5 from 2 votes

Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

The Apple Tarte Tatin is a quintessentially French dessert. There are really two styles of French pastry, the super fussy, Marie Antoinette-style creations that are almost too beautiful to eat and look nearly impossible to create, and then the country-side, rustic sweets that are more delicious than beautiful.

I’d say this falls into the second category, but I think it is stunningly beautiful with its rich caramel apples and flaky pastry peeking out from under them. Rustic yes, but no less gorgeous than a Croquembouche or Paris-Brest, in my mind. 

I’ve often said this is my comfort food, the one dessert I almost always choose on a menu (I rarely pick just one) and I start nearly every trip to NYC with a slice from Buvette in the West Village.

The key to success is having the proper apples. You want them to keep their shape while cooking in the caramel, so they absorb the bittersweet sugar and don’t just turn to mush. I’ve had good success with Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and/or Granny Smith. Stay away from apples like McIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Fuji which break down and make sauce.

Traditionally the crust is a layer of Puff Pastry draped over the caramelized apples and baked upside-down, then inverted to reveal the deep caramel colored apples. The transformation is dramatic and delicious. You can make puff pastry or use a high-quality store-bought version. You can also use Pie dough or even sheets of Phyllo. The crust is the canvas that holds the apples, so you can get creative with whatever you have on hand. Below I give the instructions for all of the crust options.

Puff Pastry Crust
Apple Tarte Tatin | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François
Phyllo Crust
Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin with Quick Phyllo Crust

Apple Tarte Tatin is a quintessentially French dessert. I think it is stunningly beautiful with its rich caramel apples and flaky pastry peeking out from under them. I went with a very non-traditional baklava-like crust for this recipe. I layered phyllo dough with honey, butter, vanilla, and walnuts until I had a crust worthy of the caramelized apples.
*See Baker's Note for Puff Pastry or Pie Dough Crust
5 from 2 votes


Caramelized Apples

  • 7 or 8 apples, peeled, halved and cored use an apple that keeps its shape when cooked.
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 4 tbsp (57g) butter
  • 1 vanilla bean split in half, scraped
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier or Brandy optional

Baklava (Phyllo) Crust

  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 stick (113g) butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 vanilla bean split, and scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (185g) walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped into small pieces
  • Ice cream for serving


Tarte Tatin

  • In a 10-inch skillet melt the sugar over medium-low heat, so that it melts evenly, but don't stir it until at least half of the sugar is melted and turning to caramel. Once this happens stir it and continue to cook until most, if not all the sugar is melted. Add the butter, vanilla bean and booze, give it a good stir and then add the apples. Cook over medium-low heat until the apples are well caramelized, moving them around in the sugar to make sure they are cooking evenly. Once they are cooked, prepare the Phyllo crust.

Phyllo Crust*

  • Heat the oven to 375°F with the rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Melt the butter, honey, vanilla and salt together in a small pan.
  • Brush the mixture over one sheet of phyllo dough, then sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Drape another layer of phyllo over the walnuts and brush it with the butter mixture and sprinkle with more walnuts. Repeat this with the rest of the sheets of phyllo dough, butter mixture and walnuts, finishing with a sheet of phyllo and butter mixture, but leave the top without nuts. Fold the phyllo so that it is the same width as the pan, then trim the corners and edges to fit over the apples. You want the layered phyllo to be slightly larger so you can tuck it in around the apples a bit.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until the phyllo crust is golden brown.
  • Invert the Tarte Tatin onto a serving dish. If any of the caramel is left in the pan, add a bit more booze and deglaze it. Pour this caramel over the tarte. Serve it warm or room temperature with or without ice cream. Makes a great breakfast too.
  • Baker's Notes
    To use puff pastry: Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll the puff pastry out to 2 inches beyond the width of the pan. (The pastry will rise up and shrink in width, so be sure it is large enough.) Drape the rolled pastry over the cooked apples and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the juices are thick. Invert onto a serving plate as instructed above.
    To use pie dough: Preheat oven to 375°F. Swap out the phyllo for a sheet of rolled-out pie dough that goes an inch beyond the width of the pan.
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