Ren_0006_2                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by Donna
I guess it's the simplicity of it that makes the tarte tatin so appealing–apples, sugar, a little bit of butter.  No seasoning, no spices, a basic pie crust.  The flavor and this wonderful deeply red-brown color is achieved through long slow cooking.

The method is simple.  Put 3/4 cup sugar in a medium saute pan, spread a few pats of butter on top, then nestle peeled thick wedges of apple into the sugar.  Cook slowly, medium low, until much of the water has cooked off, and enough of the apples have cooked down allowing you to add more to the pan, and continue cooking until you can see that the sugar and apple juices have turned into caramel.  One to two hours.  Lay some pie dough on top, tuck the edges down around the apples and pop it into a hot oven till the crust is nicely browned.  While it's still warm, turn it out onto a plate. Let the juices sink down and saturate the crust.  Serve with some vanilla ice cream that will melt from the tarts warmth.

A perfect fall dessert.

I'd never made one, but when Clark from across the street said the apples on his tree, which my office looks out on, were particularly good this year, I gathered young James and we collected plenty.  They are firm and tart with very pale flesh and proved to be excellent cooking apples.  It was Halloween and we had guests coming that evening.  I used the recipe in Bouchon as a guide.  The apples cooked gently and slowly and scarcely needed attention, only some time.  Occasionally, using a spatuala, I'd rotate them in the pan, maintaining their orientation but moving them as a disc to ensure the apples wouldn't stick to the pan when I upended them on a plate.

It was so good, I made it again the next day for some friends whe were coming for dinner the following night.  Donna was able to take a quick shot before we served it.

Sugar, apples and a little bit of butter.  A wonder.

(David Lebowitz subsequently posted on a quince tart tatin.)

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59 Wonderful responses to “The Amazing Tarte Tatin”

  • Bob delGrosso

    Beautiful. I’m going to make one as soon as I get some apples. I’ve made them with pears too but apples are better.

    It’s important to point out that the recipe works best with very firm, fine-grained apples that are not too pumped up with water -otherwise you get applesauce cake.

  • Ricky

    I think I’ve just added another dessert to the Thanksgiving menu. Thanks Mr. Ruhlman.

    I’m wondering which type of apple you guys prefer?

  • Derek

    What temperature oven? (My copy of Bouchon is on order and won’t get to me for a couple of weeks — damn you, Amazon, with your free shipping!)

  • ruhlman

    puff pastry would be fine. you could probably pour cake batter over top and bake like a crumble. it’s all in the wonderful caramel that becomes of the sugar and apple juices.

    i baked at 350 and at 425 and they both worked fine–just cook it till it’s nicely browned. it’s the bottom of the tart.

    i used between 6 and 8 apples. the more apples you get into the pan the better.

  • razkolnikov

    Could I do this in my (fairly new, not yet perfectly seasoned) cast iron skillet? Or would the acidity of the apples be an issue?

  • Erik

    I was wondering about the use of cast iron, too. Have a pre-seasoned Lodge 8” model that I was hoping to use… any thoughts from the pros on its use would be swell. Thanks!

  • latenac

    Debating whether I’ve forgiven dh for eating all of the apple crisp after I went to bed last night enough to try this out. It is awfully pretty.

  • Lynda

    The best part about the Tarte Tatin is its origin which happened to be a mistake by the Tatin sisters in their French kitchen in the early 1900’s. They forgot the pastry for their traditional tart and added it as an afterthought on top, resulting in a timeless, delicious classic. Hooray for mistakes.

  • sarah

    I don’t enjoy “baking” as much as I enjoy “cooking” but this makes me want to bake. As always, Donna’s picture is lovely and mouth watering! I guess I should need to get the Bouchon cookook. BTW–long story but going to Bouchon in Vegas and looking forward to it! Hope they hav ethe Tarte Tatin!

  • applehome

    Julia, Julia, Julia. The Way to Cook pg 434. Been doing this for years – but steep Apples first in lemon juice and sugar – they will exude juices quicker, and stove top cook for 20-25 minutes, followed by baking (with puff pastry – I use DuFour) for 20 minutes at 425F. I make perfect ones in my cast iron pan.

