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you get what you get…

Recipe: apple tarte tatin

I really meant to check in over the weekend and slap a quick post up, but it was a matter of priorities. Sleep won. You’d think if the leaves weren’t stellar that the shooting schedule would ease up some. It did a little bit, but Colorado is a big state. We covered a lot of ground. We saw baby raccoons scrambling, birds of prey hunting, fake deer, real deer, real elk, happy hunting dogs wagging their tails, and angry tree squirrels.

i spent my weekend here

This trip turned out to be more recon than shooting, but I’ll share some photos later this week. For now, I’ve got a few trip shots (for fun) of food, my shooting pal Jason, and my friend Josh, who wanted to know what our shoots are like.

the smart phone as appendage

jason and i split a greek salad at secret stash in crested butte

and then we split this lovely beast (the woodward)

chicken dinner at slogar (crested butte)

woody’s rollin smoke bar-b-que and cookshack in marble

patio dining

pulled pork and beef brisket

It was a good trip despite the state of the colors/leaves. I think any time you avoid injury (okay, I did smash my face with Jason’s car door… ow!) or death, accidents, major arguments, food poisoning, and loss of or damage to equipment, it’s a good trip. Because really, it’s about what you make more than what you find. As Jason’s daughter’s favorite saying goes: You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Jason and I recited that ad nauseam (to one another) – partly as commentary on the conditions and partly to just annoy the hell out of each other. We do that. It’s fun. We probably drove poor Josh insane.

jason shortly before flipping me the bird – good times!

The lure of autumn is big for me. Not only am I keenly tuned in to the fall colors around Colorado, but I live for that cold snap when the chill in the early morning lingers long into the day. It happens when I no longer run for cover from the sun’s burning rays, but turn a smile into it. I smell the faint hint of smoke on the air from people lighting their fireplaces. In those spare moments when my mind jumps from one task to another, thoughts of fall fruits get squeezed into the gaps.

i like them apples

Back when it was summer, I got an issue of Fine Cooking in the mail and tucked it into my bag. It would make for great reading on my flight to Seattle. It did make me somewhat nervous though. I mean, on the cover were the words “The Cook’s Guide to Thanksgiving” which instills just a little bit of panic because Thanksgiving is the end of November and wasn’t it just March the other day?

butter makes great pastry

pulsing in the egg and water

I see glorious food porn all the time. It’s part of what I do. I’ve gotten to the point where it generally doesn’t phase me, but the recipe for Tarte Tatin in the Fine Cooking issue hijacked my brain for a good many days. I already had several recipes shot and lined up to share over the course of the next two months because my schedule is fraught with travel and commitments, and yet I had to make this last week before my road trip.

the dough is ready if it holds when pinched

roll the dough out after chilling

We don’t have air-conditioning (we live in the mountains, we don’t need it) and we take several simple measures to keep the house cool in summer. One of those measures is to avoid baking. Come fall, the oven does triple duty: baking or roasting, warming the house, and filling the house with mouth-watering aromas. After a summer off, I am more than ready to bake and what better way to welcome fall than with apples as they come into season?

peeling granny smiths

cored and quartered

And caramel. I’m a total sucker for caramel. I love fruit desserts, but caramel seals the deal. This is one of those classics that has been on my list forever. When I finally made it, I decided to go for a small version (like half the size) because I don’t own a 10-inch skillet. As Jeremy finished off the last piece of apple tarte tatin, I kinda wished I owned a 20-inch skillet, know what I mean?

sprinkling sugar over melted butter

arrange the apples in the pan

I always expected this to be a complicated recipe, but once I sat down and read it through (yes, always read the recipe through at least once before embarking) I found it was quite straightforward and not especially fussy. That’s a major SCORE! in my book. Make dough, slice apples, simmer butter and sugar, cook apples, cover with dough, bake. And because it’s “rustic” it means I can really screw things up and it will still look fine.

after the apples have simmered in the caramel

tucking the dough down into the pan around the apples

Just do yourself a big favor and please put the pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet before you bake it. It just makes cleaning up the burnt drippings so much easier. I guess that’s the price of loving caramel. Totally worth it.

