I am happy to share my favorite simple dessert, a classic that every cook should learn to make. The process is simple: You essentially boil a broken caramel and it re-emulsifies, thanks to all of the juice that comes from the apples during cooking. The pectin in the fruit binds it all together, so by the time the pan is nearly dry, the apples are cooked through and the caramel has thickened.
The dessert is named for the Tatin sisters, who really did exist. While the tarte is legendary, how I came upon this method was quite accidental. Of course, I had baked tarte Tatin, eaten it, and bought it at bakeshops. But when I was living in a halfway house in St. Paul and busing tables and washing dishes at a schizophrenic French restaurant in Minneapolis, I fell in love with this dish.
The pastry chef was a young woman named Eileen O’Connor and she would make six of these amazing tarts every day—we sold a ton of it. I was always hanging out in the back of the kitchen watching her work, and I was impressed. I had never seen the covered pan technique. About two months after the restaurant opened, I became the chef (it’s a long story) and the first thing I wanted to do was master Eileen’s technique. It took years but I kept making the tarts.
We made one in my garage for a photo shoot while we were taping a Food Network special and all the stylists gathered around, helping peel apples and I taught them all to make this French classic. The Tatin sisters would have been charmed.
Click here to get the recipe for tart tatin!
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