  • shuna fish lydon

    O Look, the Tarte Tatin I developed at Bouchon. O look, another recipe in another cookbook where the persons credited had nothing to do with it’s end result. Amazing how savoury chefs continue to take credit for their pastry chef’s work.

    On another note:

    P.S. Lessons learned: do not attempt Tarte Tatin with apples in storage for longer than 4 -5 months. One of the main reasons the caramel binds the apples is the pectin released when apples are cooked. Apples out of season struggle to make this happen.

  • luis

    Apples , fruits… the 6th pilar of japanese cuisine. This is right!. this is good. Apples always do me right. That 3/4 cup of sugar… becomes a couple of Tbsps in my kitchen. The end result is the same and delicious. Puff pastry or phylo are ok. If I had more time or more expertise I’d do the crust myself.
    But this is a good thing.

  • lifeinrecipes

    This and the version aux poires is my all-time favorite dessert. Oh,and lemon anything.

    Gastrogirls: aux poires/pears – a delicious recipe can be found in the Patricia Wells Bistro Cooking book.

  • Ben

    “Sugar, apples and a little bit of butter. A wonder.”

    Sounds like you are practicing for an episode on Ripert’s website…that’s how he ends all his Get Toasted videos…”sugar, apples, a little bit of butter…a delicious meal.” Question is, can you fake the accent?

    This does look wonderful…I’ll have to give it a try this weekend. Thanks Michael.

  • ruhlman

    shuna, first, thanks for this insight on apples and pectin.

    I didn’t realize though that you had invented the tarte tatin! Cover the bottom of a pan with a layer of sugar, add butter and apples. top with pie dough? honestly, i would love to know what exactly you developed.

    on a side note, I’m working with michael symon on his cookbook and he is foregoing dessert recipes because he sensed that it was if not dishonest, at least not him.

  • lisaiscooking

    Gorgeous. Now, I want to make one tonight.

    Good for Michael Symon. Desserts aren’t required in every book. Better to focus on one’s primary interests.

  • carri

    Shuna, I don’t think sour grapes are an ingredient in tarte tatin. (though I bet they have alot of pectin!)

  • The Bad Yogi

    Hi Ruhlman,

    Y’all don’t mind if’n I cull the recipes from your books and publish them under my name, do you?

    Thought so.

    If you had taken a moment of charitable thought about the pastry chefs you’ve met, you’d get that there’s a lot of truth in Shuna’s comment. I’ve yet to see a major cookbook OR one from a top of the line restaurant that credits the Pastry chefs. Too bad.

    But it’s because, ya know, they only do what the CHEF tells them to, right? Every sweet dish has already been invented, so, unless you’re Ferran Adria, you’re SOL in the credit dept.

  • good stuff

    “I didn’t realize though that you had invented the tarte tatin!”

    lol Ruhlman, you’re the man. I was thinking the same thing.

  • craig

    I am not a pro, but I have the impression that
    “Cover the bottom of a pan with a layer of sugar, add butter and apples. top with pie dough” is more of a a theory or conceptualization than it is a recipe. I am not sure that anyone has gotten their knickers in a twist over the rights to the method of making a good cup of cappuccino. Let the first pastry chef that never “borrowed” another chef’s proportions cast the first stone.

  • shelora sheldan

    I made a tarte tatin last night – before stumbling across this – and I’ve never cooked the apples slow and long before covering with pastry and baking. It’s the first time I’ve come across this proposed technique.
    I would assume it would work best with harder apples that would hold up their shape and not dissolve into mush.1 to 2 hours seems way too long to hang out over the stove.
    Whatever, my tarte tatin was delicious! Served with vanilla bean ice cream. I’ve also used hard pears to the same great effect.

    If you have baked the dish before the dessert hour – without flipping or inverting it out – simply heat up the contents until the ingredients are loosened up enough. It’s now ready to invert onto a plate.

  • Rhonda

    I Love the photograph and the recipe for Tarte Tatin. Unfortunately, my skills with pastry are, well — limited. I over-knead.