when baked and slightly cooled, cover with a large plate and invert

after reconstruction

If your tarte tatin doesn’t invert perfectly, never fear. Mine didn’t either. Half of the apples stuck to the pan, but I coaxed them out gently and set them back on the tart. It’s like a little puzzle. A gooey, sticky, sweet puzzle. Take care not to burn yourself on the caramel while it is hot (heat retention of caramel is notoriously high). Serve when the tart is warm. I didn’t have crème fraîche on hand as the recipe recommended, so I served it with whipped cream. Chocolate Boy Jeremy ranked this in his top 5 desserts which is quite surprising because there IS NO CHOCOLATE. I have to say the concentrated flavor of the Granny Smith apples was unexpected, but delightfully so. A lovely way to end a meal.

the right way to enjoy autumn

Apple Tarte Tatin
[print recipe]
Fine Cooking Issue #107

5 5/8 oz. (or 1 1/4 cups) flour
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 oz. (6 tbsps) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1 tbsp cold water

5 to 7 Granny Smith apples, firm (reduce to 4 apples if making 7-inch)
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (reduce to 2 oz. if making 7-inch)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (reduce to 3/8 cup if making 7-inch)

Make the dough: Pulse flour, sugar, salt together in food processor until mixed. Add butter and pulse until coarse crumbs. Beat the egg and water together and add mixture in thirds to the dough, pulsing just enough so when you pinch the dough, it holds together. Turn out the dough and gather into a ball. Wrap it in plastic and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll the dough out between two sheets of wax paper or parchment to 1/8-inch thickness. It helps if it’s circular… It should be about 11-inches wide if you are making the standard 10-inch recipe. If you are making a 7-inch tart, then roll out to 8-inches in diameter and save the rest of the dough in the freezer for something else. Prick the dough all over with a fork (this, I failed to do), then cover and refrigerate until ten minutes before ready to use. You can store the dough in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for up to 2 months).

Make the tart: Peel, core, and quarter four of the apples (if you’re making the small 7-inch, 4 is all you need). Melt the butter in a heavy-duty oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Coat the sides of the pan with the melted butter using a pastry brush and sprinkle the sugar over the butter. Continue to cook until the sugar is completely moistened (doesn’t take long) and remove from heat. Arrange the apples, rounded-side down in the pan. It helps to make it a nice and neat pattern (like concentric circles) trying to maximize the apple surface area to the pan. Don’t worry about the gaps. Peel and core more apples as needed to fill those gaps. Feel free to cut smaller pieces to fit in between larger pieces. The apples will shrink as they cook, so you can press them in better later. Place the pan over medium-high heat. The liquid will begin to bubble – that’s cool. When the apples shrink, push the gap-filling layer down. Eventually after 15-20 minutes (20 for me) the juice from the apples will reduce and the caramel will become a deep golden color – they’re ready.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. When the apples are done cooking, put the skillet on the baking sheet and let it rest for a few minutes. The dough should be somewhat pliable by now (remember, you were supposed to take it out of the refrigerator ten minutes ago). Place it on top of the fruit and tuck the edges into the pan with a spatula or dull knife. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry is a golden color. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes and then loosen the edges with a dull knife. Cover the pan with a rimmed plate (a large one – you know, bigger than the pan!) and with mitts on, carefully invert the pan and plate. If any apples stick to the pan like mine did, it’s easy enough to coax them off and place them onto the tart. No one will be the wiser. Let the tart cool for 15 minutes before serving.

46 nibbles at “you get what you get…”

  1. Jenni says:

    I do love tarte tatin. I usually make one for Thanksgiving dessert–straightforward and oh-so-yummy! Yours turned out beautifully:) Prolly because you used real butter. ;)

  2. Ananda Rajashekar says:

    Hi Jen. what a wonderful post and thanks as you have solved my problem, was just think what so i make for girls “dessert” evening during end of this week…now i know what am going to do…as always brilliant pictures, and the last one….will drool till i make them :)

  3. Miriam/The Winter Guest says:

    Wow, it’s my favourite dessert. The last photo is just perfect.

  4. Jason says:

    Flipping you the bird?!? How dare you impune me! I was simply pointing to a bird … that was above us … it was small. :) Thanks for a fun trip.

  5. Alyson @ Dates & Quinces says:

    I’ve always wanted to try a tarte tatin! Every time I flip something out of a pan something seems to go wrong though…

  6. Joann says:

    Was going to make this, and I kept reading about the caramel, which I love. But you don’t have it in the actual recipe. Am I missing something? or are you just describing the way it looks? Can’t figure it out here, sighhhh
    Any help would be appreciated :) thanks
    oh and thank you very much for the recipe and the great pictures :)

  7. Susan says:

    Lovely tarte, Jen.
    Do you think that it would work well with honeycrisp apples?
    I can’t wait to try to make it.

