Citizens, the tarte Tatin is one of the most beloved of all French recipes: an upside-down pastry in which the fruit (usually apples) is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.
Legend says that the tarte Tatin was first created accidentally at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Paris, in the 1880s.
The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the most common is that Stéphanie Tatin, who 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.
Truth be told, a version of this dish had been served around the Sologne region for many years, but regardless of its origins the tarte Tatin has an impassioned and devoted following. It even has its own “secret society”, the Confrerie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin, dedicated to guarding and communicating the “true” version of the recipe.
This is the “genuine” recipe, adapted from the Confrerie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin. It is the recipe as held by Le Grand Maître du Secret, which I have slightly tweaked to include a touch of vanilla in the sugar to add a bit of complexity. I am also using ½ turbinado sugar for better caramelization and my own personal suggestion of ideal Apples.
I also use a great trick that prevents the tart from becoming too juicy: peeling the apples the night before and putting them to dry in the fridge.
Feel free to omit my changes to create the canonical version of the recipe – the original called for Golden Delicious apples. No matter which version you use, it will be spectacularly delicious, Citizens!
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