    Anyhow… I was in Corsica a little while back which is ALL NAPOLEAN, ALL THE TIME but ALSO, a cross between Italian and French Food. All I can say is, MARCO PIERRE WHITE, I CAN DIE RIGHT NOW!.

    I heard the French/Corsican history of Tarte Tatin and it was that the sisters made the tarte and then on the way to service (to Napolean) the plate was dumped on the floor. 5 second rule — they recovered and as true professionals re-did the dish.

    There are many things in this story (fairy tail) that may not and cannot be true. However, I LIKE IT.

    Good story by the Corsicans, no?

  • The Bad Yogi

    lessthanjoey,

    Thanks, mate. I don’t mind being wrong, especially not when it’s a recent thing. 🙂

    But the point of my post was that from that perspective, ALL recipes that aren’t mol gas are old and many-times-over rewritten. But people claim authorship nonetheless. I disagree with the notion, myself. And I believe Ruhlman does, too.

    Also, if you re-read Shuna’s post, it wasn’t specifically about the tarte tatin, but the book “Boulud” not crediting her for recipes which she HAD developed and deserved credit for, in her opinion.

  • Sam

    It is also really good with puff pastry. I made one tonight, but must have left it on the stove for too long, because the sugar seemed slightly burned and bitter. (it looked like a dark caramel when it went into the oven-didnt seem burned). Still tasty, but I guess this calls for making it again!

  • faustianbargain

    rhonda: the following is not a tarte tatin, but you could simply fill caramelised apples inside crepes ‘hankies’…its a completely different texture, but still delicious because its the sweet apple juice and butter and sugar that seals the deal. most people are afraid to let the sugar caramelise a little more…you got to push it, but also know when not to burn it…its a thin line between caramelisation and burning. comes with practice….but making caramel stovetop is dangerous business.

    to shelora sheldon: the other method(caramelisation of sugar, beurre monte, coating caramel over hard slices) works well in restaurants for consistent/faster results and smaller portions too(if necessary). one has a lot of control..esp the mushiness factor.

  • Rhonda

    faustian bargain: THANKS! I can make delicious crepes but my pastry (for pie or otherwise) is only good for shoe leather. I guess we all have special talents….

  • Rhonda

    Faustian Bargain:

    Thanks. I know I can do the “altenative” and thank you for teaching me. What bugs me is that I cannot make a decent pastry crust. I have at times, when the pastry Gods permitted, done so. At other times it has been a rock hard gut of mess. I CAN COOK. AND WELL…. However, it is like golf and the short vs. long game. In cooking, it is the savoury vs sweet game.

  • Rhonda

    I just read my comment.

    Oh waaah for me!

    Yes, I am pissed at my failings but I am still going to try to learn. “STALK THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE”. This, in my life, does not only apply to cooking but to EVERYTHING ELSE.

    I learn from movies (not always a good thing) but am going to watch “Water for Chocolate” tonight.

  • luis

    shelora sheldan , I just upgraded to a Hamilton Beach slow cooker and you know? I think I can do the tarte tatin in it just fine without the requisite supervision associated with stove top cooking. Heat and time will beat anything into submission. Puff and bake the puff pastry in the oven per the pastry method. and marry the two in the vessel of your choice. Crispy crust..NOT SOGGY!!! and perfectly caramelized apples… Genius shit!!!!!!11

  • luis

    Oh, I forgot to tell you guys the crock pot is programmable and has a timer and even comes with a temp probe. Fantastic. I love it!.

  • luis

    A simple spring form pan and combine the two… back in the oven for the marriage ceremony… and you got a competition worthy tarte tatin…assuming your ingredients were righteously great.

  • Rhonda

    Luis: You are slow cooking tarte tatin and not sharing… C’mon, Brother!

  • Rhonda

    Ok, Luis.

    You had me at springform pan — and I think all of my friends are out of town so I may not get caught. Are you carmelizing apples in the oven (checking them of course) and then adding a crust at the end? Regular pie crust or sweet? Dumb question as this is what a tarte tatin is but how can it be sooo low maintenenace.

    If so, and you have made this work, I may have to marry you in undying love.

