The Tarte Tatin was born out of an accident in the kitchens of the Hotel Tatin. Quick thinking gave birth to one of my favorite tarts, an upside down apple pie where the apples are caramelized with lots of sugar and butter. Probably one of the best accidents ever in culinary history.
This month’s theme for the 5 Star Makeover is quite seasonal: apples. With such an easily adaptable ingredient to a field of options was pretty wide open. But I decided finally to go for a very classical dish, a wonderful French apple pie, called tarte Tatin, cooked in a luscious caramel sauce. It is a very sophisticated tasting pie which consists of 3 ingredients in profusion: lots of butter, lots of sugar and lots of apples.
My First Tarte Tatin
It may not be the absolutely prettiest pie in the world but the taste is really gourmet. The first time I had a Tarte Tatin was at a lovely French restaurant in Montreal called Tonnerre de Brest. This charming true French bistro serves outstanding French classics and the small place is true to a real bistro like you find in France.
I believe it was my first visit that I ordered this dessert. I was blown away and conquered forever. If I see it on a menu I always get it. I added an interesting little twist to my version. I infused my butter with an interesting combination of sage, cloves, and vanilla. The notes of this infusion were beautifully subtle and very welcomed.
The Tarte Tatin Accident
I love the folkloric tale recounting the origin of this pie. The Tarte Tatin was first created by accident in a French Inn, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by the two Tatin sisters. Supposedly one of the sisters was work in the kitchen preparing meals for the customers. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long.
In an attempt to save the pie, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples and baking it in the whole pan in the oven. She then served the pie by flipping it onto a plate. Another version to the story I heard is that when taking the pie out of the oven the sister would have dropped it on the floor and she tried to save it by slipping it onto a plate and serving it upside down. Either story had the same result: the Tarte Tatin was a success.
Yields 8 to 10 slices
Tarte Tatin with Sage, Vanilla and Clove Infused Butter
8 to 10 firm apples: a mixture of sweet and acidic varieties.
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly soft
4 cloves (1/4 tsp rounded, ground)
8 sage leaves (2/3 tsp dried)
vanilla bean, 2-inch segment
1 cup sugar
8 ounces (half a box) puff pastry
In a small saucepan heat the butter over medium heat. When the butter is frothing and bubbly, turn heat to low, halve a 2-inch segment of vanilla bean and scrape the beans into the butter, then add 4 cloves and 8 sage leaves. Heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally, then off the heat and set aside to steep. Strain the infused butter.
While your butter is infusing, peel, core and halve lengthwise the apples.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour the butter into a cold large skillet. Make sure to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet. Sprinkle the sugar on the top and shake to ensure it is evenly distributed. Arrange the apples standing on their sides, in concentric circles, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix. Pack the apples in as tight as you can.
Turn the burner on med-high and cook the apples. It will take 10 to 20 minutes. I like to turn them halfway if the piece are still solid. As the apples cook, the sugar will turn to a caramel as well. Keep an eye on the pan, ideally, you want a rich deep toffee color.
Roll out the puff pastry into a disc 1 inch wider than the rim of the pan. When the apples are ready, drop the disc of pastry onto the apples and let the edges hang over the sides of the pan. Place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for fifteen minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned.
Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then place an inverted plate, slightly bigger than the pan, over the top. Hold with one hand firmly the plate and grip the handle with a cloth firmly with the other hand. Quickly flip the skillet over so the plate is underneath. Lower the plate and pan onto a steady surface, pause a moment, and then lift off the pan. Serve warm.