Tarte Tatin - a Delicious 19th Century Caramelised Apple Pie From the Loire Valley Born of a Culinary Disaster




About: I live in a forest garden by the sea in an old Celtic longhouse in the Baie de Mont Saint Michel, France, where we raise quail, rare breed chickens and pigeons organically. I was born in England, the furthes...

The Loire valley is not just about fairytale châteaux, fine wine, goats' cheese and elite horsemanship, it's also about pies.

Many and various are the stories surrounding this famous dessert, including one that Maxim's of Paris sent a chef in disguise as a gardener to work in the shrubberies of the Hôtel Tatin and discover how to make the pie. He presumably succeeded in his mission because in 1925 it became a feature on their menu.

Tarte Tatin turns the wormiest windfall or the wrinkliest stored apple into a star and it's all in the simple organic ingredients and the method of cooking.

Step 1: Ingredients

- enough to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. The apples shown above, (bottom left), for example were enough for a 25cm or 10" square, pie dish with an internal depth of 25mm or 1". I also included a quince which had fallen that morning.

Apple Varieties I tend to avoid adding any that are too 'woolly', as these tend to turn to mush too quickly and the object of the pre-cooking, apart from caramelisation, is to drive enough water off the apples to make for a crisp, flavour and pastry. So, if you have the above in your windfalls then it's best to either put them aside or if you have enough, make a separate tart just from them.

100g (3½oz) of butter

100g (3½oz) of sugar (many recipes use twice this amount but I find organic sugar much sweeter, therefore I tend to use a lot less and I still get a good caramel colour to the base of the apples.)

For the Pastry

170g (6oz) of all purpose/plain flour

85g (3oz) of butter

1 dessert spoon of sugar

1 small (bantam) egg

A little water approx 1 - 1½ tablespoons

This will give you enough pastry to decorate. I like to do this and then flip individual slices of the tart once I have brought it to the table. It allows you to be artistic and is a lot safer!

Pre-heat Oven - 425ºF or 220ºC

Step 2: Method

I usually peel the windfalls and keep the skin on the picked apples. In the photos above you can see two different tarts, one (bottom left) made wholly of windfalls.

Sprinkle the sugar on the base of the frying pan and fleck with pieces of butter.

Arrange the apples on the top in a vaguely cartwheel pattern, this looks pretty and also allows for maximum fruit and a good caramelisation.

Place on a hot stove top and forget about it for approximately 15 minutes. Check for firmness of the apples by pressing lightly on the smallest pieces with the finger tip. If the piece of apple gives to the touch and the caramel is a rich golden colour, then the tart is ready for the next stage.

Slide your apples carefully into your buttered baking dish, so as to keep the caramelised side on the bottom.

You can then make the pastry, this allows time for the apples to cool slightly so as not to 'melt' the crust.

Rub the butter and flour to a breadcrumb texture, mix in the sugar and add the egg.

Knead ingredients together quickly with the hands and add as much of the water as needed to make a stiff dough. Don't overwork, this is a short pastry and will break if it has too much contact time!

Roll out swiftly with a minimum of flour on the board and pin, just enough to stop it sticking.

Short pastry requires minimum work and handling, having cold hands helps!

Place over the apples tucking the edges down into the dish. Decorate with excess pastry. Any cracks will let out the steam and large ones can be disguised with leaves!

Cook in oven until golden.

Enjoy hot or cold.

If you would like to have more details on Tarte Tatin its legends and savoury variations then visit Simply Organic Recipes, where you will find more recipes including gluten-free. Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to comment and/or ask questions either here or on the blog.

Compliments of the season!

Pavlovafowl aka Sue



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    8 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    My mum made this once or twice. She did it in a cast iron frying pan, so she didn't need to transfer it to another dish before putting on the pastry. She just put it on and tucked it in & put it in the oven, and then flipped it over for serving. It was soooo good.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi BayRatt,

    Thanks for sharing! Yes, in my blog article, the link is at the end of the instructable, I do mentioned that Tarte Tatin, is one of the very few, if not only, single desserts that has a pan named after it and for its exclusive use - the others are for grouped recipes, like charlotte moulds and soufflé dishes. A Tatin tin, is like your mother's frying pan, a heavy metal dish, which can be used on the stove top and then placed directly into the oven. I'm guessing your mother is of French descent or a lover of French cuisine and thus au fait with this historic regional dessert.

    All the very best from sunny Normandie,

    Pavlovafowl aka Sue

    Hi jjdebenedictis,

    Thanks! Hope you get to make and enjoy Tart Tatin soon!

    All the very best from sunny Normandie,

    Pavlovafowl aka Sue


    I love Tarte Tartin! It's so delicious, and your recipe looks superb. Thanks for sharing this just in time for the upcoming holidays!

    1 reply

    Hi Fission Chips,

    Thanks! You are welcome! I don't know if you know but it can be made with vegetables too - any that would suit caramelisation - so endives, onions and tomatoes for example are the usual ones but I guess pumpkin and parsnips might be really good too!

    Hope you have a really Happy Holiday!

    All the very best from Normandie,

    Pavlovafowl aka Sue