Tarte Tatin a la Marketman


My wickedly overpriced mini-tarte tatin (PHP150) from Diamond Hotel Bakery a few weeks ago reminded me to make a normal sized tarte tatin at home. I have made this delicious dessert several times before, but oddly, I don’t think I have written a post about it. It is so incredibly simple to make, so beautiful to look at, and almost always, simply delicious. If you dress it up with some whipped cream or good vanilla ice cream, it ranks up there in the top 10 global desserts, in my book anyway. A couple of years ago I featured an even more stunning pineapple upside down cake which is worth a re-visit, here, if you are into these caramelized fruit and pastry desserts…


I have referred to several different tarte tatin recipes over the years, but my most recent reference has been Patricia Wells’ “The Paris Cookbook,” though I don’t follow her recipe strictly. One of her suggestions is to find an apple you have access to and if it works well, stick to it. It is great advice as I have tried tarte tatins with Granny Smith’s (got too mushy), red or golden delicious (disaster since the locally available ones are awfully mealy), royal galas (too mushy, surprisingly) and fuji’s. I find that using the smaller fuji’s, probably imported from China, works the best out of the locally available apples, though I lament the lack of access to Northern Spies, Winesaps and other great apples from North America and elsewhere.


Here is the way I make the Tarte Tatin. Use a 9-10 inch heavy cast iron pan with at least 2 inch sides. Peel and core 10 small to medium sized, fresh and CRISP fuji apples. If you want a beautiful pie without gaps, err on peeling too many apples, perhaps even up to 12 small fujis for a 10-inch pan. Slice the peeled apples in half vertically, so that you have about 20-24 pieces. Next, sprinkle just under one cup of white granulated sugar onto the bottom of the cast iron pan (I sometimes use vanilla sugar, which is white sugar that has been placed in a large container with several vanilla beans, so the sugar is already infused with spectacular fresh vanilla flavor… this is the ideal choice for marketman). Next add about 8-10 tablespoons of good sweet (unsalted) butter in little clumps distributed over the sugar. Add generous drops of pure vanilla extract (artificial okay if you don’t have the real thing), all over the sugar if you are using plain white sugar and butter. Then carefully arrange the apple halves in concentric circles, with the core side facing up or to the ceiling.

In other words, the rounded sides of the apples are facing down. Refer to the picture above. I only had 8 apples at the beach when we made this, so it is a bit “loose” but you really should try to pack them in a bit so that the resulting pie looks really well “covered” with caramelized apples. Turn the heat up to medium and once it starts to gurgle, turn it down to low and let this just simmer for about 50-60 minutes, or until it just starts to get a light brown color. Patience is truly a virtue on this one. Do not rush the process, you will be rewarded with superb flavor if you take this slow. However, if you are at about 40-45 minutes and it seems to be going too slow, cover your pan for a minute or two and the bubbling should increase a bit and remove the cover and let it continue to simmer. Baste the apples every so often with a pastry brush to ensure that they cook a little more evenly. Not to worry if some apples start to get a little brown, but do NOT burn them. When the sauce is a nice thick caramelized color, turn off the heat.


Pre-heat an oven to about 400 degrees or even slightly hotter. Next, with a thawed piece of puff pastry, cut out a circle that is big enough to cover the apples. Prick the puff pastry and place the puff pastry over the apples and stick the cast iron pan into the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry puffs up and turns a golden color. Remove from the oven and prepare for the hardest part of the recipe… You have to quickly but carefully flip this all over so that you get the apples on top. Be careful as the caramelized sugar is wickedly hot and CAN burn your skin badly. We flipped it onto a large pizza pan instead of a plate, and that made things a little easier. Serve warm or at room temperature.


The results? The photos speak for themselves. This was superb tarte tatin. The apples were soft yet not mushy. The dessert sweet but not cloyingly so. The color was dramatic and picture perfect. If I had peeled pistachios with me, chopped, I think it would have looked better than the Diamond hotel version. And the total cost was roughly PHP300 and easily served 10 guests, or PHP30 a slice, 1/5th the price of the Diamond Hotel mini-tarte. My only criticism is that the pastry does tend to get soggy rather quickly, particularly here in the tropics. Nevertheless, this is one truly easy and spectacular dessert. If you can’t find puff pastry, you can make other types of pie pastry and use that instead. Hmmm, if this is so easy, why can’t I find a decent tarte tatin in a Manila restaurant, or is there one that I haven’t tried???

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20 Responses

  1. Beautiful! I also make my apple crumble with Fuji apples. But, MM, baste the apples with what? and where did you buy puff pastry?

