A green apple stacked on top of another.
A pan holding a cooked apple tarte Tatin.
Apple tarte Tatin.
A green apple stacked on top of another. A pan holding a cooked apple tarte Tatin.
Apple tarte Tatin.
Credit: Photographed by Earl Carter

Apple tarte Tatin

Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Marion, Gimlet and Supernormal. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed by Earl Carter

I don’t know where the idea for upside-down things came from in the kitchen, but there is magic and theatre about it, inside out and upside down. I like the way you almost make something backwards and then it reveals itself at the end. You never know if you’ve fucked it up until you’ve taken it out of the oven, rested it and flipped it over.

Too much caramelisation will leave it tasting burnt – see the picture on this page, where I screwed up. There is also the risk that the apples will break down too quickly and become a puree, which is still delicious but texturally and visually a failure. Undercooked pastry is also a problem – I don’t need to explain what’s wrong with that.

The best apples for tarte Tatin are always being debated. Granny Smiths work quite well, but are quite firm and don’t soften enough. Some old-fashioned baking apples become too soft and pulpy. I’ve read recipes that use a variety of apples, both sweet and acidic, but I’ve never been so bold. The variety I’ve used is Cox’s orange pippin, which is a scrappy little apple you should be able to find at farmers’ markets.

A lot of people believe you should lay the sugar and then lay the apples and then turn on the pan to caramelise. I find the technique a bit risky. There’s more control in making a good even caramel and then adding the apples.

I usually add a little water to my sugar when I’m making caramel, to which I add the apples and cook for a moment to get things happening. Adding the knob of butter after this stops the caramelisation and slows down the process.

You could make your own puff pastry but, if time-poor, there are some reasonable commercial varieties available. The frying pan is also important: my go-to is a heavy non-stick pan with a metal handle, so I can throw the whole thing in the oven.

This recipe is from The Saturday Paper archive. Andrew McConnell is on leave.


Time: 15 minutes preparation + 50 minutes cooking

Serves 8

  • 8 apples (depending on the season, use Granny Smith, pink lady or, best of all, organic Cox’s orange pippin)
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • about 35cm piece of quality puff pastry
  1. Preheat your oven to 190ºC, fan-forced.
  2. Peel and slice the apples in half lengthways. With a Parisian scoop or small paring knife, remove the core of the apples.
  3. Using a template such as a flat plate, cut the puff pastry into a disc, 30 centimetres in diameter.
  4. Heat the 24-centimetre non-stick frying pan on the stove and scatter the sugar evenly over the base, add a splash of water and place over high heat. When the sugar has caramelised add the apples snugly to the pan, cut side up.
  5. Cook the apples for five minutes in the caramel, turn down the heat, then add the butter to the caramel to stop it going too dark. Remove the pan from the heat. Lay the puff pastry over the apples and tuck the edges between the edge of the pan and the apples.
  6. Transfer the pan to the centre of your oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the pastry has risen and is evenly golden in colour.
  7. Once cooked remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  8. Place a large plate or chopping board on top of the tarte Tatin and flip it over to turn out the tart.
  9. Slice the tart into wedges and serve with plenty of whipped cream.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 11, 2023 as "Tatin ties".

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