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The Perfect Tarte Tatin + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

When thinking about the types of desserts that are good to have as part of your repertoire, the perfect tarte tatin definitely comes in near the top for me. Simply made of caramelized apples and flaky crust, it is heavenly! Food writer and recipe developer Jessica Battilana shares her tips for getting the tarte tatin just right in her aptly titled book, Repertoire: All the Recipes You NeedAnother reason the classic tarte tatin deserves a top spot in your dessert stable is that you can generally find decent apples throughout the year, though their peak is obviously autumn. Try the recipe out this weekend and let us know if you were able to replicate the gorgeous mahogany color that Jessica describes! —Kristina

Jessica Battilana is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Repertoire: All The Recipes You Need, is her first solo book, and was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by The Boston Globe, The Houston Chronicle and Bon Appétit magazine. Jessica also writes a bimonthly column by the same name for The San Francisco Chronicle. She has coauthored six cookbooks, including Home Grown: Cooking From My New England RootsVietnamese Home Food, which won a 2013 IACP award in the Chef and Restaurant category; Tartine Book 3; Sausage Making; and Home Cooked. She is also the author of Short Stack Editions Volume 10: Corn. Born in Vermont, Jessica moved to California a decade ago. She lives in San Francisco with her wife and two sons. Find Jessica on Instagram @jbattilana.

For a chance to win a copy of Repertoire, respond in the comments section below by June 6, 5PM EST to the following question: Which classic dish would you love to learn to make to perfection? Maybe you already have — if so, tell us how it went! We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Image above: Repertoire; photography by Ed Anderson

Image above: Jessica Battilana, portrait by Steve Viksjo

Image above: How to make the perfect tarte tatin

 

Perfect Tarte Tatin (with Homemade Crème Fraîche)

Makes one 10-inch tart

This apple tart is one of my very favorite things to bake (and eat). I learned the recipe for this French classic, fittingly, when I was living in France. I’d tasted versions of it before, but it wasn’t until I was taught to make it by Anne Willan that I really understood how amazing it could be. The key to this recipe is to cook the caramel until it’s a deep brown, so dark that you think you might be on the verge of totally f&*%ing it up.

At that moment, you quickly lower the heat and add the apples to the pan. The most miraculous thing happens—the juice from the apples stops the caramel from burning and becoming acrid, and, over the next thirty minutes, the apples continue to release their juices while sucking up the caramel. By the time you pull the pan from the stove and add the pastry, the apple halves are jewel-like, mahogany, and the apple juice-fortified caramel is sticky and complex. After making this tart more times than I can count, I’ve noticed that the variety of apple you use makes a difference. Most firm-tart varieties will work, but Granny Smiths seem to get especially mushy, so I avoid those.

The dessert is a showstopper and, I think, handily kicks apple pie to the curb. I like to serve wedges of it topped with tangy crème fraîche. The caramel can make the pastry soggy if it sits for a while, so I recommend eating this on the same day it’s made.

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water
  • For the apples:
  • 5 pounds sweet-tart firm apples (about 12), such as Pink Lady or Braeburn (avoid Granny Smiths)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • Homemade Crème Fraîche
  • For the Crème Fraîche
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cultured buttermilk or plain yogurt

Preparation

1

Make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in
the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are about half the size of a pea. Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to
2 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

2

Peel the apples: With a melon baller, scoop out the stem and blossom ends. Halve the apple and use the melon baller to scoop out the cores. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron or other high-sided ovenproof frying pan over medium heat and add the sugar. Cook without stirring until the mixture begins to brown at its edges, then stir gently and continue cooking until the caramel is a deep golden brown, about 6 minutes more. This takes some courage; you want the caramel to be very dark but not scorched. As it approaches the correct color, reduce the heat to low and put a spoon along the edge of the pan with the bowl of the spoon facing down. Arrange the apple halves in concentric circles, leaning the first apple half against the spoon so it doesn’t topple over. Pack the apples as tightly as possible, cutting some into wedges to fill in the gaps, as they will shrink during cooking.

Increase the heat to medium and cook until the apples begin to exude their juices (this will be fairly obvious, as the level of caramel in the pan will rise to almost halfway up each piece of apple), about 6 minutes, then raise the heat to medium high and cook until the undersides of the apples are deeply caramelized and tender but not mushy and the juices are sticky and thickened, about 10 to 12 minutes more. Using two spoons, turn the apple halves one at a time so the upper sides are now down in the caramel. Continue cooking until this second side is caramelized and almost all the juice has evaporated and what remains in the pan is syrupy, about 10 minutes longer. The apples should be tender but not mushy. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the chilled dough into a 12-inch circle and trim the edges. Set the pastry on top of the apples, tucking the pastry edges down into the pan, then cut a few steam vents in the pastry. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert a large, rimmed plate on top of the tart and flip the tart onto the plate. Let cool until warm (or cool completely and rewarm in a low oven before serving), then cut into wedges and serve with big spoonfuls of crème fraîche.

