Master Pastry Chef Jacques Auber’s recipe for this classic French caramelized upside-down apple tart is a bit different from any other recipe I’ve come across. Though the ingredients are the same, apples, butter, honey (my change) and a round of puff pastry, his technique creates an exceptionally delicious combination. Though a bit complex it’s not difficult to prepare. Nevertheless, you’ll need to begin your Honey Apple Tarte Tatin the day before you want to serve it, as it does take a bit of time.
Most of that time involves its resting in the refrigerator or in the freezer. The rest of the time is for peeling (or not) the apples and letting them simmer mostly undisturbed on top of the stove.
“The amazing thing about Tarte Tatin is how the caramelized apples are somehow transformed into something entirely new but at the same time remain intensely apple-y.”
Edward Schneider, New York Times, 10/2/2009
Here’s my friend Robin posing with her very first Honey Apple Tarte Tatin. She began her tart on Christmas Eve and served it for Christmas dinner. Robin and her family agree, Honey Apple Tarte Tatin makes the perfect finale for holiday meals.
Jacques Auber, Master Pastry Chef
A number of years ago, I worked with Jacques Auber. This was at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood. The Bel Age is no more, having changed ownership a couple of years ago. The hotel’s restaurants served the most wonderful food and incredible desserts and pastries (the latter all from Jacques’ recipes).
Jacques made the most delicate, buttery, crisp and tender croissants. He was a master with pulled and blown sugar, chocolate, huge statement wedding cakes, and gorgeous cakes and tarts and butter creams in the most luscious of flavors. I learned so much from him. Including how to make the best Tarte Tatin I’d ever tasted.
Jacques’ recipe requires many more apples than most recipes. For example, an 8 ½ inch tart requires about 12 apples. One of Jacques’ techniques was to fit in additional quartered apples during the first hour of cooking as the other apples softened. Next he would cook the apples on the stove top for another three or more hours. All these deeply caramelized apples create an exceptionally delicious tart and a beautiful presentation.
Whereas almost everyone else (including Jacques) uses white sugar, I’ve replaced it with half as much of a light (so as not to overwhelm the flavor of the apples), unprocessed honey. The apples cook in their own juices along with butter and honey. Rather than just tasting sweet, the honey adds a distinctive layer of flavor.
To peel or not to peel
My husband balked at peeling another dozen apples for the latest Honey Apple Tarte Tatin. As the majority of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in apples are in their peel, I was willing to try an experiment. We only quartered and cored the apples without peeling them.
And really, there was very little difference. Occasionally you’d find a bit of tough peel. Otherwise the tart looked the same and tasted as delicious.
Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin
“The Tarte Tatin has become a global phenomenon which is not a small achievement for the two sisters who just set out to bake a great dessert.”
Learn more about this celebrated French dessert and its humble beginnings at the Friends of the Tarte Tatin website.
Thank you, Master Pastry Chef Jacques Auber, for teaching me your exquisite recipe for Tarte Tatin, from which Honey Apple Tarte Tatin was lightly adapted.
♥ Any size heavy-bottomed saucepan at least 3-inches deep will work. Adjust the number of apples and proportion of other ingredients accordingly.
♥ Begin the day before you want to serve it.
♥ Choose baking apples (preferably organic) that will retain their shape even after hours of cooking, such as Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.
Makes an 8-1/2 inch tart, 8-12 servings Printer-Friendly Recipe
Start to Finish: 16+ hours including overnight in the fridge, a couple of hours in the freezer, 3-5 hours cooking on the stove
12 medium baking apples, peeled or not, quartered and cored
2 ounces butter
½ cup light, local honey
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted according to the package directions
- Place the butter and honey in a saucepan over low heat. Stand the quartered apples on end. (This may take two people to hold the first ring of apples in place.) Tightly pack as many quartered apples as possible in opposite concentric circles in the pan. Top with a flat saucepan lid that just fits inside the saucepan. This lid gently weights down the apples.
- The heat should be low, but just high enough for the butter and honey to simmer.
- During the next 75-90 minutes, remove the lid every 15 minutes. As the apples soften, pack more and more quartered apples into the pan. Replace the inside lid each time.
- Continue to cook the apples at a simmer for another hour. Remove the lid. Gently shake the pan from time to time to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook the apples another 2-3 hours until the pan juices have become a rich golden brown.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Roll out a sheet of puff pastry. Cut a circle of pastry to just fit the inside of your saucepan. Use the tines of a fork to dock the pastry (randomly poke holes in it). Cover the apples with it, tucking the edges over the edge of the apples.
- Place the saucepan in the oven on the lowest rack. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Note: if your saucepan has high sides that are keeping the puff pastry from browning, change the oven from bake to high broil for two minutes to brown the puff pastry. Immediately remove the pan from the oven/broiler.
- When the tart has cooled to room temperature, place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours and up to a month.
- Remove the tart from the freezer. To unmold it, place the pan directly on a burner set on medium. After about 15 seconds, use your flat hand to swirl the tart in the pan. Once the tart swirls easily remove the pan from the heat.
- Place a serving platter or cutting board over the pan. Using both hands, invert the Honey Apple Tarte Tatin onto it. For the best flavor and texture return the tart to room temperature before serving.