The tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart in which the fruit (usually apples) are caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the most common is that Stéphanie Tatin, owner of the Hotel Tatin who also did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. In an alternative version of the tart’s origin, Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake.
90 g butter
90 g demerara sugar
1 kg Cox’s apples or similar firm dessert apples
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
175 g plain flour
125 g chilled butter, cut into cubes
30 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
about 1 tbsp cold water
a shallow 23 cm round cake tin
Make the pastry: put the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar, then mix in the egg yolk and enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Put the butter and sugar into a pan and heat very gently until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook gently for 4 – 5 minutes until the mixture turns dark golden brown and is thick, but pourable. Pour evenly over the bottom of the tin.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Toss them with the lemon zest and juice. Arrange in the cake tin. The easiest and tidiest way is to go around, from the end of the tin to the centre.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a round slightly larger than the tin. Lay the pastry over the apples, tucking the excess down the side of the tin.
Bake in preheated oven at 200°C for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Invert a serving plate on top of the tin, turn a tin and plate over, and lift the tin to reveal the caramelized apples. Serve warm or cold.