  2. corrine, just dip the pastry brush into the melted sugar and butter in the pan and dab and baste the “tops” of the apples facing the ceiling. I bought the puff pastry at S&R, they have it at Santis too.

  3. where can i get vanilla beans in manila or better yet pure vanilla extract? of course i find the latter cheaper than the former even in the US but here in manila i presume it’s twice the price..anyway for convenience, how much vanilla extract can i use in your recipe? thank you and your tart tatin looks delicious.

  4. That looks delicious! It’s the start of fall here and apples of all kinds abound in the farmer’s market (I live in WA after all…). I’ll try to make this next Saturday after my weekly market trip.

  5. elaine, you can buy good locally grown plump vanilla beans at Cook’s Exchange in the Malls, or the baking stores in Mandaluyong, see an earlier post of mine called “Baking Ingredients 101” – the comments have a wealth of sources. I haven’t found pure vanilla extract here, I stock it when I go on trips. You can use about 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract…

  6. I have baked tarte tatin several times for guest. It never fail to impress. Golden delicious apples work best if they are not very ripe. The aroma and appearance when you turn it upside down just make everyone droll. Yummy! Must try your pineapple tart recipe.

  7. This is also in my to-bake list. I have an unused unseasoned cast iron pan but it’s only 8 inches. Maybe someday :-)

  8. That is one awesome-looking tarte tatin, MM!…for pure vanilla extract, here’s a tip for anyone interested…if you know anyone going on a trip to Mexico, ask them to bring back PURE Vanilla Extract. It is sooooo cheap there! Last time we went there (business conference with hubby), I ended up with soooo much vanilla. Almost all of the pharmacy managers that went there, gave me 1 lt. bottle…Here’s another tip: make sure the first ingredient reads VANILLA BEAN EXTRACT as opposed to AGUA!

  9. The Fuji apples available here (Toronto) all year round are also from China. Cheap (49 to 69 cents/lb) currently suffering from maligned suspicion of toxicity. They are a lot noisier to eat than most, fills the room with that perfume you unmistakably identify with apples and withstands oven heat too. Hard to find those attributes in a single fruit although my taste seems to seek tartening cooked Fujis with a squeeze of lemon.

    A tongue twister for you: Ta tarte tatin t’attend. Your tarte tatin awaits you.

  10. Make your own vanilla extract by steeping vanilla beans in your choice of liquor. I am currently letting 7 vanilla pods do their magic in a bottle of vodka, some suggest bourbon, or brandy, or whatever floats your boat. Takes a month to get the essence out, but the longer you keep the pods in there, the more vanilla-ey it gets.

  11. Mila, I am curious, is the vodka turning a nice brown? How much vodka did you use for the 7 pods, I have to try this as I use way too much vanilla extract and it is hard to come by. Apicio, you are right, the fuji’s can be bland and lemon would enhance their flavor, but in the slow cooked tarte tatin, they were brilliant. shalimar, creme fraiche, heavy cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream would all be brilliant with this tarte! betty q, thats a good reason to visit mexico! candygirl, you may want to season the cast iron pot so that it doesn’t rust. Just wipe it with vegetable oil and stick in a hot oven for say 2 hours then let it cool. Wipe off any excess oil and store in the cupboard. Use the pan every so often to keep improving the seasoning… juli, yes, I was told golden delicious would be a good choice, but I can’t get good ones here…

  12. Hi MM. I’m relatively new to your site and am enjoying it immensely. So is my husband and family as they have been benefitting (sp?) from the cooking & baking I find myself doing over the past couple of months. Your posts (esp. the fabulous pictures) have inspired me to spend a lot more time in the kitchen lately. (which means I should spend a lot more time at the gym as well, but that’s another story!)

    Pardon my ignorance but what is the correct pronounciation of “tarte tatin”?

  13. ang sarap sarap naman. i want to challenge myself. i hope the instructions are as easy as it sounds when i’m doing it na. hehehe. well, if hiro nakamura can travel bet times and bet spaces, i surely can make my own tarte tatin. tarte tatin a la dumpiii… just hope it won’t go down the dumpiii… thanks, marketman.

  14. MM, just wanted to let you know I made the tarte tatin for our weekly lunch with the in-laws last Sunday and it was a hit! I served it with vanilla ice cream and it was so yummy! Thanks to your step-by-step pictures I could tell if I was on the right track or not.

  15. Yes, it’s amazing how easy it was to make and yet it looked so impressive and tasted even better than it looked!

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