If there’s nothing more American than apple pie, perhaps there’s nothing more French than apple tarts. One of the easiest and most favored in my household is the upside-down french version named after two sisters from just south of Orlèans on the Loire River. It is the tart Tatin-[tah-TAN]. It’s preparation is fairly elementary, but the method varies from book to book. I love everything Julia, but one evening while reading Susan Herrmann Loomis’s The French Farmhouse Cookbook (yes, I sit around and read cookbooks) I saw her method for the tart and it seemed almost too easy. You sprinkle sugar over butter slices in an iron skillet, place your apples atop the butter/sugar, and cook slowly until the apples are tender, basting them occasionally. Top with pie dough, bake, invert and ‘Viola!’ You have a classic french dessert to serve. I am showing a 3-4 serving size in a 6-7″ skillet.
Note: In this photo you can see my method of apple preparation. Top to bottom: Take a small slice off the top and bottom, peel with a vegetable peeler; slice in two, top to bottom, then use a melon baller to remove the core, seeds, and upper and lower sliver of peel. They are ready for wedging or slicing. Try it!
Make the first layer of apples as neat as you can. This will be the ‘up’ side once you invert it to the plate or platter. The next layers won’t really show, so use up the odd-shaped bits.
While the apples become tender (I check and baste them about every 8- 10 minutes, shaking the skillet to loosen them if they stick- which sometimes they do anyway), I make the crust. If you like, you certainly could use a packaged crust from the dairy case, but there’s nothing like your own with fresh butter. If you have a food processor, it almost forms itself. While the apples get tender in their butter-bath, rest your dough in the refrigerator.
The apple mixture should cook v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y and bubble lazily for 30-40 minutes. Once the apples are tender, roll out your dough and make sure your oven preheated to 425º.
Next is the arduous task of fitting the flat dough into a round form, which is most likely still quite hot from its time on the stove top, but the heat softens the dough and it will conform with some prodding and careful manipulation.
Now it bakes for about 25 minutes until the crust is, as they say, golden,brown and delicious. Once it is, carefully invert it to a plate or serving dish keeping in mind once again the skillet is HOT!
Here’s the finished tart Tatin which as Julia might say, “Ain’t gonna win no beauty contest,” but it is delicious. Remember those sister’s I mentioned? Well, they made their living off this tart for a good part of their lives. The rustic quality is part of its charm. If a couple of apple slices stick to the bottom- as they often do, carefully dislodge them and put them back in their place once you have the finished tart situated.
While the top may appear burnt, I assure you it is not. It is deeply caramelized and that means deep, unctuous flavor. A scoop of ice cream or whipped cream completes the picture. It’s a very tasty treat indeed.
If it helps assuage your guilt as you scrape the plate with your spoon to get every bit of goodness, keep repeating in your mind, “An apple a day…..”
Toujours, bon appétit!
© Kyle A Nelson