Tarte Tatin

James Beard

Author and Educator

This French upside-down apple pie, tarte tatin, is baked in a skillet —not a pie pan—with the bottom crust on top. The key to a successful tarte lies in the type of skillet you use. Cast iron, enameled cast iron, or a special tarte tatin mold, available at many kitchenware shops, are best. In any case, it should be heavy-bottomed, with a handle that can withstand the heat of the oven.



  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ice water (optional)


  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • 5 to 8 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters or sixths
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter, cut in tiny pieces
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)


Mix flour and sugar with butter. Add egg yolk and salt. Work the fat into the flour and egg mixture very quickly with your fingers or a heavy fork (or do it in a mixer with a paddle attachment), breaking up the fat and mixing it with the flour until it is the size of small peas. At this point you may or may not need additional liquid. Judge carefully. If you add too much liquid, you’ll have to add more flour, and that makes a tough crust. If you do need liquid, add a little ice water, a tablespoon at a time, work it in, then see if you can pull the dough into a ball with your hands. If not, add a touch more water. The idea is to get a light ball of dough that can be rolled out without crumbling or breaking apart. Pat the ball rather flat on plastic wrap, wrap it up, and chill in the refrigerator from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

When you are ready to make the tart, dissolve sugar over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed 8- or 9-inch skillet. Heat the sugar until it turns a delicate brown, then remove from the burner. Be careful that it doesn’t burn.

Arrange the apples on top of the melted sugar. The number of apples you use depends on the size of your pan; you need enough to fill the skillet and mound up in the center. Sprinkle them with 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, and dot with butter. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, if you like the flavor, although neither spice is used in a traditional tarte tatin.

Carefully roll out the chilled pastry to a size that will fit inside the skillet. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow for shrinkage. Lay the pastry over the apples, tucking it down inside the skillet. Make about three holes in the top with a skewer or the point of a sharp knife.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the crust is brown and firm to the touch and the apples bubble up a bit around the edge. Remove from the oven and let stand 2 minutes; then run a sharp knife around the edge of the tart and invert it onto a plate larger than the skillet. Do this quickly and deftly so that apples don’t fall off.

Cut into wedges and serve warm. Heavy cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream make delicious accompaniments.


6 to 8 servings