Recently mum called with a request.
“I was hoping you could give me the recipe for that lovely apple dessert you made once, what’s its name? Oh yes, the Tarte Tatin’.
Flutter of pride.
After years of telephoning you for recipes Mum, I am sending one back.
I learnt this method for a Tatin, famously French, but often found on Milanese menus, at L’Antica Trattoria della Pesa. The deep copper coloured apple tart sitting on the sideboard was perhaps the first thing I noticed when I walked into in this magic old world corner of Milan, near Porta Nuova. I was with photographer Robyn Lea while she photographed her book Milan: Food, Fashion and Family in a Private City and there I was, seven months pregnant with Alberto, notebook in hand, eagerly scribbling down the chef’s secrets to the majestic Tatin. Surely one of the greatest desserts of the world, it was a box-it-up-for-eternity food moment.
Antica Trattoria della Pesa, with its classic tiled floors and waiters in long white aprons flapping around with plates full of beautifully executed Milanese classics cradles memories of perfect meals with both my father and my son, with hopefully many more to come. It’s a must visit if you are in Italy’s Northern capital, and one of a selection of Milan tips that you can find here.
For a tarte tatin a frypan with a metal handle that will go in the oven is essential. Copper will make it feel more, well French, but a good steel pan or a non stick with metal handle will work perfectly. (Just don’t try it with an aluminium pan or you will be eating it with a spoon out of the pan)
for a roughly 24 cm pan
For the rough puff pastry (1 roll store bought puff or brisée also satisfactory)
175 g plain flour
40 g butter for pastry
70 g butter for the lamination
For how to make rough puff follow notes and steps here.
6 apples – my tips are Breaburns, but Goldens and Renetta (good green colour) work too
200 g sugar
80 g butter
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Peel, halve and core apples and place them (core side down) in the frypan. Cover with sugar and cubed butter and place in a 160°C oven for 30 minutes, or long enough for the apples to start to cook. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. Raise the oven temperature to 180°C.
Turn the apples over so that they are now core side up, and arrange in a nice circular pattern. Place the sheet of pastry (cut 2 or 3 cm’s bigger than the pan) over the top of the frypan and carefully tuck the edges in under the apples. This will give the tart a lovely border. Prick pastry with a fork.
Place in a 180°C oven for a 30-40 minutes or until pastry has turned to a golden shade. Home made pastry may take a little longer.
Now for the tricky part. Remove from the oven and place over a lively flame to further caramelize the bottom (which will be the top) of the tart. This is the part I am honestly a bit worried about my 83 year old slightly absent minded mother taking on. You have to keep an eagle’s eye on the liquid in the tart and remove from heat when it starts to turn a rich caramel color.
Finally, the tart needs to be turned out almost immediately or the caramel will stick to the pan, but let it rest just a couple of minutes before placing the serving plate over the frypan, and inverting the pan so that the tart falls out, now face up. Use a spatula to scrape out extra stickiness, or any of the apples that fail to fall. The difference in colour between the two examples below – made on different days – show just how much the level of caramelization can vary.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with thick cream.