3

Make the Crème Fraîche (makes about 1 cup): Though it’s no longer terribly difficult to find crème fraîche at the grocery store (I have even seen it at Costco), making it at home is easy and inexpensive. Tangy and thick, it’s an excellent companion to the tarte tatin.

Combine the cream and buttermilk or yogurt in a clean glass jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature about 10 to 12 hours, until thickened. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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Comments

  • I would love to know how to make a seriously good paella. I am OK at it but OK doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’ve had paella once made by an elderly Italian woman that knocked my socks off and I haven’t been able to duplicate it even though I watched her make it.

  • This cookbook looks fabulous I would love to make the fried salt and pepper shrimp !!

  • Risotto! I learned to make it then started to find ways to make alternatives- so fun

  • I’d love to master (and be able to do by memory) a classic pot roast or cassoulet. Also… please god a cookie recipe that can’t be messed up!

  • Yes, it’s pie crust for me also — I dream of my grandmother’s peach pie and a strawberry pie from a restaurant where I worked when I was a teenager. The restaurant was in Northern Virginia, but there were a couple of women who drove in from West Virginia at the crack of dawn to make the homemade pies for the day. Memorable.

  • Wow, what a beautiful tarte tatin! I think I would like to perfect that method and to make it look as yummy as that!!!

  • Tomato-based pasta sauce. I’ve tried so many recipes and still can’t seem to get the brightness and depth of flavor I’m looking for.

  • Bolognese! I learned how to make Bolognese! Now I want to learn how to make an amazing pie crust. The only way I can make a good one now is by unrolling the ones in the Pillsbury box, so sad.

  • I would love to be better at making meatballs and various sauces to put them in. I feel like it would be lovely to have a “go-to” meatball recipe that I can make and pair with any sauce for easy weeknight meals.

  • A simple dish that doesn’t come out right anytime that I make it; Jollof Rice.

  • I would like to learn how to make a good quiche. That involves the perfect savory crust and the right consistency filling.

  • It’s a tie: a perfect Tarte Tatin or canelés! I’d love to riff on a Tarte Tatin with both sweet and savory applications! I remember seeing a winter squash+ sage type of. Tarte Tatin that looked exquisite!

  • The only classic dish that I thankfully have mostly mastered is mushroom risotto. My first real attempt was at a dinner party when I was living in Italy – our apartment consisted of an Italian student, Albanian and Dutch students, and me, an American. One of our roommates had just aced a physics exam thanks to a tutor whom I was convinced had a crush on her, and the party was a thank-you for him. Our Italian roommate was the choreographer, and directed each of us in our respective dishes. I stirred that risotto with an old wooden spoon for what felt like all afternoon, and it was well worth it when it was the hit of the party. Years later, I returned to Italy, for the wedding of my friend and her tutor, who both had gotten Phds in physics by that point. Every time I make mushroom risotto (a few secrets: use the juice from rehydrated porcinis in your broth, and don’t be afraid to have extra because you can saute them into patties the next day) I think of that party and smile.

  • I never manage to be able to make juicy burgers (maybe not sophisticated but classic)!

  • The classic dish I love to make is a Bakewell Tart. Being originally from England, I sometimes get a yen for something traditional from home, especially as the weather gets cooler. I have made a Bakewell Tart for the past five years for Thanksgiving Day. It is by no means an American traditional dish, but it tastes great and reminds me to be thankful for great food and friends, no matter where you are !!

  • SOOOOO many pie crust people here. So I think you should have a look through our archives for pie crusts– we have a couple of recipes from -expert- pie makers here. I think the winner is the unique answer from Ayanna for Jollof rice! Ayanna, unfortunately we have never featured Jollof rice here! You could try Zoe Adjonyah’s recipe here: https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/zoes_jollof_43216 and let us know how that works? – Kristina

    Pie crust recipes below

    From Sister Pie: https://www.designsponge.com/2018/10/a-modern-day-minced-meat-pie-giveway.html
    From Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau: https://www.designsponge.com/2018/12/the-perfect-pecan-pie-for-the-holidays.html
    From Vallery Lomas: https://www.designsponge.com/2017/12/a-showstopping-apple-pie-for-the-holidays.html
    Pi Day round up of pies! https://www.designsponge.com/2015/03/pipie-day.html