In this twist on the classic French upside-down tart, pink pearl apples are stewed in a buttery apple brandy caramel and covered in a gluten-free flaky pastry for a dessert that punches you in the face with apple flavor (in a good way).
Today is a festive occasion in Bojon history for several reasons; let’s celebrate with a fancy French apple tart!
1) Bojon has a new look! Thanks to the amazingly talented Jaime and Sarah for making this space so lovely. Have a look around and let me know what you think. I’m particularly excited about the new recipe index, complete with pretty pictures. Now you can easily find embarrassing old posts all in one handy place.
2) Today is the 6th blogiversary of The Bojon Gourmet! To date, there are over 430 recipes in these here archives, 5 million page views, and nearly 7,000 comments! I’m so grateful for the ongoing support from all of my readers over the years. Many thanks to each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.
3) I’m two weeks away from handing in my cookbook manuscript. Stay tuned!
This day calls for a fancy dessert, and even though tarte tatin originated as French peasant food, it’s still French. So it counts. Tarte tatin is one of those genius recipes that seems basic at first; but then you slip a bite of unadulterated appley goodness in your mouth, the skies part, angels sing, and you think, “God. The French are brilliant.”
The story behind this tart is that one day the Tatin sisters, who owned a small hotel in the Sologne region of France, were making an apple tart. Mademoiselle Stephanie forgot to put the bottom crust in the pan but, ever resourceful/harried (depending on the source), decided to cover them with a top crust and proceed with the recipe rather than starting over. Diners went wild. Delicious history was made.
This story may or may not be true but hey, it’s cute.
With tarte tatin, apples are cooked in butter and sugar until lightly caramelized, then topped with a round of flaky pie pastry. After a stint in the oven, the tart is turned out in all is gooey glory. Bronzed apples condense into intensely flavored, silky chunks perched atop shatteringly crisp crust that flakes everywhere. The resulting sweet is greater than the sum of its parts, with knock-out apple flavor smoothed with copious amounts of butter and just the right measure of sugar, and a spot-on fruit-to-crust ratio. Warm from the oven and topped with a scoop of ice cream, tarte tatin pretty much kicks apple pie’s cul.
I found some pretty pink pearls at our co-op which make for an extra-colorful tart, and their puckery flavor plays off the sweet caramel in a way that I find completely addictive (though Granny Smith and other tart baking apple varieties work equally well). I add a splash of Calvados, a slightly funky apple brandy that hails from Normandy, to the cooking apples. This serves two purposes: 1) the brandy helps the sugar dissolve into the butter and adds a bit of complexity, upping the apple ante. 2) Every hardworking baker deserves a little day-tipple, amiright?
My gluten-free all-butter pie dough works beautifully in this tarte tatin. I find it more crisp and flavorful than most wheat pie doughs due to the earthy flours it uses: millet, oat, and ground chia seed. Cornstarch makes it magically crisp, tapioca and sweet rice make it easy to handle, and it stands up well to the juicy apples even after a day or two (should you be so lucky to make it last that long). Buttermilk keeps the dough extra tender. However, do feel free to use any flaky pie pastry or puff pastry you like; my preferred wheaty version adds spelt flour for flavor, and this homemade whole wheat puff pastry would also be superb.
I can never choose between topping warm slices with vanilla ice cream or the more traditional crème fraîche, so I split the difference and went with a spot of homemade crème fraîche ice cream – a pleasantly tangy foil for the tart. These wedges made for a heavenly afternoon snack that ended up being lunch (sorrynotsorry).
Thanks so much for celebrating with me today! Let me know what you think of the new digs. And apologies if I’m a bit quiet these days as I write write write; I do read and appreciate each and every comment!
- 1 recipe Gluten-Free Pie Dough (preferably the buttermilk variation prepared for maximum flake), chilled
- oat flour, for rolling the dough
- ½ a lemon
- 2 ¼ pounds (1 kg) pink pearl apples or other tart, firm baking apples such as Granny Smith (8 medium-small apples)
- 4 tablespoons (55 g) unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) GF Calvados (or brandy or whiskey)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (125 g) organic granulated sugar, divided use
- vanilla or crème fraiche ice cream, for serving
- Have a 10-inch (25 cm) oven-proof skillet at the ready.
- Place the chilled dough on a sheet of parchment paper lightly dusted with oat flour, letting it soften for 5 minutes if it’s too firm to roll out. Roll the dough out into an 11-inch (28 cm) round, dusting the dough as you work. If it begins to stick to the parchment, top it with a second piece of parchment, grasp the whole thing and bravely flip it over. Peel away the top piece of parchment and continue rolling. If the dough tears or cracks, just squish it back together. The dough round will be about ¼” thick or a little shorter. Invert the pan over the dough round and cut the dough ¼” wider than the pan. Slip the dough round, parchment and all, onto a baking sheet and chill until firm while you prepare the apples. (The dough can be covered and stored for up to 1 day.)
- Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with cool water and add the lemon juice and the lemon. Peel the apples, quarter, and cut out the cores and stems, dropping the quarters into the acidulated water as you work.
- Melt the butter and salt in the skillet over a medium flame. Add the ½ cup of sugar to the butter and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar begins to melt and take on some color, about 2 minutes. Swirl in the calvados and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles thickly, 3-5 minutes. It will be beige in color, but don’t worry, it will caramelize later.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Drain the apples well. Carefully place the apples with a cut side down in concentric circles, beginning with the outside, with the fat ends facing out. Really pack them in; they will lose volume as they cook so we want as many as possible in there. It’s ok if they don’t all quite fit in a single layer; they can be nestled in as they simmer. Sprinkle the apples with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF (205ºC).
- Return the pan to a medium flame and simmer until the juices bubble up thickly around the apples and look slightly golden, 20-25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat again. Remove the dough round from the refrigerator, place a large cutting board on top, flip the whole thing over, and remove the parchment paper. Use the board to slide the dough round atop the apples and carefully tuck the edges down around the apples, being careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan and using a spoon to tuck the dough in if needed. This will form a lip when the tart is inverted and prevent the juices from gushing everywhere.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake until the pastry is deeply golden all over, 20-30 minutes. Let cool 1 minute, then use a thin knife or small, offset spatula to loosen the edges of the tart dough and apples. Place a large platter or cutting board over the tart and, wearing oven mitts, grasp it all with your hands and flip the whole thing over. Remove the pan. If apples have stuck to the pan, use a knife or offset spatula to spackle them back onto the tart.
- Cut the tart into wedges and serve warm with vanilla or crème fraiche ice cream. The tart is best the day of baking and will keep at room temperature for 1 day. Leftovers can be refrigerated airtight for up to several days; reheat before serving for best results.