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Ultimate Tarte Tatin

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight to ten

This French caramelized upside-down apple tart is great to serve to guests, because they either know it and adore it, or they’ve never heard of it before and they fall in love with it right at your dinner table. It isn’t hard to make, but it is a bit of a project. A good time to make your pastry is while the apples are cooking.


  • 5 to 6 lb. tart apples (I like Braeburns, Jonathans, Honeycrisps, Jonagolds, or Fujis)
  • 7 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 recipe Pâte Brisée, chilled
  • Crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream for serving

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on ten servings without garnish
  • Calories (kcal) : 400
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 140
  • Fat (g): 15
  • Saturated Fat (g): 9
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4
  • Cholesterol (mg): 60
  • Sodium (mg): 120
  • Carbohydrates (g): 67
  • Fiber (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 3


  • Peel, halve, and core the apples, being sure to get the stem and flower ends clean. In a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet or a tarte Tatin pan, melt the butter, add the sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt around the edges. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to help the sugar melt completely and then let the mixture cook over medium-low heat until it reaches a deep mahogany-colored caramel; if using a dark pan, be sure to lift some caramel out with a spoon to check the color. The butter will pool on the top-that’s fine. As soon as the caramel is the right color, take the pan off the heat.
  • Set aside four of the apple halves and arrange the remaining ones in the pan in concentric circles, standing them upright on their narrowest end and packing them in as tightly as possible (they’ll shrink as they cook). Try to make the rows look neat.
  • Return the pan to medium heat, increasing to medium high as the apple juices begin to flow-the liquid should bubble gently. Rotate the pan occasionally in case there are any hot spots. Use your sense of smell: If you start to smell burnt sugar, immediately turn down the heat. When the bottom halves of the apples are caramelized and slightly tender, flip each one over with a fork and continue cooking.
  • About this time, there should be a lot of juice in the pan and the apples will likely have shrunk and be slumping a bit. Carefully take the pan from the heat and, holding the apples back with a spatula, pour off 1/2 to 1 cup of caramel and juice into a small saucepan (pour off more if necessary; you should have about an inch of liquid left in the skillet). Return the skillet to the heat and continue cooking. Add the reserved apples to the caramel in the smaller pan and cook over medium-high heat until they’re caramelized, about 10 minutes, turning them frequently as necessary.
  • With a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, push the apples in the skillet so they’re tightly packed and upright again; there will be gaps. Holding them in position, transfer an apple half from the small pan and slide it, wider end down, into a gap; repeat with as many apple halves as will fit nicely; reserve the juice in the pan. Continue cooking the apples in the skillet until they’re tender and thoroughly caramelized, inserting another apple half if necessary. The total cooking time could take 35 minutes or more.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and let cool to room temperature. If there’s more than about 1/2 inch of liquid remaining in the pan, carefully pour off the excess into the small saucepan.
  • Heat the oven to 375°F. Roll the chilled pâte brisée dough into a round about 1 inch larger than the pan; the dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the round of dough onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the skillet, gently draping the dough over the apples. Tuck and fold the edge of the dough under to make a rim. Put the skillet in the middle of the oven. (Put a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflowing juices.) Bake until the crust is a rich brown and looks crisp, about 25 minutes.
  • Take the tarte out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes. If more juice accumulates, carefully pour off most of it into the saucepan and then invert a large plate on top of the pan, flip the pan and plate over in one quick move, and lift off the pan. Simmer the reserved caramel and juices until thick and syrupy and then spoon them over the finished tarte or serve alongside. Serve the tarte warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream. Leftovers are best eaten within a day or so; don’t refrigerate.


Rate or Review

Reviews (5 reviews)

  • fortkcook | 01/08/2018

    I decided I wanted to master tarte tatin to serve at a dinner party along with cassoulet and tested this recipe along with several others. Here's what I learned: (1) Regular butter pastry (9T butter to 1 1/2 c flour) works better than the pâte brisée suggested. The egg in the pâte brisée makes for a soggy, leaden crust. (2) Quartering apples works better than the halving them as done in this recipe. More surface to caramelize and a better opportunity to boil out all the juices, which you need to do to avoid a soggy crust. (3) Gala apples work great. They hold their shape so you don't wind up with applesauce. Cut the day before and sprinkle with about 1/4 c of the sugar along with some lemon juice. This will draw out some of the juices so you don't have so much. (4) As other reviewers suggest, caramelize the sugar before adding the butter. Once the butter browns, a splash of Calvados is a great addition. (5) As this recipe suggests, remove apples with a slotted spoon as they caramelize and boil or ladle off some of the juice. You don't want a lot of juice when the tarte goes into the oven or you will wind up with a soggy tarte. Make sure the apples are pretty well caramelized before baking.
    (6) A tarte tatin pan -- Emile Henri makes one -- is worth the investment. (7) To avoid a lot of fussing after guests arrive, roll out your crust a day ahead and freeze. Caramelize your apples an hour or two ahead as well. Take crust out of freezer and lay on tarte about 20 minutes before you plan to bake. Crimp once it thaws.

  • Sangiov | 11/21/2010

    This is a brilliant recipe! The best part is the clever use of the reserved apples to close the gaps once the main portion of apples begins shrinking. It makes the finished tarte look amazing! Suggestion: Make sure your caramel is a rich amber (adds complexity, removes excessive sweetness)! A few tweeks: don't caramelize the sugar with the butter. Instead, make the caramel with a sprinkle of water (I add vanilla seeds and pod as well), and then when it hits the right color, remove from heat, drop a few tablespoons of butter (it'll bubble up and then go smooth--swirl the pan at this point). Add a few good splashes of Calvados, then 30 secs on low heat, stirring. Remove pod, then add the apples.

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