From A Holiday Pie Party
Recipes, photos, and video by chef/photographer Judy Doherty
To watch Judy make the tart, click here.
The dark apple tart called Tarte Tatin has Provençal French roots. I learned to make it as a teenager when I was a line cook at La Vieille Maison, a five-star restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida. It is no longer there, but it was quite a place for a long time. The chef was from Provence, and I used his recipe, which is recreated here. The staff there noticed that I had a knack for creating the right caramel color without burning the apples, so making this dessert became my daily service task. It takes a little courage to make the caramel and flip the tart out of the sauté pan, but it’s well worth the time spent perfecting these techniques.
10 Granny Smith apples, peeled and halved, cores and stems removed
½ cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter
⅔ cup sugar
One 12-inch round puff pastry dough
2 cups whipped cream with a little vanilla extract
Prepare the apples and set them aside. Heat the butter and sugar in a large sauté pan (about 10–12 inches in diameter), stirring it briefly.
Add the apples to the pan by tucking them into concentric circles in a single layer on the bottom of the pan as though they are spooning. Cook over medium heat until the butter and sugar mixture bubbles and caramelizes, about 15 to 20 minutes. It may help to move the pan around on the stove so that the apples cook evenly. If one side gets a little dark, recenter the pan so that side is farther from the heating element. It will take a while for the tart to get brown, but once it does, it happens fast. After the caramel is evenly golden, remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350° as you lay the puff pastry over the pan, tucking the pastry edges into the pan around the apples using a rubber spatula.
Bake the tart for 15–20 minutes or until the puff pastry is evenly golden-brown in color.
Wearing large oven mitts, turn the tart upside down onto a baking sheet or plate. Take great care with this step because the pan is heavy and the caramel is hot. It is best to hold the plate or sheet on top of the skillet and then flip it. Plus, it is even better if the person doing the flip is strong!
When the tart cools slightly, cut it and serve with crème Chantilly, which is a fancy way of saying whipped cream with a little vanilla and sugar added. (I usually skip the sugar since the tarte is already quite sweet.)