I learned how to make a Tart Tatin when our family, my husband and two sons, lived in France. We spent the summer and spring vacations in a farmhouse at the Brittany border in the Northwest. Our host family, Odette and Joseph, their two sons and Odette’s mother, Ma Dedette, had lived in the area since the adjacent chateau was built in the late 16th Century. The chateau, Le Rocher Portail, was a magnificent castle surrounded by a mote. Joseph’s family had been traditionally tied to the land of the nobleman and his family but the ancestral ties were now more convivial than obligatory. By the time we met Joseph and his family, they were prosperous dairy farmers. The farmhouse where we stayed was on the farm adjacent to Rocher Portail and had massive stone walls like the castle. Muddy boots and wooden clogs were lined up against the doorway. A large fireplace dominated the main room that served at once as the kitchen and as the main living space. Everyone sat on wooden chairs around the big oak table and discussed the events of the day as Ma Dedette and Odette cook.
This is an apple tart, with a semi-sweet crust. The recipe is simple but is visually very pleasing, and is a nice change from the more traditional apple pie.
For the Crust:
- 1 Cup unsalted butter
- 1 Cup Sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1 large or 2 very small eggs
- 3 1/2 cups flour
Combine the butter, sugar and salt. The butter ought to be room temperature for easy mixing. When this is more or less smooth, mix in the flour. If the mixture is too sticky add a bit more flour so you can mould it with your hands. Once the crust is mixed, mould it into a round ball and put it in the refrigerator.
- 3 or 4 apples depending on the size.
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 3/4 Cup Butter
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Choose apples that are firm, and not too sweet. Apples that are a little tart are good as well because these will be caramelized in the sugar. Peel the apples and cut out the cores. Cut them into fourths so you have large chunks. Take a heavy skillet and met the butter, sugar and vanilla. Cook until the mixture thickens but is not candy-like. It must remain liquid. Place the apples in the skillet with the exterior surface against the skillet bottom. Cook the apples on a low heat and gently turn them until each piece is caramelized. If the heat is too high the sauce will become hard. Take care not to break the apples.
Making the Tart :
Place the apples in a glass, metal or clay tart pan. Place the large outer surface of the apples against the bottom of the pie form. Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll it out on a flour-dusted surface. Place the rolled-out crust on the pie form over the apples. Trim the edges so only a little bit overhangs.
Heat the oven to 370 degrees F (182 C). Bake until the crust is golden brown. Depending on your oven, you may need to reduce the heat.
When the tart has baked, take it out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack. When you are ready to serve – make sure the crust is not sticking to the sides of the pan. Reverse the tart onto a serving platter. You can serve as is, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.