Tartes Tatin: Sticky, caramelized apples on a luscious puff pastry pillow
This take on a French classic comes with a puff pastry tutorial you can come back to again and again
You know those gloriously sticky, candy-coated apples you used to love as a kid? We may have just found the grown-up equivalent in this recipe for Tartes Tatin from David Robertson’s new cookbook Gather. Robertson’s take on the classic French dessert features a layer of that familiar caramelized apple goodness and is topped with flaky puff pastry before being flipped upside down for serving. The result is an artful, individually-portioned dessert that’s sure to impress every guest at your table. Read all about the dish below, then scroll down for a full puff pastry tutorial — complete with diagrams!
By David Robertson
We teach this elevated French version of the American apple pie at our cooking school. Named after a hotel in the Loire Valley, this dessert is an ode to the culinary star of fall, which is the apple. Our version requires caramelization of Granny Smith apples before topping with pastry. Done right, the apple slices are overlapped in the sticky caramel yet keep their shape and texture.
- 1 lb Classic Puff Pastry (see recipe below)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- 4 Granny Smith apples
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Classic Puff Pastry:
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ⅓ cup + ¼ cup all-purpose flour (divided)
- ½ cup pastry flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll puff pastry out until ⅛-inch thick and cut 4 (5-inch) circles, using a circular cutter or a small plate as a template.
Place the disks on the prepared baking sheet, prick all over with a fork and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and cook until caramelized and golden brown. Carefully whisk in butter, then pour caramel evenly into 4- to 5-inch pie dishes and set aside to cool.
Peel, halve and core the apples. Thinly slice the apple halves crosswise.
Arrange apple slices in an overlapping circular shape around the base of each pie dish and dust with cinnamon. Cover each tart with a circle of puff pastry, ensuring all the apples are covered. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and crisp. Set aside tarts to rest for 5 minutes.
Carefully invert the tarts onto individual plates and top with scoops of ice cream.
Classic Puff Pastry:
Combine ½ cup ice water, lemon juice (or vinegar) and salt in a bowl and mix until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the melted butter.
Place the 1 ⅓ cups of all-purpose flour and the pastry flour in a bowl and mix well to combine.
Pour the flours into a mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the centre. Pour three-quarters of the liquid into the centre of the well. Working from the centre outward, use your fingers to draw small amounts of the flour into the liquid. Keep working in the flour this way until it becomes a paste and then a thick and shaggy dough.
Using a bench scraper or a bowl scraper, cut the dough into smaller pieces, lifting it and folding it as you go. You want to expose as many wet surfaces as possible to evenly incorporate the remaining flour. (Add more liquid, a few drops at a time, only if the dough appears too dry.) The dough should be shaggy, not too sticky and without any signs of dry flour. Shape the dough into a 5-inch disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
While the dough is resting, place the butter and the ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in a bowl and knead with your hands or a mixer until the flour is evenly distributed throughout the butter. Shape this butter into a 4-inch square, wrap tightly in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
1. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Remove the dough and the butter from the fridge and make sure they are the same level of firmness. (If the butter is too soft, refrigerate it a bit longer. If it is too firm, leave it on the counter to soften to the same firmness as the dough.) Roll the dough into a 7-inch circle. Place the square of butter in the centre.
2. Using a bench scraper (or a sharp knife), lightly trace the outline of the butter on the dough, then remove the butter and set it aside.
Rolling outward from each side of the outlined square (but not touching it), gently stretch out the dough until you have 4 “flaps,” each 3 to 3 ½ inches long.
3. Unwrap the butter and place it on the dough, then fold each flap partway over the butter. Do not overlap the flaps of dough; their edges should just meet at a spot in the middle of the butter.
4. Press the edges of the dough together to create a tight seal over the butter. Using a rolling pin and applying even pressure, gently pound the dough section by section until it is 1 inch thick. (Doing this will make the dough malleable and easier to roll. The dough should be cool and flexible, but not soft. If it is too soft, refrigerate it until it is cool. If it is hard, allow it to warm slightly. You want dough that will not crack the butter when it is rolled.)
5. Rolling: Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Gently roll out the dough to a 5- × 15-inch rectangle, lifting it and adding more flour underneath from time to time to ensure that it does not stick. Brush off all excess flour.
6. Folding: Arrange the rectangle with the short side parallel to the counter edge. Fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third of the dough up, as if you were folding a letter.
7. Turning: Ensure the edges of the dough are lined up neatly and all the corners are square. Turn the dough 90 degrees so the open sides are parallel to the counter.
This process of rolling, folding and turning is called a single turn. Once you have completed this single turn, dust the pastry with flour and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of
30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Unwrap the pastry, and repeat the process of five more single turns. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 24 hours. The dough is now ready to use. Or freeze the dough in this state for up to 3 months.
Makes 1 lb of puff pastry.
Yield: Makes 4 mini tarts
Excerpted from Gather: A Dirty Apron Cookbook (C) 2019 by David Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Figure 1. All rights reserved.