La Tarte Tatin

Imagine biting into layers of sweet, caramelized apples, held together atop a buttery base made of short paste. This dessert transports me back to Paris, and its numerous bistros which would often carry an upside-down apple tart for dessert. I've prepared this dessert several times over the years and never tire of it. I hope you wont either. 

The recipe is from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1", and in my opinion, one of the desserts that you have to learn, and better yet, a great one to start out baking. Yet again, I admit that my opinion is heavily biased since this is the first Julia Child dessert I ever baked. 


For the Short Paste Base

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon chilled vegetable shortening 
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

The Apple Topping

  • 4 pounds crisp cooking apples (about 10 apples, I used half Granny Smith and half Gala)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • Optional confectioner's sugar


  • Pastry blender
  • Rolling pin
  • A pyrex dish to bake the tart in (preferred, so you can se how the apples bake)
MEP Tarte Tatin

Tip: Measure the flour by using a measuring cup set over waxed paper. Sift the flour over it. 

Flour overflow

 When it has overflown, take a knife and swipe the excess flour off, without compressing it in. This way you're sure to have the right amount of flour. 

Removing excess flour

Excess flour? No problem. Just use the wax paper to pour it back into your flour bag.

Putting back flour

Now back to baking.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon chilled vegetable shortening 

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and vegetable shortening and mix it in with the pastry blender. Mix it until it ressembles a pile of flakes. 

Flaky dough mixture
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Add a bit of the water and incorporate with one of your hands. Take care that you only use your fingers, and not the palm, since you want to make sure that you do not transmit too much heat onto the mixture. You will end up with a smooth ball of dough.

Dough ready

Place the dough in a counter with a couple of tablespoons of flour. The next step is called the fraisage. It consists of using the heel of your hand to push through some of the flour on the surface, and ensure an even mixture of all the components. Once again, only use the heel of your hand so that you do not warm the mixture too much. Below is a picture of what this operation looks like. 


Make a disc once the fraisage is complete.

Dough disk

Grab a couple of sheets of wax or parchment paper and your rolling pin, and make a circle with the dough. It should be slightly larger in diameter than the pan you will use to bake the apples in. 

Rolled out dough

Place the dough, rolled out between the sheets, in the refrigerator while you continue to prepare the recipe.

  • 4 pounds crisp cooking apples (about 10 apples)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut them into 1/8 inch slices. Toss the slices in a bowl with sugar and cinnamon.

Mixing apples
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter

Use the softened butter on the pyrex pie dish. It should be heavily buttered.

Buttered pie dish

Sprinkle half of the sugar on the bottom on the dish and arrange the third of the apples over it. Sprinkle with melted butter. 

First layer of apples

Repeat with half the remaining apples, half of the butter, followed by the rest of the apples, the butter and the remaining sugar.

Sugar over apples

Take out the rolled pastry from the oven and place over the dish. Make sure that you tuck in the edges into the pie dish. Cut vents to allow steam to escape, and place the dish over a large baking sheet. You will need the sheet as the caramel will boil out and it's better to keep the sugar on a sheet, as opposed to the bottom of your oven.  

Tarte tatin ready for the oven

Place baking sheet and dish on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Julia recommends to bake for 45 to 60 minutes. In my case, it baked for 1 hour 30 minutes. After 40 minutes I placed a loose sheet of aluminum foil to avoid browning the tart too much. It is ready when you can observe the apples are caramel brown, and that the syrup boiling in the dish is thick and brown. Remove from the oven.

After removing tart from oven

Let cool on a rack on top of baking sheet for 10 minutes. Use a blunt knife to loosen sided of pastry from dish, and very carefully, using gloves, towels and a quick movement (as it is still very hot), reverse onto a fireproof serving dish. 

Tarte tatin unglazed

This method of baking does not result in a shiny caramelized top layer of apples. So we fix it by sprinkling the top heavily with confectioner's sugar. 

Dusting with powdered sugar

Turn the oven broiler on to 500˚F. Place the dish on the upper rack and carefully observe the tart as the sugar turns into glaze. DO NOT leave unattended, as the sugar can go from caramel to burnt molasses in a matter of seconds. As soon as you see the sugar melt, carefully remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. 

Tarte Tatin

And here it is! Let the tart cool down and enjoy while it's still warm. You can serve it by itself, with a bit of whipped cream, or bring it to the new continent and serve with some vanilla ice cream. Any way you enjoy it, you'll be sure to love it and wonder why you didn't make two instead of one.