Tarte Tatin that anyone can make – A can-do how-to

This blog is courtesy of Kim Carlson, co-founder of Culinate.com

As legend has it, the tarte Tatin was invented in central France more than a hundred years ago, when one day a cook at the Hotel Tatin baked an apple tart in a skillet and then inverted it onto a serving plate.

Of course, there’s more to the story than that, but when you make a tarte Tatin, that’s what you can expect: an upside-down apple tart, the apples bathed in a gooey, sweet-scented caramel, the crust a flaky and browned plate of buttery crispness.

In many tarte Tatin recipes — including Julia Child’s — the instructions recommend you precook the apples on the stovetop, as was originally done, before adding the pastry crust on top. Then you bake the tart another 20 or 30 minutes to brown the crust.

Not everyone agrees the effort is worth it.

And there is a simpler way. In her book The Grand Central Baking Book (co-written with Ellen Jackson), Piper Davis — the cuisine manager of Grand Central Baking Company in Portland and Seattle — includes a short essay about baking her first tarte Tatin years ago on her family’s farm.

Looking for a streamlined method to make the dessert, she whipped up an uncomplicated cinnamon-roll-style caramel in a skillet, added plenty of crisp cut-up apples, and topped it all with a rough puff pastry (a recipe for which is in the Grand Central book; another version is available from Martha Holmberg in her book, Puff).

Then Davis baked it for a full hour, like a regular pie, until the apples were baked through and the pastry a dark golden brown. As Davis family legend has it, that first simplified version was stunning.

When we ate a recent version of the tart, we had to agree; it was ethereal, a true taste of autumn.

Serve your tarte Tatin while it’s still warm. Davis recommends vanilla ice cream alongside; we concur.