I’ll let you in on a little secret. I wrote a blog post about tarte tatin a long time ago, before I started this blog. It was when I was in LA and considering the whole blogging thing, and I opened a free WordPress account, set the visibility to “private,” and wrote a little post about this French apple tart.
I guess it must not have been the right time. The writing felt stilted, and my photos were from my phone, and there wasn’t enough light in my kitchen, and the apples stuck to the pan. That one post hung there on the internet, lonely and unread, for a year or so until I deleted that account.
I thought it was time to revisit this recipe since this blog now seems to be alive and well. There are good reasons why I thought it would be a good idea to start with this dish on that long-ago blog — it’s fancy-sounding and pretty-looking, but ultimately simple to make, and most of all, it’s one of those desserts that I just crave. Sticky-sweet caramel encasing soft, warm apple pieces that collapse into sauce under your fork, all on top of buttery puff pastry.
Then there’s the flipping of the hot hot pan onto a plate since this is, in essence, and upside-down tart. Some apples will probably stick, but just scrape them off with a spoon and stick ’em back on the tart. No one will care.
For an extra bit of decadence (and because the foie gras from that party was still around), I shaved a bit of the cold foie gras on top of the slices of tart. If the tart is still a little warm and the foie is very cold, the foie stands up in pretty curls for a few minutes before melting into a rich puddle on the apples. Heaven.
Makes 6-8 servings.
6-8 medium-sized baking apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Fuji)
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
as much foie gras as you’d like, very cold (optional)
Heat oven to 375°F (190°C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Peel and core the apples and cut them into quarters. You’ll be tempted to cut them smaller; don’t.
Melt the stick of butter over low heat in a 10-inch cast iron or other heavy, oven-safe skillet, then remove from heat. Stir in the sugar and salt and spread it into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the apple pieces in the pan, stacking them on their sides around the outside of the pan in a swirl pattern, then fill in the middle as best you can, preferably in a smaller swirl pattern. Pack the apples in as tightly as you can; they’ll shrink as they cook. Reserve leftover apple slices, you’ll need them in a little bit.
Place the skillet on medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes. The butter and sugar will start to bubble together and the apples will release juices. You’ll probably be tempted to turn the heat down, but don’t — you need that heat to really caramelize the sugar before the apples fall apart. After 10 minutes, poke around the apples with a spatula. If there’s room, squeeze in a few more apple slices until the apples are once again tightly packed. Cook for another 8-10 minutes until you see that some pockets of the bubbling sugar-butter mixture are starting to turn a caramel-ey brown. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator and gently roll it out if needed to even out any folded ridges. Carefully place the sheet of puff pastry over the hot skillet and apples. Using a spoon, tuck the edges of the puff pastry into the skillet. Don’t worry about being too neat, just be careful because the skillet’s still very hot.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool for about 10-15 minutes, just until the caramel is no longer a screaming hot liquid. Run a small knife around the inside of the skillet. Put a large plate (larger than the rim of the skillet) over the skillet, then using two potholders, quickly flip the plate and skillet, inverting the tart onto the plate. Maybe give the whole thing a little shake to make sure everything’s fallen out of the skillet, then carefully remove the skillet from the plate. If any apple pieces stick to the pan, remove them with a spoon and place them back on the tart.
Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, shave some foie gras over the slices of tart using a microplane grater and garnish with mint.
Use foie gras straight from the fridge, or even better, freeze it for about 15 minutes before shaving.
This tart is best served the day it’s made, as the apple juices will soak into the puff pastry, eventually making it soggy.