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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

A plate with an apple French dessert - Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin | The Caramelized French Apple Tart

Tarte Tatin is without a doubt one of my favourite French dessert recipes. I mean who doesn’t love a combination of caramel, apples and puff pastry?

Now it’s no great secret that I have a love-hate relationship with baking. I’ve had some whopping disasters including hot cross buns that looked like bath bombs and lemon muffins that looked like a battlefield explosion.

But never one to be deterred by a few little mishaps, I’ve soldiered on with my baking.

And I have to say, I have actually improved.

So much so that I decided it was time to up the ante and try baking a Tarte Tatin.

I wasn’t even put off by the fact that you cook it upside down and have to turn it over once it’s done – that in itself is enough to make anyone want to run from the kitchen.

But as I’ve been slowly working my way through the top ten traditional French Recipes, I knew I had no choice but to give Tarte Tatin a go.

And anyway, it’s about time we had a dessert as so far we’ve had Coq au Vin Blanc, Boef Bourginon, and Moules Marinières.

What is Tarte Tatin

I’m so glad you asked. Possibly one of the yummiest French desserts I’ve ever made, it’s also one of the simplest, as far as ingredients are concerned.

Tarte Tatin is a dessert that combines pastry with melt-in-your-mouth caramelised apples. Although you can eat it cold it’s best served hot straight out of the oven.

No complicated list of ingredients as all you need is pastry, apples, butter and sugar, along with some tap water.

What’s the difference between Tarte Tatin and a Tart? ​​

An apple pie with latice pastry - A French dessert

Good question. An apple tart, or Tarte aux Pomme in French, is cooked traditionally, in a similar way to a pie where the pastry is filled with fruit, popped in the oven and baked.

Tarte Tatin is different because the apples are cooked first on the stovetop and caramelised. The pastry is then placed on top and you cook the whole thing in the oven upside down.

The story behind the origin of Tarte Tatin

Two women sat at a table Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin

There are a few versions of this story about the origin of Tarte Tatin. But the one that seems to be the most popular is that it came about as a happy accident in the 1880s in a hotel kitchen belonging to two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin.

The story goes that Stéphanie, who did most of the cooking, was overworked in the kitchen one day. She was making an apple pie and had left the apples cooking in butter and sugar.

Smelling burning she tried to rescue the apples by putting pastry on top, popping the whole thing in the oven to finish it off, and then serving it upside down to her guests.

The dessert went down a storm and so it became a signature dessert of the hotel.

However, it wasn’t until the sisters died that the name Tarte Tatin was bestowed upon the dish.

What apples do you use with Tarte Tatin?

Originally the dish was made with Reine des Reinettes (Pippins) but now pretty much anything goes and it depends on your taste. 

Some recipes suggest using green apples like Granny Smith so the sour taste of the apples offsets the sweetness of the caramel. 

I prefer sweeter apples as I love the mix of different levels of sweetness. The most common tend to be Golden Delicious, Pink Ladies, Fuji and Gala. ​​

What do you cook a Tarte Tatin in?

A pan on a gas hob caramelising apples

Again this is down to personal choice, but as it’s often sold as a one-pot dish many people opt for an ovenproof pan. That way you can caramelise the apples in the same dish as which you bake it in along with the pastry.

I didn’t do this. Here in France, you can get a specific Tarte Tatin oven-ready tin for baking it in the oven. 

So I caramelised my apples on the stove in one pan and then transferred them into the tin, poured over the caramel and popped the pastry on top before putting it in the oven. It turned out beautifully.

Does the Tarte Tatin recipe use puff pastry?

There are recipes for both shortcrust and puff pastry for this dish, but puff pastry is the most recommended. It’s more buttery and flakey and works better when flipping the dessert over once cooked.

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I got shop-bought pastry for my recipe as I didn’t trust myself to make my own. Most recipes tell you to do this so it’s not really cheating.

What to serve with Tarte Tatin

A slice of tarte tatin wiht icecream surrounded by apples and more apple pie

As I said earlier this is a dish best served hot and I kept it simple with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But you could also serve it with whipped cream if you prefer.

However, there are those that say it should be served solo, on its own without anything at all. 

And believe it or not, there is actually a brotherhood for the protection of the Tarte Tatin, called Confrérie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin. They originate from the home town of the Tatin sisters in Lamotte-Beuvron in central France. Their recipe calls for you to serve the dish without any accompaniment.