  • jscirish27

    At one of the places I worked, we used to make the carmel in a rondeau (with vanilla bean as well) and then dump the apples in to coat. Then the whole thing was transferred to the oven to cook at a relatively low temp. This was effective for controlling the consistency of the apples. Then the apple filling was placed in small tarte molds, and topped with puff pastry which had been baked off and cut into rounds. Reheat in the oven for 5 minutes and turn it out . . . worked like a charm.

  • Tags


    Desserts by Pierre Herme (with Dorie Greenspan) has an amazing recipe for 20-hour apples.

  • Tim Boyer

    I usually don’t do desserts, but the Ohio apples are so good this year, I couldn’t resist. I used a cast iron pan, and Jonagolds, and they caught a bit – not enough to ruin it, but enough to make me lower the heat next time.

    ‘The Way to Cook’ says to roll the crust to 3/16″. I did, but I think this was too thick – I’d make a thinner crust next time.

    What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon…

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Good puff pastry works.
    You don’t need to peel the apples.
    Any oven-proof pan will work, I use my cast-iron pan. I have used a springform pan too. In a pinch you could use a pie dish and slowly caramelized the apples in the oven instead on stove-yop.

    This is an easy tasty versatile “recipe” that you can make as “country” as you want or as “refined” as you dream.

    Works with many fruit. Although the original Tarte aux Pommes des Demoiselles Tatin calls for apples, pears, quince, mangoes, pineapple etc are all excellent candidate. or Tomatoes.

    Don’t want to use sugar? try agave syrup, maple syrup etc. No lemon? OJ or apple cider works too!

    It’s hard to miss this recipe. Just like it’s hard to miss a Reuben sandwich.

    So, have fun. It’s hardly baking (and that’s not a critic!)
    (my own version of Tomato Tatin is here:
    http://www.laughingduckgardens.com/ldblog.php/2008/08/31/tomato-tatin/

    Sylvie

  • anita

    “O Look, the Tarte Tatin I developed at Bouchon. O look, another recipe in another cookbook where the persons credited had nothing to do with it’s end result. Amazing how savoury chefs continue to take credit for their pastry chef’s work.”

    On one hand, I understand this frustration, as I had developed original recipes for a famous restaurant and was originally credited in the drafts, only to be cut out of the actual print edition after I had left the restaurant.

    However, you need to realize that when you create a work for hire, which you are doing in a restaurant, the restaurant owns that work (recipe), not you. If the Chef has any decency, they will credit you, but so many do not.

    But… Tarte Tatin was created long before you strapped an apron on, so that whine is a bit specious.

  • Greg

    I tried it last night, just with your instructions here – it was awesome! I’m planning on making an extra-large version for thanksgiving. Thank you!

    PS: Donna’s photos have made me try several things on your blog (egg yolk ravioli, popovers, etc).

  • Greg

    To address some of the comments: I made mine in cast iron. The caramelization went a bit faster, and got a bit darker, so I’d turn the heat down next time. It didn’t come out of the pan in one unit, but placing the remaining apples on top worked. When cooled, it was all one mass.

  • Derek

    I made this last night (with unsalted butter) and it turned out very nice. It’s not spectacular, but it is easy and tastes good. It took about 2 hours to get to the caramel stage. I finally had to just walk away from the pan after about 1.5 hours and came back 20 minutes later to see the transformation had taken place. I think I may have reduced the caramel too much, but it was still quite good. Good stuff.

    Between this and the fettucine alfredo recipe a couple weeks ago, I’m starting to feel like a culinary bad-ass. 🙂

  • mp

    apple tarte tatin is one of the first “real” dishes that I learned to make when I was a teenager. I used Julia Child’s recipe (from her book, the way to cook), which uses lemon juice and zest, and a bulb baster to bring the caramel up from the bottom of the pan to on top of the apples while they’re on the stove. It sounds like it may be a bit more work than yours, but it comes out great every time. I still make it every thanksgiving as an alternative to pumpkin pie.

  • cybercita

    i just made this this afternoon, using apples from the union square greenmarket in manhattan. it came out looking very much like the one in the photo! beautiful and impressive! thanks for the inspiration.