strong/bread flour. I replaced 25g with wholegrain flour.
  • a few Tbspns cold water (just enough to bring the dough together)
Cut the butter into the flour with two knives or a pastry cutter. Do not use your fingers for this or it will warm up the butter. Once most of the butter is in little tiny bits (you should leave quite a few pea sized bits in there though, for extra flakiness) in the flour, drizzle over 2 Tbs cold water and stir through with a spoon or fork, to achieve a shaggy mass. Add a Tablespoon at a time until most of the flour is incorporated with the shaggy bits. Scrunch the bits together with you fingers – if they stay together, you’re pretty much already there, so no need to add any more water. Tip the contents carefully onto a large piece of lightly floured baking paper, and use the baking paper to help you shape into a square that sticks together. Roll it out into a rectangle about half a centimetre thick (about 1/5 inch), then use the baking paper to help you fold this into thirds like a letter. Then roll up the letter (down the long side) and using the baking paper to help you keep its shape, squash the roll down into a square/rectangle. Wrap in the paper, then refrigerate your pastry square for at least an hour before using. I made mine days before and froze it. It needs to defrost overnight in the fridge if you do freeze it.

This video shows the whole process, but with a food processor to cut the butter into the flour (this is good but I just wanted to keep washing to a minimum). I prefer to use my ratios for the ingredients because I’ve tried 1:1 butter & flour and it’s too delicate for something like a tarte tatin. I also find it’s actuallytoo buttery, which is not something I thought I’d ever say.

After the hour of refrigeration, take out, sprinkle a working surface and dough with flour, and roll out until large enough to neatly cover your pan (and 3-4mm, or about 1/4″ thick). If you want it really neat, place your pan upside down onto the dough, and cut around it for a perfect circle. Keep the scraps for pastry biscuits – they need about 10 minutes in the oven. If you’re in a hot kitchen, I’d place a baking tray or pizza stone in the freezer when you refrigerate the pastry initially, then roll out the pastry on that (with some baking paper underneath). Refrigerate the pastry circle on the paper while you do the filling.


  • 4-5 apples, peeled, quartered, and cored*
  • 70g unsalted butter, or 50g if you want it a bit lighter and the caramel to be more dense
  • 70g white or raw sugar
* An episode of Masterchef masterclass and I was obsessed with using braeburns, which are indeed excellent for this, however if you know a certain tart apple that stands up well to baking and not turning to mush, use that. Or google for other good types of apple to use. It does sometimes make a difference, especially with varying levels of freshness. I used small apples, so keep that in mind for the cooking time.

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F), with a rack centered. In your cast iron pan, heat the butter and sugar on medium heat. Once the butter is fully melted, give it a stir and begin placing your apple pieces in the pan. If you’re (rightly) concerned about being burnt by hot caramel, take the pan off the heat and let the bubbling die down before putting the apples in. I was a daredevil and just placed the apple pieces in while it was bubbling. I lay them on their sides. It’s not pro at all, but there is a reason this recipe is called “laid back”! Feel free to experiment with how you arrange your apples. Next time I might place some around the edge too, but with the outer ring of apples in a different direction. In any case, pack them in as tightly as you can. Place back on heat, and start cleaning up while it bubbles away, spooning caramel over the apples or basting with a brush every few minutes. It will take about ten minutes or so to get from yellow to pale golden…

To a darker caramelly colour (wish I’d photographed that instead…damn you hindsight). Some take it all the way to a deep brown, but I think it’s tastier and safer to go for a nice orangey colour (much like the hideous orange of my stovetop). Burnt caramel is yucky.

Once the caramel is on the verge of going from orange to brown, remove the pan from the heat, and pop the pastry circle over, pushing the edges into the caramel. Pop the pan into the oven on the centre rack, and bake 20 minutes. You can put the pastry cuttings in halfway through. The pastry should be nice and golden brown. Let it cool and sit half an hour. Ha! Good luck.

Using a spoon or knife, ease the edge of the pastry from the side of the pan – the toffee bits will have glued the edges to the pan a bit. These are the best bits. Place a plate over the pan and turn upside down, decisively and quickly. It’s good to do this over a sink just in case any lurking caramel dribbles out the side and catches you. Place this awkward set up down on your bench with a bit of force. Let it sit for a bit until you hear a plop and everything falling onto the plate. Lift the pan a little and ease off the uncooperative apples before fully lifting the pan off the plate.

Serve up. We had ours for lunch plain, although obviously everyone loves vanilla ice cream with it. Personally I think there’s enough fat and sugar there already, especially when you eat a third for lunch >.< See? It’s a good thing I have a small cast iron pan.

Tip: Don’t just wash away all the caramelly toffee bits. I chucked in some oats, covered with water, and let sit overnight. The next morning I simmer away for a caramel apple oatmeal that is out of this world.