    Happy Autumn to you.
    I love your aspen tree photos!

  8. Jane L says:

    The pictures are awesome, and the tarte tatin is a great inspiration for a dessert to make. I have lots of apples, and I was just wondering what to make. You made it sound easy enough for me to try, never made it…. But the fact that I can make the dough ahead of time, and that it is only 1 side to roll, simplifies everything. Thanks so much for a great recipe and inspiration. Love your fall pictures…

  9. barbara says:

    Lovely Jen. My favourite dessert. I love Tarte Tartine so much, years ago I bought a special copper tarte tartine pan. It is also the perfect pan for clafoutis, so it gets a lot of use as that is my second fav dessert.

  10. Kate says:

    Beautiful pictures…looks like a great dessert!

  11. eula says:

    Delicious pictures as always. I love apples and caramel too, they’re perfect together. Your recipe looks easy, I will have to try. Thanks.

  12. Collette says:

    This looks great. Two things I love from this post: You get what you get and don’t throw a fit. I may have a new motto. And Chocolate Boy. That one made me laugh out loud.

  13. evan says:

    i’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe, jen! it’s a really gorgeous dessert – and payard’s update is an awesome savory take on the recipe, too. we had fun testing them :) yours came out beautifully!

  14. Wei-Wei says:

    I JUST saw a post for this on Joy the Baker – it looks AMAZING. Caramel and apples… Mmm. I bet you could sneak in a little cinnamon into the crust and it’d be amazing.

  15. Nisrine@Dinners & Dreams says:

    Yum oh yum! It looks divine. Vive le butter!!

  16. Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks says:

    Gorgeous – I like the “rustic” element to it. Tis the season for apple comfort food. Am wondering what other apples you like for baking – for that lovely tart contrast? I’ve been using Jonathans, Pink Ladies (sp?), Granny Smiths – got any favs locally that I should check out?

  17. Lauren says:

    Everything looks absolutely amazing. The tarte tatin, the trees, the trip. I can’t wait to see more :).

  18. DGrub says:

    Such a beautiful photos and appetizing dessert. I want one now.

  19. Cookin Canuck says:

    What a perfect slice of tarte tatin! “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” is a regular saying in our house – it gave me a good chuckle to read that part of your post.

  20. liz says:

    I thought about you today, wondering what you were focused upon … then delighted to find the beautiful photos, you have a remarkably intuitive eye … love it! … followed by some genuine, ‘share it’ deets about a recipe … don’t know you, but I feel like I do … your posts are always an inspiring and perfect treat … thanks for that!

  21. Melanie says:

    Many thanks for the beautiful pix- of the food, and the trees and the mountains.

  22. Kristin says:

    Ok, to heck with the people in the house who only eat raw apples. This has been on my list for several years, and I’m going to make it!

  23. Kristin says:

    P.S. Even if it means I have to sacrifice & eat the whole thing myself.

  24. Nan@tastingoutloud says:

    The pizza looks absolutely delicious. Is that an egg I spy? I used to have an egg baked on my pizza’s when I lived in Europe. When I came back home, everyone would look at me like I had grown another head when I made pizza’s with an egg. But if you like eggs, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried. it. Creamy, smooth, yummy…

    Fun photos! Looks like a great shoot and a good time.

  25. Kathy says:

    The taste is most likely as good as the photos. I love a good apple dessert in the Autumn months.

  26. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Jen, you won’t believe it but I have never made a tarte tatin in my life! Shame on me! :D
    This is absolutely beautiful – I have got to try making one, too – you’ve inspired me!

  27. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Ah, yes. “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” is BIG in the T household. BIG. Sometimes it even works.

    Your Tarte Tatin looks beautiful! Glad the trip was a success, even if the foliage didn’t live up.

  28. Joy says:

    That looks so elegant and beautiful.

  29. Joanne at Frutto della Passione says:

    I love apple desserts. They are my absolute favourite. Especially at this time of year. This looks amazing. I’ll definitely give it a try.

  30. Sandy says:

    I love your blog…I come to it with a hot cup of coffee and settle in for lustful gazing at your photographs..what an inspiration…

  31. {Clockwork Lemon} says:

    spending the weekend out in the beautiful fall weather = win! (it’s what I did too)

    That tart looks amazing.. I have a lot of apples at the moment, so maybe this will go on my list

  32. Knives says:

    The pulled pork and brisket look amazing!!!

