Stephen Harris, food writer for the London Telegraph, and owner and chef at The Sportsman, an award winning pub-turned-restaurant in Kent, wrote a wonderful article about the origins of tarte Tatin. In the article he says that. “the first time I came across this dish it was given its full name: tarte renversée des demoiselles Tatin. Stephanie and Caroline Tatin were sisters who owned the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, about 100 miles west of Paris, at the turn of the 20th century. The story goes that one day Stephanie was making an apple tart and forgot to add the pastry. Not wanting to waste the apples she popped some pastry on top and cooked the tart anyway. When it came out of the oven, she turned it upside down – and the tarte Tatin was born.”
The tarte became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Demoiselles (sisters) Tatin, or the branding of an improved version of the “tarte solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. It matters little to me how the dish was created or inspired. It is a genius combination of flaky pastry, caramel and apple – pure heaven.
I like to add rosemary to my tarte tatin. It gives some earthy depth to the dish when combined with a caramel that is just short of bitter and the natural sweetness of apples. It’s a wonderful dessert for a winter’s evening, especially with cream or ice cream. The pastry I use is simple and quick to make – no tedious folding and rolling and folding and rolling – but is very flaky and light. The rest is simplicity itself. Just remember to use oven mitts when you take the pan out of the oven so as not to leave yourself with blisters on your fingers as I did!
Serves 6 – 8
250 g plain flour
200g chilled butter, but into cubes
125 ml sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 sprig rosemary
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
Heat oven to 190 C. To make the pastry, dice the butter, then pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough incorporates into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Place the sugar, water and rosemary in a 20 cm oven-proof frying pan over medium heat and cook, without stirring for about 7 – 9 minutes, or until a light caramel forms. Carefully add in the butter and stir to combine. Take off the heat. Arrange the apple pieces, cut side up in the pan. Roll out the pastry to about 3 mm thickness. Cut out the pasty into a round slightly bigger than the pan. Carefully place the pastry over the top of the apples and tuck the edges in around the sides. Using a sharp knife cut three slits in the pastry to let steam escape as the tarte cooks. Bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the pastry is well cooked, and there are glimpses of dark caramel bubbling around the sides.
Carefully invert the pan onto a serving plate and serve hot with runny cream, or vanilla ice cream.