Meditations

Tarte Tatin: The Upside-Down Pie


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Perhaps you’ve noticed something called Tarte Tatin on the dessert menu of your favourite restaurant. If you ordered this legendary French treat, you probably marvelled at how lovely this twist on mom’s traditional apple pie can be. The only dessert I’ve ever known to have it’s own WikiPedia entry and it’s own website, Tarte Tatin is essentially nothing more than upside down apple tart where the apples are first caramelized in butter and sugar, then baked with a pastry covering on top and flipped over at the finish. It’s not as easy as it sounds perhaps, but worth the effort. And the story of how this gastronomic delight came about is quite interesting.

There are a few versions of how the original Tarte Tatin came to be, but it is well accepted that it was first discovered around 1889 at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France. The hotel was owned by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin, and was well-known by local hunters and travelers who brought back stories about an amazing caramelized apple upside-down tart to Paris. Eventually the recipe made its way to the famous Maxim’s in Paris and has been a popular dessert ever since.

The most common story goes that one day Stéphanie, who was apparently overworked and tired, became distracted (perhaps by a handsome patron) while making a traditional apple pie and left the apples cooking in butter and sugar too long. By the time she smelled burning, the apples had already become caramelized, so she placed her pastry dough on top and baked the whole works in an attempt to save the pie. After a quick flip to serve the pie to her hungry guests, a French dessert classic was born. And fans of French food have been enjoying versions of the dish ever since.

I recently made a couple Tarte Tatin pies and was going to type out a recipe I had, but found this very good version online. Give it a try! Try experimenting with other fruit such as pears or even a savoury version using onions.

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