Tart tatin is one of my all-time favourite desserts. It’s one of these desserts that everyone seems to love: melt-in-your mouth caramelized apples with a flakey pastry base. What’s not to love?
That said, there are good tart tatins and great tart tatins! So far I’d only had good ones, but after trying this version, I’ve found my ultimate tart tatin!
I first came across this recipe in the TV show called “Le Gâteau de mes Rêves” (the cake of my dreams) in which the French pastry chef Christophe Michalak showcased his take on the famous dessert. Traditionally the apples are first caramelized in a pan, covered with the pastry and then baked. In Christophe Michalak’s version, he first prepares a caramel and then separately poaches the apples in a butter/water/sugar syrup. Poaching the apples allows you to double the amount of apples because they are soft and malleable and can be stacked closely together.
I’ve made a couple of changed to the original recipe. In his version, Christophe Michalak calls for 1kg of sugar, 1 kg of butter and 1litre of water for the poaching syrup. I’ve cut those quantities to 250 g of sugar, 250 g of butter and 350 ml water. This is still a lot, but don’t be put off by the amount of butter and sugar required – most of it is in the poaching syrup. Although the apples will suck up some of the fat during poaching, most of it doesn’t make it into the final dish. The end result is very balanced and not too sweet.
The second change I made was the oven settings. Michalak recommends using the fan oven setting and cooking the tart at 180°C for 30-40min. When I use the fan with my oven, my bakes tend to be uneven and burn, so I used my regular settings instead. I placed the rack in the bottom part of the oven and baked the pie until the apples had caramelised (in my oven this took about 2h, but this will depend on each oven). The crust will retract a bit over time, so you will be able to see the colour of the apples. If like me you choose to use your regular settings, make sure to cover the tart with foil once the crust is a golden colour so it doesn’t burn.
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 10 Royal Gala apples
- 250 g (1 + ¼ cup) sugar
- 250 g (2 sticks) butter
- 350 g (1 + ½ cup) water
- 1 vanilla pod
- 250 g (1 packet) puff pastry
- apple/apricot/quinces jam (for the shine)
- Start by adding ⅓ of the sugar to the pan and cooking at a medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, then add some more sugar and repeat the steps until all the sugar has melted. Note: do not stir the sugar as it will cause it to cristallise. If you need to mix the sugar and caramel to prevent it from burning, take the pan off the heat and swirl the pan so that the raw sugar and caramel mix together.
- Once the caramel reaches a nice amber colour, pour it into a 20/22cm (8-9 inches) tart tatin or pie tin and spread as evenly as possible. The caramel will solidify.
- Peel and core the apples and cut them into 4.
- Bring the butter, sugar, water and vanilla pod to the boil in a small but high pan. Once the butter has melted, mix well and poach the first batch of apples. Stir and turn the apples 2-3 times. The apples should be translucent and should not be resistant when you stick a knife into them. Be careful not to overcook them or they will turn into mush. When your first batch is complete, set aside and poach the next apples. Repeat until all apples are poached.
- Start placing the apple on the outside edge with the apple slice facing down and work your way in (see picture below). The apples should be as tightly packed as possible - the tighter you squeeze the apples, the more you can fit in! The poaching makes the apples quite soft and malleable, so it should be pretty easy to fit them tightly together. Press down on the apples to make sure they're all compact and at the same height.Ideally, it would be better to leave the apples once placed in the tin to infuse over night. Not only will they be more packed in flavour but they will also set better. If you wish to do so, just cover the apples in cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
- Roll out the puff pastry to a 3-4 mm thickness. Peel the dough off from the table before cutting the shape out as it will contract and get smaller. Place the dough back on the table and cut out a circle the size of the Tart Tatin tin + 2cm. Use a fork to poke holes in the dough to prevent it from puffing up whilst baking. Place the dough in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) - this will also prevent the dough from shrinking during the baking.
- Place the dough on the poached apples, and press down so that the dough is directly in contact with the apples. Press the edges of the dough against the side of the the tin so as to seal the pie.(this is hard to describe, so look at the picture below).
- The original recipe recommends baking the pie for 30-40 min at 180°C using the fan, but I used my regular settings and baked the pie for about 2h at 180°C with the rack placed in the bottom part of the oven. To prevent the pastry from over cooking, place some foil over it once golden and continue to bake until the apples are a nice caramelised colour.
- Let the tart cool a for 30min before flipping it. To do this, place a plate on the crust and flip the tin. The tart tatin should come out nicely.
- Melt a bit of jam in a small pan. Brush the apples with a bit of jam to give it an extra shine.