The tarte Tatin, named after the Tatin sisters who invented it and served it in their hotel as its signature dish, is a pastry in which the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked. It originated in France but has spread to other countries over the years. Dark and sticky caramel, sweet apples and crisp pastry combine to make this heavenly French dessert.
300g all-butter puff pastry
plain flour, for dusting
6 dessert apples (about 900g/2lb), such as Braeburn, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Adam’s Pearmain
100g golden caster sugar
85g unsalted butter (60g/21/4oz chilled and diced, 25g/1oz melted)
crème fraîche (full-fat please!) or high-quality vanilla ice cream, to serve
Roll the pastry to a 3mm-thick round on a lightly floured surface and cut a 24cm circle, using a plate as a guide. Lightly prick all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet, then cover and freeze while preparing the apples.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Put the sugar in a flameproof 20cm ceramic tatin dish or a 20cm ovenproof heavy-based frying pan and place over a medium-high heat. Cook the sugar for 5-7 mins to a dark amber caramel syrup that’s starting to smoke, then turn off the heat and stir in the 60g diced chilled butter.
To assemble the tarte tatin, arrange the apple quarters very tightly in a circle around the edge of the dish first, rounded-side down, then fill in the middle in a similar fashion. Gently press with your hands to ensure there are no gaps. Brush the fruit with the melted butter.
Bake in the oven for 30 mins, then remove and place the disc of frozen puff pastry on top – it will quickly defrost. Tuck the edges down the inside of the dish and, with a knife, prick a few holes in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake for a further 40-45 mins until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.
Allow to cool to room temperature for 1 hr before running a knife around the edge of the dish and inverting it onto a large serving plate that is deep enough to contain the juices. Serve with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
For best results, cook a day or two ahead and keep in its pan or dish in the fridge, then reheat in the oven for 20 mins at 150C/130C fan/gas 2 an hour before serving. Turn out to serve as above. Other fruits such as mango, quince and pears can be used for this dish.