How to make Tarte Tatin from scratch

A bowl of quartered golden delicious apples

It actually isn’t as hard as you think it is and the key thing to focus on here is the caramel. If you don’t caramelise enough you won’t get that lovely dark consistency of caramel. If you cook it too much it will taste burnt and inedible.

But if I can do it without getting it wrong so can you.

First things first though, apples go brown very quickly so you need to remember to soak them in water with lemon juice to stop that from happening. 

And be warned, when you add the apples to the caramel mix they’ll release quite a bit of water. Don’t worry though, this will thicken up if you cook on a medium heat.


50g of Unsalted Butter (beurre non salé)

100g of White Sugar (sucre blanc)

1 Sheet of Puff Pastry (pâte feuilletée) defrosted ahead of time

3- 4 Golden Delicious Apples quartered (pommes)

1 Lemon (citron)

3 tbsp Water (eau)


22cm Pie tin

Ovenproof Pan

Cooking bowl for soaking lemons

Serving dish for the finished Tarte

A pie with pastry sitting on a board


Step 1 – Fill a large bowl with water and add the juice of your lemon. Then preheat your oven to 190C.

Step 2 – Cut your apples in half and remove the cores. Then cut them into quarters and pop them into the water making sure they’re fully covered. Some people peel the apples, but I didn’t and it helped them to keep their shape and not fall apart. This probably works better with sweet apples rather than sour ones.

Step 3 – Grab your pan and put in the sugar, water and butter. Cook over medium heat and stir as it starts to bubble away. Let it simmer away until it starts to turn a dark golden brown.

Step 4 – Remove from the heat, drain the apple quarters and dry them on some kitchen roll then add to the pan.

Step 5 – Return to the heat and let it bubble away. It will release the water from the apple but don’t worry if you keep it on medium heat it will thicken up. Make sure the apples are all coated in the caramel.

Remember the caramel is ridiculously hot and will burn you. 

Step 6 – time to transfer the apples to your pan ready to bake. Make sure you arrange them neatly and fill in all the gaps. You can always cut some of the bigger apple pieces to make sure it all fits in.

Step 7 – leave the apples to cool and take the pastry out of the fridge. Now I had two packets of pastry, just in case, and I’m glad I did. I removed the first packet from the fridge when I got started to bring it to room temperature. Unfortunately, this made the pastry difficult to manipulate and I how to throw it away. When I used the pastry straight out of the fridge it was a perfect consistency and allowed me to easily use it.

Cut out the pastry so it’s 22cm in diameter and then place on top of the cooked apples tucking in any bits that stick out. 

Step 8 – put the dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is a lovely golden brown colour. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes then run a knife around the edge to loosen things up. 

And this is the tricky part. Make sure you’ve got a big enough serving plate at the ready because you now need to turn the tin upside down so the pastry sits on the plate. Remember, the caramel will still be hot and we don’t want any burns.

Once you’ve done this you might find a couple of rogue apple pieces have moved or become dislodged from their original position. Use a pair of tongs so you don’t burn your fingers, and replace them so they look nicely uniform

Step 9 – serve with ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Famous Tarte Tatin recipes

An apple tarte tatin in an ovenproof pan sat on a tea towel

Top of the list has to of course be Julia Child, the American chef making French Food accessible to American housewives. 

Click here for Julia Child’s Tarte Tatin Recipe >>>

As a fan of the Great British Bake Off, and of course the wonderful Mary Berry, I have to include her version with top tips.

Click here for Mary Berry’s Tarte Tatin Recipe >>>

And as I have pretty much every cookbook Jamie Oliver has ever written I’ve naturally included his recipe too.

Click here for Jamie Oliver’s Tarte Tatin Recipe >>>

Raymond Blanc is about as famous as they come and his is one of the most searched recipes.

Click here for Raymond Blacn’s Tarte Tatine Recipe >>>

And finally, the kitchen goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. I love her version of the individual Tarte Tatins served at a dinner party.

Click here for Nigella Lawson’s Tarte Tatin Recipe >>>

And if you’re a foodie like me, then you’ll love this round-up of 15 of The Best Food Festival in France.

And don’t forget to check out all my other French recipes >>>

Bon appétit et merci beaucoup!


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About Me

I’m Kylie….

And I live in the beautiful Charente region of France having made the move back in 2016, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about living in rural France. From visiting wineries & chateaux to negotiating French admin and learning the language.


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