Trish Deseine takes us through tips and techniques for whipping up the perfect tarte tatin based on a recipe in her book 'Nobody Does It Better'.

Tarte Tatin

Legend has it that many years ago, the Tatin sisters, who ran a café in Paris experienced a little misadventure with an apple pie. There are two stories - first, that one of the sisters was caramelising apples and forgot to put pastry at the bottom, and added it later so as not to waste the delicious caramelised apples; the second, that she tripped taking her apple pie from the oven and it fell face down on the floor of the restaurant. Unwilling to waste her work and her ingredients, she slipped it back on to the plate and served it upside down. Everybody loved it and tarte tatin was born! It is in fact no more or less than a simple upside down apple tart.

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Tips and techniques

  1. Trish likes to use apples that soak up the flavour of the caramel. She uses the variety Boskoop, when she is in France, but experimented here in England with Braeburn and Bramleys. Coxes are also good.
  2. You can make caramel with or without water. Either way it can easily burn so make sure you watch it all the time. The caramel is ready when it turns a nice golden mahogany colour. Best not to stir it, just swirl it around in the pan..
  3. Take the pan off the heat when you add the butter. The caramel will foam and fizz up. Be very careful handling the syrup, it is extremely hot.
  4. You can leave the apples in the caramel and add the pastry later.
  5. Use a good non-stick heavy based pan that can go in the oven.


  • 3 or 4 good tart apples
  • 100g (3.5oz) caster sugar, plus 2-3 tablespoons
  • 75g (2.5oz) salted butter
  • 1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
  • A dash of Calvados or Pommeau (apple brandy)
  • 200ml (7fl oz) crème fraiche

Recipe serves 6

Preparation method

If you are cooking the tarte in one go, preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.

Peel, core and quarter the apples. In a cast-iron frying pan or any heavy-based pan, heat the 100g of sugar with 2 tablespoons water. When a syrup has formed, let it bubble gently until it begins to caramelise.

Swirl the pan about to help spread the caramelisation throughout the syrup (do not stir with a spoon or it will crystallise). When it has reached a golden brown colour (1-2 minutes), take the pan off the heat and add the butter. The caramel will splutter and spit. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon until it becomes smooth.

Add the quartered apples and cook them gently for 3-4 minutes in the hot caramel. Pop the pan back on a low heat if the caramel has solidified.

Taking care not to burn your fingers, arrange the apple quarters in a spiral or concentric circles. If you will be cooking the tarte in a cake tin, arrange the apples in it and pour the caramel from the pan over them.

If you are preparing the tarte for cooking later, let the apples cool down before putting the pastry on top. Leave the tarte in a cool place (the fridge is too cold) until you are ready to cook it. If cooking the tarte in one go, place the puff pastry on the apples and tuck it around them like a blanket on a bed.

Put the pan or tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Take the tarte out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before turning it out onto a deep plate to catch all the caramel and cooking juices.

Mix the 2-3 tablespoons sugar with the Calvados or Pommeau, stir in the cream and serve with the hot tarte. It will also be delicious with plain crème fraiche, double or clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.

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