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What is a Tarte Tatin?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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Tarte tatin typically refers to an apple tart, where the apples are mixed with butter and brown sugar, and the crust is placed on the top. Allowing the apples to cook without a crust on the bottom gives them a wonderful caramel taste, but the real work begins when you serve the tart. Since tarts usually have a bottom crust and no top crust, you generally must invert the tart onto a plate. Some people call the result apple upside down cake, or pie, instead of tarte tatin.

The origins of this recipe date back over 100 years, and like many popular desserts, several different versions exist as to how tarte tatin was created. It is arguably one of the most well known of accidental baking inventions. However, most recipes credit Stephanie Tatin as the inventor. On origin tale is that Stephanie, the joint owner with her sister Caroline, of the Tatin Inn, made glorious apple pies. Instead of simply baking the apples in a crust, she would sauté them first with brown sugar and butter, but being tired one day, she forgot to turn off the heat on the apples. They started to caramelize, and to rescue her dessert, she placed a pastry crust on top of the apples and baked them.

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Another story suggests that Caroline was so tired that she created tarte tatin by accidentally making her famous apple tart upside down. While necessity may be the mother of invention, both accounts suggest that exhaustion can sometimes result in unplanned inventions that turn out for the best. Both stories are credible, especially for anyone who has spent a day doing most of the cooking for a respected hotel.

The resulting tarte tatin soon became a favorite at the Hotel Tatin, and then became known throughout most of France. When the owner of the famous Maxim’s Restaurant in Paris, Louis Vaudable, visited the Hotel Tatin, he fell in love with the dessert too, and had it added to Maxim’s menu. Since Maxim’s was so well known, not only the French, but also many visitors to France discovered tarte tatin and now numerous recipes exist for it, including variations with different types of fruit.

Though most often if you’re baking pies you’d choose baking apples like Granny Smiths or Gravensteins, they’re not appropriate for tarte tatin. Golden delicious varieties tend to be sturdier and will hold up better with this upside down pastry. Another hint if you’d like to serve this recipe, is that you really don’t have to invert it, especially if your pastry crust is stuck. You can serve it with crust on top and apples on bottom, even though most recipes recommend the inversion.

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Telsyst
Post 4
In contrast to the top crust tarte tatin, an apple crisp is usually made with an oat and sugar combination that makes a crunchy topping for the apples and does not caramelize them as a tarte tatin does.

Apple Brown Betty is more like a crisp than a tart, except, instead of the oat crumb mixture, it uses a bread crumb mixture, which is usually layered with the apples.

SpecialBug
Post 3

To think that something as delicious as tarte tartin was a happy accident!

Ahmerus
Post 2

I find this article very interesting, not to mention mouth watering. I am familiar with Apple Crisp. It is similar to the Tarte Tatin, in that it is minus one crust. An apple crisp has a bottom crust but not one on the top. But, I have never heard of an "upside down apple pie". The crisp is sliced and eaten right-side-up.

Jewellian
Post 1

Is a Tarte tartin similar to an Apple Brown Betty or an Apple Crisp? Either way, yum!

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