Tarte Tatin: A Perfect Treat for Valentine’s Day

Tart TatinWay back in the beginning when I started this blog I wrote about how the apple is a more fitting fruit for Valentine’s Day and I’m still of that mindset.  If you’re going to cook a special dinner at home for your Valentine, a tarte tatin is an impressive dessert, as well as firmly outside the heart-shaped box of standard Valentine’s Day chocolate desserts. 

Let’s face it, the French know what they’re doing when it comes to food, especially that last little bite to wrap up a meal.  I know when I’m thinking of a romantic dinner for Cheryl, French cuisine is usually my first impulse and a tarte tatin is a pretty basic dessert which is a sweet yet light ending to a meal.

Not only is tarte tatin a good way to wrap things up, it is also a snap to make with very few ingredients: apples, sugar, butter, and the short sweet dough know as pâte sucrée.  Caramelize the apples, put a crust on top, bake in the oven, and then in a grand piece of showmanship, flip the whole thing over on a plate.  Voila!  Of all the ingredients I think the pâte sucrée is the most important part of this dessert, it adds a cookie-like texture and sweetness a normal dough lacks.  My mom has a great has a great recipe for the dough so all I needed was a quick internet scan for amounts of sugar and butter for the caramel.

I’d recommend preparing the dough a day ahead in order to cut down on the prep and cooking time.  It doesn’t take long but chilling it overnight really firms the dough up which made it very easy to handle when placing on the apples.  Also, when arranging the apples in the pan, don’t get scared and cut back.  I did, and forgot apples will reduce when cooking so the resulting tarte tatin ended up being a little skimpy.  You want enough apples in the pan so the crust will sit on top of them at the lip of the pan.  My crust ended up sitting about halfway down.  Didn’t affect the taste at all, turned out delicious but I wished I had more apples.  On the flip side, lots of good oozy caramel on top of the apples.

Tarte Tatin for Two

Pâte Sucrée (enough for 2 8-inch tarts or 1 10-inch)

  • 1 ½ C flour
  • 7 Tbs butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

In a bowl combine the salt, sugar, and flour.  Cut the butter into pieces and crumble into the flour mixture.  Break up the butter and mix with the flour into pea-sized pieces.  Add the water, egg, vanilla, and salt.

Mix well and knead dough into a ball.

Chill for 30 minutes.

On a well floured surface roll out the dough into large round, 1/8 inch thick.

Place the pan rim side down on the dough and cut out a round piece to fit the pan.  Put the dough on a piece of wax paper, cover, and place in refrigerator until ready to use.  You can make this a day ahead if you like.

Caramelized Apple Topping

  • 4-5 apples peeled, cored, quartered
  • 5 ½ Tbs sugar
  • 4 Tbs butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

Scatter the butter pieces in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with 4 Tbs of sugar.

Snugly arrange the apple pieces cut side down on top of the butter and sugar.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 ½ Tbs of sugar on top of the apples.

Place the pan on a medium-high burner and cook until the apples are caramelized, about 12-15 minutes when the sugar turns golden brown.  Do not stir the apples.  Give the pan an occasional shake, swirl, to keep the apples from sticking.

Remove the pan from the stove and place the dough round on top. Making sure it fits tightly.

With the tip of a knife make a few slits in the dough to vent any steam.

Place pan in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Using potholders, remove the pan from the oven and place on a medium heat burner in order to loosen up the caramel.

Place a large flat plate on top of the pan and hold it there with one hand.  Quickly flip the pan over, the tart should fall out onto the plate.

One warning: REMEMBER THE HANDLE TO THE PAN IS EXTREMELY HOT!  I caught myself going to grab it without the pot holder after flipping the tart out onto the plate.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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