Tuesday, January 19, 2016

La Véritable Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin, the upside-down apple tart of myth! The story is that two sisters, les demoiselles Tatin, ran a restaurant in a town near Orléans. Allegedly, the one who did the cooking put some apples in the oven to prepare them for a tart and forgot about them; upon noticing, she added some pastry on top and when it was cooked, turned it over and discovered a beautiful upside-down tart. Admittedly hard to believe.

If you know France, you will not be surprised to hear that there exists a society of Tarte Tatin lovers, La Confrérie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin (literally, lovers (actually, lickers) of Tarte Tatin), whose purpose is to defend La Véritable Tarte Tatin. For more on the myth and the Confrérie, told by a member, see the text below.

Notwithstanding the improbable myth, Tarte Tatin is actually a wonderful dessert: great caramelized apple flavor, nicely cooked pastry and impressive to look at. I have made many versions over the years, but recently made the "official" version published by the Confrérie, which I recommend. It's not that hard, actually.

You start with a 10-inch pan. If you're me you have a beautiful copper Tarte Tatin pan, but any heavy pan will do. I recommend cast iron but a good quality aluminum pan like one from All-Clad will do.

Stainless steel-lined copper Tarte Tatin pan
Then you smear softened butter over the inside of the pan, including the sides, as evenly as possible, and cover with a layer of sugar as uniform as possible. Put as many peeled apple quarters in the pan as you can fit, upside down or tending in that direction.

Cook over high heat until the sugar turns to caramel.

Tarte Tatin sugar caramelizing
Keep going until the caramel is "golden brown." Don't chicken out: let it get pretty dark.

Tarte Tatin - caramel is "golden brown"
Then cover with a round of puff pastry (Dufour is the best brand, by far) or homemade pâte brisée,
bake for 30 minutes until GBD (golden, brown and delicious), let it sit off heat for five minutes,

Tarte Tatin - removed from the oven
and, finally, invert the pan over a plate. The tart will slide right out although I admit to getting nervous every time over whether it will come out intact without sticking.

Voilà! The perfect Tarte Tatin.

Tarte Tatin - ready to be devoured
Well, almost perfect. I think I could have given the caramel another 60-90 seconds to get just a bit darker. But still, I was content with the taste and appearance of the final result.

Here's the full recipe:

(Adapted from the Confrérie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin, via New York Times)



·       8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

·       1 cup sugar

·       6 medium Gala or other apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters

·       1 thin (1/8-inch) sheet puff pastry, cut into a circle 12 inches in diameter (I often use regular pâte brisée).

1.     Spread butter evenly in a 10-inch tarte Tatin mold or heavy 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet. Spread sugar as evenly as possible on sides and bottom of pan. Beginning at edge of pan, arrange apples peeled side down in concentric circles, fitting apples closely together.

2.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pan over high heat, and cook without stirring until sugar caramelizes and turns dark golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, and press gently on the apples with a wooden spoon to help fill any spaces between them. Cover the apples with puff pastry, overlapping the rim of the pan. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

3.     Remove tart from oven, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cover pan with a large plate, and quickly invert tart; remove pan. Serve hot or warm.

Tarte Tatin is fun to make and will dazzle your guests. I have used this recipe numerous times and it is really not difficult, so give it a try.

Bobby Jay

Here's the story from a member of the Confrérie:
"LA CONFRERIE DES LICHONNEUX (*ceux qui aiment, qui lichent) DE TARTE TATIN s'est constituée en 1979. Quelques LAMOTTOIS désireux de défendre la véritable TARTE TATIN, inventée par accident à LAMOTTE-BEUVRON, se sont constitués en confrérie gourmande.
Les soeurs TATIN tenaient l'Hotel du même nom (qui existe toujours).
Stéphanie (1838-1917) s'occupait du service et de la salle. Caroline (1847-1911) était la cuisinière. Un jour de grande affluence (pendant la période de chasse), et alors qu'elle enfourne sa tarte aux pommes elle s'aperçoit qu'elle a oublié la pâte, elle décide de recouvrir les pommes avec celle-ci. La tarte une fois cuite fut servie retournée et chaude. C'est un franc succès qui va perdurer.
Le record de la plus grande TARTE TATIN : 2,50 m fabriquée par Claude BISSON.
Revenons à notre CONFRERIE :
Son but est la défense, avec sympathie et convivialité, de la véritable TARTE TATIN, celle de LAMOTTE-BEUVRON.
Le 35° chapitre s'est déroulé le 18 mai 2013 avec défilé, intronisation, concours et dégustation.
La tenue des membres est composée d'une Biaude (blouse) bleue,d'un foulard rouge,d'un chapeau noir et de sabots.
Pour [l'auteur] il est important de maintenir ces animations et traditions liées au terroir"

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