  33. Sharlene says:

    Mmm all these beautiful food shots are making me drool!

  34. Hsin says:

    Oh, Jen, My favorite. (And I’m a chocolate fiend too. I love raw apples and I love tarte Tatin even though I don’t like apple pie. Maybe I’ve just never had a great apple pie. I don’t know.
    I also don’t make my tarte Tatin in a big skillet, but not because I can’t use a large skillet. I use my recipe to make two smaller ones so that I have one to freeze for later. Eat now. Eat later. The enjoyment lasts longer.

    They freeze REALLY well if you let them cool fully and then wrap them really well. When you want one, let it thaw and then refresh it in the oven and it’ll be like fresh-baked.

    I couldn’t tell you how long they will keep in the freezer because the average time I can hold myself back from the second one is about two weeks. So for sure they last really well for two weeks in the freezer.

    In your recipe, it’s good you used a tart apple. The acidity balances out the sugar nicely. One time I got some great Jonagolds from upstate New York, and they made my best tarte Tatin because they had so much apple flavor. I don’t know how to describe it. To me, a lot of supermarket apples have a flavor more like sugar water. Good apples have a lot of “appleness” with a tartness that intensifies that apple flavor. Oh, well. My vocabulary fails me.

    Thanks for posting all your great pics! Those of us stuck in less beautiful surroundings really enjoy them.

  35. Ruth Ann says:

    Love tarte tatin. I use Julia Child’s recipe usually and it turns out yummy as well.
    Fun sharing time with you and your buds vicariously via your pictures. As always, great photos!

  36. Barb says:

    Thanks for the recipe and colorful pics. I have a Granny Smith apple tree and I’d like to use them before the deer and my dog eat them all. I made an apple crisp a few days ago, but the tart sounds devine. Thanks again, I’ll let you know how it comes out.

  37. marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    That pizza (the woodward) looks freakin’ amazing! As do your lovely apple tarte tatins. I like the use of Granny Smith apples-love that sweet tart/pucker kind of thing.
    I should send one of my readers over here who just wrote a long ass comment bashing me for not showing process shots. They can come here for your gorgeous ones—-but then again they might find something else to bitch about. freak.
    Your descriptions of the changing seasons is so perfect-the things I think, but cannot quite articulate.


  38. Apple Recipes « Beneficial Farms CSA says:

    […] Click here for the recipe […]

  39. lauriebot says:

    You inspired me! I made this for an impromptu dinner party last night and it was a huge hit! I am forever impressed at all the things you can make with butter, sugar & flour… Thanks for posting this recipe! :)

    – Lauriebot

  40. Vicky says:

    That tartin looks yummy! I guess I will have to make one next weekend. Yesterday I made your chocolate chip banana bread recipe and it was so delicious my husband hugged me for making it. So what he will do next weekend when i bake your apple tartin? lol Ooooh! And that pulled pork looks so yummy it is inspirational. I think Iwill look for a recipe for pulled pork and have the apple tartin for dessert. Mmmm! Nothing like eating well. Thanks for sharing your recipes. :)

  41. Irmgard Conley says:

    I have a photo of tools thatI find to be very useful when making Apple Tarte Tatain, or other apple dishes. Leaves less waste.

    Can I send it to an e-address. I am not very skilled navigating blogs…

  42. jenyu says:

    Jason – thanks for being my awesome shooting buddy. xo

    Joann – the butter and sugar cook together and create a type of caramel :)

    Susan – I don’t know, but you could certainly give it a try. Anything with a tartness to it would probably work well.

    Evan – thanks so much! I *loved* this recipe. But then again, I’ve never been disappointed by anything from FC.

    Andrea – I used to love Empire apples when I lived in Ithaca, NY. I don’t find those around here, but if you can try them – they’re great for baking, great for eating.

    Kristin – you’re a good woman there, sacrificing for others… having to eat the WHOLE thing ;)

    Nan – yes, an egg – it was DELICIOUS!!

    Hsin – thanks for the tips :)

    Marla – ha ha, that cracked me up.

  43. tartes and vicars… « lauriebot eats. says:

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  45. Montserrat says:

    I love apple tarte tatin. Have you ever trided to make it with bananas? Or pinneaple? They are so good.
    I like this blog, congratulations for it.
    Bon profit!

  46. agagirls says:

    I just made your recipe for my flatmates and it turned out perfectly. Although I will admit that I cheated and just used puff pastry instead of making the dough which works as a great substitute if you are short on time.

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