Here’s a cut slice so you can check out the pastry. See it doesn’t matter if you use a quick puff pastry because the apples kinda squash the layers anyway. I’m going to be using that pastry so often now for savoury versions. Mushroom and leek. Mmm.

Get cracking while the best apples are out. Thank me later. Won’t even mind if your mouth is full.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2011 8:08 pm

    I love tarte tatin…it is so simple yet delicious…I tried different versions and the one I prefer is that with cream instead of butter, I know it is not the traditional version, but the caramel you have at the end of the baking is so amazing and matches perfect with vanilla ice cream…
    I tried with other types of fruit too, but with apples is so much better…
    Your crust looks amazing.

  2. April 30, 2011 8:36 pm

    M: Oh wow I will have to try with cream next time! Do you just do a straight substitute or are the ratios a little different?

  3. April 30, 2011 9:40 pm

    omg, the next-day oatmeal sounds incredible. I’m a huge porridge eater in the wintertime so that’d be a perfect excuse to make a tarte tatin… ;)

  4. April 30, 2011 9:57 pm

    M: Caramel in oatmeal is ridiculous. Ridiculously good though! Once I used some leftover butterscotch sauce in my porridge as well. Phew. Watch out!

  5. May 1, 2011 12:06 am

    Yum, I love tarte tatin…this is beautiful!

  6. May 1, 2011 12:26 am

    Thanks for the mention!

    Your tarte tatin looks absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to make it, but the US apple selection isn’t at it’s best right now. I don’t know if I can wait till September to make this!

  7. May 1, 2011 12:47 am

    I love tart Tatin, a few simple flavours and an incredible dessert appears. Your looks great

  8. Heidi @ Food Doodles permalink
    May 1, 2011 3:43 am

    That looks beautiful! I saw Joy’s video and I really wanted to attempt it but I was a bit nervous. I reeeeaaaally want to try it now. Thanks for all the resources. I like feeling prepared, haha.

  9. May 1, 2011 11:08 am

    H: Definitely one of my favourite desserts now too! Cheers :)

    P: Hehe, true but I feel it’s fair given all the asparagus that I’m seeing at the moment! And spring dresses…sigh.

    A: Thanks Alli :) Although after googling images, I felt like it would be best to name mine “laid back” >.< There are some serious perfectionist ones out there!

    H: It really is something I got too worked up over I think. Once you make one you'll be hooked :)

  10. May 1, 2011 2:07 pm

    Beautiful! You do a good job of simplifying the process and making it sound achievable. The only tarte tatin I have ever made was a savoury one with parsnips and onions. Delicious!

  11. May 1, 2011 4:59 pm

    S: Haha really? I feel like I go on a lot hehe. Savoury ones are great, I love tomato and basil tarts! Parsnip and onion sounds lovely too, you could get some beautiful arrangements with the parsnip!

  12. May 1, 2011 8:39 pm

    I use 100 g sugar, 50 g water and 50g cream plus 1tbsp butter…if you want you can skip the water and add a little more cream… ^_^

  13. May 1, 2011 8:42 pm

    M: Hehe, I like the way you think! Cheers, will try that next time I make this!

  14. May 1, 2011 10:20 pm

    What a beauty! I admit, tarte tatin holds a mysterious sense of danger to me too, but I like your handy checklist of reasons why it’s not actually a drag to make at all. And your oatmeal idea is genius!

  15. May 1, 2011 10:35 pm

    H: Yes I felt the same way before forging ahead! The oatmeal was delicious, although a little extra brown sugar wouldn’t have gone amiss.

  16. May 2, 2011 11:18 pm

    Tarte Tatin is my all time top favourite dessert for personal consumption and to make for dinner cparties. I’ve been making mine based on a Jamie Oliver recipe that has calvados in it. But since I’ve used up all my calvados just on tarte tatins, I tried making it the Masterchef Masterclass NZ way (with tiny tweaks) and it turned out fabulous! Especially served warm with real vanilla ice-cream…yummm…

  17. May 3, 2011 11:57 am

    S: I did love the look of Jamie’s but was trying to keep thing simple as possible for my first time! Loved how simple MMNZ made it look, even though he cut the apples much more specifically. I just wish MMNZ was a little more exciting to watch. I don’t know how Jamie does it, but it’s always so much more interesting watching him cook!

  18. May 5, 2011 9:44 am

    This looks ridiculously delicious! Gee wiz… I’m going to have to bake this asap!

  19. May 5, 2011 11:53 am

    M: Hope you have some vanilla ice cream to go with :) Or apparently vanilla mascarpone is great with it too.

  20. May 9, 2011 7:59 pm

    This looks so tasty specially that left over sticking on the pan, i just want to lick it. Yummy!

  21. May 9, 2011 9:04 pm

    R: Haha, trust me that was photographed after much taste…testing…

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