As with many of the worlds great recipes, the ones that may appear to be the simplest to make are often by far the most difficult to perfect. The French caramelized apple tart called Tart Tatin is one of those recipes. On the other hand, if you are willing to make the effort to master this dessert, both you and your customer will enjoy it for years.
I first learned how to make this dish, while I was visiting some friends in France many years ago and then was trained further at my first French restaurant job. Although it is an old classic I have always sold out of it, when I put it on a menu and the technique for cooking the apples can be used in a myriad of ways to variate on the theme.
Because this is the apple season in many parts of the country I figured it would be nice to feature this dessert. Although I do like Fuji apples for their crisp sweetness and solid cooking qualities any type of cooking apple that you might prefer will work just fine. The main thing about this dessert is to achieve a rich brown caramel color to the apples and this above all else is what might take some time to perfect.
Fuji Apple Tart Tatin
Tart Tatin is a French caramelized apple upside-down dessert that is famous in the French regions of Normandy. It is a dish that is also made quite often in the United States, especially in the apple growing regions such as Washington State. The recipe is deceptively simple and it will take some time to master, but once you’ve got it down it will serve as a crowd pleaser to your guests for years to come.
Fuji or Granny Smith Apples 12 each
Vanilla Sugar ¾ cup
Brandy 2 ounces
Water 3 ounces
Apple Cider Vinegar 2 teaspoons
Unsalted Butter 6 tablespoons
Puff Pastry or Pate Sucre 1 pound
Using a copper Tart Tatin pan or cast iron skillet, dissolve sugar with brandy, vinegar and water. Bring mixture to boil over high heat and brush sides of pan with wet pastry brush to keep sugar from crystallizing. Cook mixture until sugar turns dark brown, then turn of heat and slowly add butter until fully incorporated then set aside to cool.
Peel and core apples then cut them in half. When caramel is ready place two halves of one apple in center of pan to make one whole apple, then place the remaining ½ apples in circle around until the pan is full.
Roll out puff pastry in circle that is slightly large than the circumference of the pan then place over the apples, tucking the sides down into the pan. Lightly sugar the top of the puff pastry.
Place in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes then turn the temp down to 350 and cook until the puff pastry is golden brown and the juices are bubbling up the sides.
Remove from oven place on burner for about 4 minutes at medium heat to further caramelize the apples. Take the tart off the burner and set aside for about 5 minutes.
Before unmolding, tip pan over holding the puff pastry with you hands and pour off any excess juice into a sauce pan for use a glaze.
Gently unmold tart onto cake plate and allow to cool, scrape any excess juices off into pan. Reduce excess juice in sauce pot and use to glaze tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.