The Ghost Of A Perfect Apple Tart Tatin

Apple Tart Tatin 2

If only the caramel had cooked for just a couple minutes less.

I mentioned last week that I had made an apple tart tatin that was, shall we say, less than perfect. The ice cream I served it with, however, was to die for.

I had never made an apple tart tatin before – usually I opt for a rustic apple tart when I have to use up a bunch of apples. A tart tatin is an upside-down tart – apples and sugar are placed in a baking dish, covered with a pastry crust, and baked. The sugar forms a lovely caramel that bakes around the apples, making for a spectacular presentation when the tart is turned out.

Sounds lovely, right? But I wanted something just a little more challenging than a simple baked dessert. So I found this recipe for apple tart on Smitten Kitchen that required more than mere baking – it has you boil the apples in caramel for a good 20 minutes before placing in an oven with a pastry crust to bake. It sounded dangerous, daring, challenging – what could tempt fate more than cooking apples in boiling caramel?

But the execution was, shall we say, a tad challenging. The recipe suggests to cook this in a cast iron pan, which I don’t own, opting instead for a sturdy Calphalon model that my mother gave me when I was in college. Perhaps it wasn’t thick enough, perhaps I cooked this on too high of heat, but the caramel burnt both times that I attempted this recipe. It all looked so promising – the caramel looked thick and golden, the apples softened and smelled delicious . . . until it became really, really brown and the smoke alarm went off.

The first time I made this, everything got burnt – the caramel became a little too brown, the apples turned black on the bottom – it was a lost cause. The second time I made this, the caramel turned just a little too brown, and only a few of the apples were burnt – a definite improvement. I served it at my dinner party for the Tuna Noodle Casserole, and my friends were . . . well, some of them ate it. Some of them thought it was too burnt for consumption, including me.

Still, I would definitely try this recipe again. After all, I still have a good 10 pounds of apples to dispose of – so what’s another pound or two? And I got so close the last time, I could almost imagine what the tart tatin would be like were it perfectly executed.

Speaking of which, would anyone like to come over for dinner soon? There’s no way I can eat an entire apple tart tatin by myself.

Apple Tart Tatin 1

Those apples area just a tad bit too burnt.

Get the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.



  1. Yeah, boiling caramel sounds like it means burning caramel. And making caramel with apples in the pan sounds like it means burning apples. It sounds delicious but definitely a gamble! I’ll have to try it out sometime and see what happens.

    • moderndomestic said

      I think it’s one of those recipes where you have to make it several times before you can pull it off. Considering that my second attempt went much better than my first, who knows what the third or fourth attempt will be like! It’s all about knowing what temperature to cook the caramel at, and that’s something you figure out by trial and error.

  2. Alice said

    That does sound delicious. Maybe I’ll give it a try with some of my apple haul.

    • moderndomestic said

      You should! You can become my other recipe tester – I mean, you kind of already are.

  3. Erin said

    i’ll have to try that. It sounds like, if mastered, it will be perfection. I was never a fan of cast-iron, but my husband is wild about it. I’ve really come to appreciate how much my $25 pan offers a good layer of protection, especially for anything simmering over my less-than fantastic stove top.

    • moderndomestic said

      A cast iron pan is one of those thinks that I don’t want to use that often, but when I want one I really want one. For some things (like caramelizing), it supposedly can’t be beat.

  4. Third time’s a charm! Go for it – now I’m curious if it can be done. If not, cast iron should go on your christmas list!

    • moderndomestic said

      Oh my God, there are SO MANY THINGS on my Christmas list.

  5. Ellen said

    Really love your photos, they make me hungry!

  6. katy said

    Um, I voluteer to come over for dinner & “help” you eat a tart tatin. Heck, I’ll even bring dinner! 😛

    (I’m not much of a baker myself, unfortunately).

  7. Bonnie said

    You can pick up a Lodge cast iron frying pan at an old fashioned hardware store for $15-20 (depending on size).

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