takes close to 5 pounds of apples to make a 9-inch
I was in my 20s, studying wine and living on very little
money in Paris, I couldnít afford to eat in real
restaurants very often. But Iíd stop at a favorite wine
bar a couple of times a week. It always seemed to be cold
weather, and the chill crept through the soles of my boots.
To warm up, I would nurse a single glass of Chinon or
Bourgeuil with a tartine (open-faced sandwich) or
dark-flecked Poilane bread with a crottin of goat cheese
smashed on top.
remember looking longingly at the end of the zinc bar where
a tarte Tatin would inevitably be set out in all its glory,
the apples satiny and glistening with caramel. I could
imagine the slightly jelled texture of the apples, the warm
buttery taste of the caramel against a dollop of thick ivory
creme fraiche. Essentially an upside-down tart, the crust is
baked on top of the apples and the tart is inverted to
of the time, though, I couldnít afford it. Or even the
small cup of coffee I envisioned enjoying after. So when I
did finally get my tarte des demoiselles Tatin, referring to
the two spinster sisters who invented it (on purpose or no)
at their family hotel in the Loire Valley of France, it
tasted all the sweeter.
treasure that memory of eating a warm tarte made with new
crop apples, the windows of the wine bar or bistro steamed
up, the blue-gray of November or December outside. And years
later, on a subsequent trip to France, when I had more money
in my pocket, I marched right into the cookware shop
Dehillerin and accosted one of their famously grouchy
clerks: "I would like to buy a proper tarte Tatin
ended up splurging on two heavy copper pans, one about the
size of a 9-inch tart pan with 2-inch sides and tiny copper
"ears," and the other a generous 13 inches in
diameter. I guess because it reminded me of those big tartes
Iíd seen at the wine bars.
been happily making tarte Tatin ever since, mostly in the
smaller pan but occasionally in that grand one, which will
serve 10 and counting. When I rented a house near Joshua
Tree with friends last year, I even managed on an electric
stove, using a wine bottle to roll out the pastry.
standing by the stove, keeping watch as the butter and sugar
mixture caramelizes. It sputters up between the wedges,
sending the smell of burnt sugar and apple through the
tried lots of recipes and eventually worked out the
simplest. Not for me the usual puff pastry. I make mine with
a classic pate brise, which takes just minutes to make.
I tried New York chef Jean-George Vongerichtenís version,
I no longer even make the caramel first. His method
(detailed in his book "Home Cooking With
Jean-Georges") works just as well. He basically
smooshes the butter together with the sugar and spreads it
out in the bottom of the pan and arranges the tightly packed
apples on top. Then he turns the fire on high and waits for
butter and sugar to caramelize. Caution: If the flame is too
low, the apples will start giving up their juice before the
caramelization takes place and it will be hard to get that
characteristic deep amber color.
too that you donít have to use a copper pan. A cast-iron
pan (or any heavy skillet that can go into the oven) works
just as well.
the right apple is important. The usual is Golden Delicious,
which is available almost everywhere. Granny Smith works
well too. Do investigate the old varieties at the farmers
market. Ask the vendor which of them make great baking
apples. Some come into season for only a few weeks, but you
should be able to find Braeburn or Cox. I can never remember
which ones I tried when, but I do recall liking a tarte made
with Black Arkansas apples I found at the farmers market one
takes close to 5 pounds of apples to make a 9-inch tarte
Tatin (the apples shrink as they cook). Even so, I find it
pays to use the larger pan. The leftovers are wonderful the
next afternoon with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
time: 1 1/2 hours, plus chilling and cooling times
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart
Investigate the heirloom apples at the farmers market,
asking the farmerís advice about baking apples. Golden
Delicious is a classic apple for this tart, but you can also
use Pippin, Cox, Granny Smith and especially Braeburn, if
you can find it. This recipe calls for a copper tarte Tatin
pan or cast-iron skillet.
BRISEE (flaky pastry)
tablespoons chilled butter
tablespoons ice water, more if needed
bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into
half-inch pieces. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut
the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of
peas. Sprinkle over the ice water, a tablespoon at a time,
fluffing with a fork, until the dough sticks together when
you try to form a ball. Form into a flat disk and cover with
plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least a half hour.
10 (5 pounds) Golden Delicious or similar apples, peeled,
cored and halved
fraiche or crema Mexicana
a copper tarte Tatin pan or cast-iron skillet, mix the
butter into the sugar with your fingers. Spread it out in an
even layer over the pan. Starting at the outside, place the
apple halves standing up in the butter-sugar mixture, each
fitting into the next as if they were spooning. Fit as many
halves as you can into the center. And donít worry about
the fact that the apples are taller than the pan; theyíll
shrink down as they cook.
Place the pan or skillet on a burner turned to high and cook
until the butter-sugar mixture bubbles up between the apples
and turns a medium amber. This can take 15 to 25 minutes.
Donít be afraid. The only mistake you can make is keeping
the flame too low so the juice exudes from the apples before
the sugar is caramelized. As the bottom of the apples
soften, press down with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly
while you roll out the pastry dough.
a floured board, roll out the pastry to about 12 inches in
diameter. Carefully place on top of the caramelized apples,
trimming so thereís just an inch or so as border. Tuck the
border in around the apples.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35
to 40 minutes until the pastry is set and browned.
Cool the tart in the pan. Just before serving, warm the tart
on the stovetop. Place a serving plate on top and invert the
tart onto the plate. Serve in wedges with a big dollop of
creme fraiche or crema Mexicana. (If you use crema Mexicana,
add a pinch of sugar to counterbalance its tartness.)
of 8 servings: 374 calories; 2 grams protein; 5 grams
carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 11 grams
saturated fat; 46 mg cholesterol; 37 grams sugar; 20 mg