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This Apple Tarte Tatin is what Francophile dreams are made of! It has buttery puff pastry cooked to perfection, deep caramelized apples, and is flambéed just because!
In America the apple Tarte Tatin usually gets outshined by its flamboyant cousin, the apple pie, but I would argue she deserves just as much spotlight! Let me list her best qualities for you, shall I? Then I think you’ll agree.
Caramel + Apples. Can’t argue with that pairing, and Apple Tarte Tatin is like the OG caramel apple dessert.
It’s French, and there is very little that I wouldn’t give to be in France right now. So any small piece of France that I can replicate here, is a no brainer!
It looks complicated but, in fact, it is fairly simple. Far simpler than an apple pie in my professional opinion! Trust me, I have apple pies coming out my ears! Especially if you don’t make your own puff pastry…more on that later.
It is made in one dish!
It is approximately 5 times faster to make than an apple pie!
And you get to show off your mad skills by flipping it out onto a plate with a grand flourish!
Et voilà! A showstopper!
The first time I made a Tarte Tatin was in culinary school. Before that one I had never been too impressed by the dessert. You name a French bistro or café in Paris, and I could tell you a story about how sad their tarte tatin was. Mealy, over cooked, under caramelized, soggy bottoms. You name it, color me unimpressed!
But this one, guys, this one is a stunner. Deep rich caramel, perfectly cooked apples, and buttery puff pastry! Gangs all here!
Let’s briefly chat about Apple Tarte Tatin success:
- It’s all in apples: choose your apples wisely because they are going to be cooked far more intensely than in an apple pie. You want to choose firm, fresh apples that don’t have a tendency to get mealy (I’m lookin’ at you, Macintosh?). I also prefer apples that are on the tart side because of all the caramel they are going to be hanging with. Think Honeycrisp, gala, crispin, crimson crisp, or ginger gold.
- All the rules of Puff apply, but mainly keep it cold! You have the additional challenge of putting cold puff on cooked caramel apples, so just be patient. It is important to wait until the apples cool to room temperature before adding the puff and baking. Preserve the layers!
- A cast-iron skillet will give you a more even caramel and a better-looking tarte but any heavy-bottomed skillet will do. All-Clad works well.
- It is best the day it’s made. I know, I know. I promise that it is easy enough that you can pull it off at the last minute! Have everything ready and wow your family and friends with your French pastry skills.
- Make sure your caramel is dark enough! Take that to a medium amber or your Tarte Tatin will just be sweet.
- Bonus points if you make your own puff pastry! I have a recipe for Inverse Puff Pastry and for Classic Puff Pastry. You can make it ahead and freeze it in sheets, which is what you see that I have done in the video! If you make your own you could add a bit of apple pie spice without cardamom in the dough itself!
- The flambée isn’t required but it is fun and it adds another depth of flavor. I used apple brandy but you could also use traditional brandy, Cointreau, Calvados, or really any alcohol that suits your fancy.
Apple Tarte Tatin
- Peel and core all the apples. Slice in half from the top to bottom (not around the circumference). Slice in half again. I find it is easier to fit more apples into the pan when they are cut into quarters like this.
- Melt the butter in an 8-10 inch skillet. You can make this same recipe in a 12 inch skillet but add at least one more apple.
- Arrange apples with the outside (round part) facing down into the pan. Make sure to crowd them to cover the whole bottom. As they cook they will shrink and you don’t want to find yourself with bare spots!
- Pour sugar over the top of the apples in the pan along with the pinch of kosher salt and pinch of cinnamon if desired. On medium heat allow the sugar to caramelize, swirling if needed, and rotating the pan to make sure the caramel is even all the way around. Take the caramel to a medium amber.
- Flambée! Add the alcohol on top of the caramelized apples. Light on fire using a gas burner, kitchen torch or lighter. Allow the alcohol to burn off completely (no flame means no more alcohol).
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cut puff pastry sheet to be just slightly larger than your pan. Place on top of apples, rolling in the sides if they are slightly too large.
- Bake in preheated oven 20-30 minutes or until the puff pastry is puffed and golden brown.
- Allow to cool about 10 minutes in the pan before carefully flipping it onto a large plate or serving dish. I find it easier to cut pretty slices when it is hot, so I usually cut mine ahead of time with a sharp knife.
- Serve the day it is made!