Caramel and apples are a prefect combination of flavors, especially when they rest on a buttery puff pastry crust.  There are dozens of ways to make a Tarte Tatin, but this is one I’ve used for years with good results:  First you caramelize some sugar in a non-stick sauté pan and swirl in butter.  Then the fruit goes in and cooks in the caramel – as the juices emerge from the fruit, the caramel is diluted, the fruit simmers in the caramel syrup, and absorbs it.  Finally, the juices reduce and thicken when the fruit is fully cooked.  When the fruit has cooled, it’s topped with a disk of puff pastry and the tart is baked at a high temperature, just long enough so that the dough bakes through.  A few minutes after it emerges from the oven it’s inverted to a platter revealing a beautifully arranged pattern of caramelized fruit on the baked puff pastry base.

Makes one 10-inch diameter tart, about 8 servings

About 12 ounces or prepared all-butter puff pastry


8 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and quartered

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold

One 10-inch diameter non-stick, sloping sided sauté pan

  1. Combine the sugar and water in the sauté pan and use a wooden spoon or heatproof silicon spatula to stir them together.       Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Decrease the heat so that the syrup simmers and let it cook until it begins to color, about 7 or 8 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and check the color of the caramel: Use the spoon or spatula to lift some of the caramel a few inches above the pan and allow it to flow back in – the color is more apparent like this than looking into the pan. The caramel should be a deep amber color. If it is too light, return it to the heat for a minute and check the color again. When the caramel is ready, add the butter off heat. Swirl the pan to that the butter melts and mixes with the caramel – the cold butter will also arrest the cooking of the caramel so it doesn’t become darker.
  3. Arrange the apple quarters rounded side down in the caramel, in concentric rows perpendicular to the side of the pan.       Scatter any remaining apple quarters on top of the first layer.
  4. Place the pan on low heat and cover it.       Check after a few minutes to see that the apples have started exuding their juices and diluting the caramel. After about 10 minutes, the apples should be swimming in diluted caramel syrup.
  5. Uncover the pan and let the syrup reduce until it is thickened again and the apples are cooked through.
  6. Cool the pan.
  7. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  8. Place the dough on a floured surface and flour it. Press, then roll the dough to a rough circle about an inch wider than the pan.       Fold the dough in quarters and arrange it on the filling so that the point is at the center of the pan.       Unfold the dough to cover the filling. Use scissors to trim away all but 1/4 inch of the excess dough at the rim of the pan.
  9. Pierce the dough is 10 or 12 places with a fork.
  10. Bake the tart until the dough is baked though and well colored, about 20 minutes.
  11. Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
  12. Invert a platter on the dough and, tightly grasping the handle of the pan with an oven mitt, and supporting the bottom of the platter with the other hand, invert the pan to the platter.       Leave it in place for 5 minutes, then carefully lift off the pan. If any of the apples have remained stuck to the pan, use a fork to move it to the correct place on top of the tart.

Serving:  Tarte Tatin is best within a few hours of being baked.  You can cook the fruit to the end of step 7 and keep it ready to bake as long as you wish on the day you’re going to serve the tart.  Roll out the dough and slide onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate it.  A couple of hours before you intend to serve the tart, put the dough on, and bake the tart.  The longer the tart sits around unmolded, the longer the juices have to seep into the dough and soften it.  Serve the tart with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.