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A tokaji for your tarte Tatin

It doesn’t take much to make me bake something. A ripe banana crosses my path? I’ll bake a banana cake. A hunk of chocolate lands in my grocery cart? Clearly, I’m supposed to make some brownies. That pound of butter in the freezer? It’s very pushy, always begging to be used, foisting itself into batters and stuff. Gah. And with apple season upon us, you can well imagine the pressure I’ve been under. I must, I must, I must bake something! So when Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page – authors of the must-have book Culinary Artistry, among others – dropped me a note to tell me about their newest title, What to Drink with What You Eat, I was elated. Not only did it give me a perfect excuse to bake a little something – all in the name of beverage pairing, you see – but it gave me good reason to drink a little something, or somethings, too.

As for what to bake, it was easy. Ever since I made my first tarte Tatin – in preparation for this piece over here – my stomach has rumbled at more or less regular intervals for its dark, winy flavor. Both complex and comforting, it is the flavor of fall, if you ask me – although I won’t exactly refuse it in winter, spring, or summer, either. [I’m a real pushover.] And given that it is late October, it seemed only fitting that I pick up a few local apples at the market, tuck them into a skillet, cover them with puff pastry, and turn them into a tarte Tatin.

And then – here comes the fun part – I would send said tart down the gullet with sips of, well, whatever Andrew and Karen told me to.

The plan thus hatched, I sat by the door and waited for the book to arrive. A big, glossy tome with an inviting close-up on the cover, What to Drink with What You Eat is laid out in a fashion that reminds me – in a good way – of a foreign language dictionary. In this case, the “translations” are pairings: part of the book matches beverages to foods, and another matches foods to beverages. If you’re wondering what to drink with miso soup or cheese straws, you’ll want to search the first portion. On the other hand, if you’re curious about what foods go with the bottle of Chimay Blue in your fridge, you’ll want to flip to the second. Each type of food or beverage comes with a list of recommended pairings, some classic – pineapple with rum, or Stilton with port – and some surprising. [I would have never thought to put a glass of Fizzy Lizzy sparkling orange juice alongside a dessert with plums, but come to think of it, it just might work.] And for those seeking general principles and guidelines, there are also a few introductory chapters that explain everything from the sensuous science of balancing flavors to the temperature at which red wine is best served, with chatty, down-to-earth anecdotes. As for me, I headed straight for one page in particular: the one about apples, and apple desserts, more specifically.

Andrew and Karen suggest no fewer than 22 possible pairings for apple desserts, but for the sake of sanity – and so that I wouldn’t slump my way to work the next morning – I decided to choose just three: a sauternes, a Hungarian sweet wine called tokaji, and bourbon.* The first I had tasted before, but not with apples; the second I had read about but never tried; and the third was a shoo-in, seeing as a bottle of Woodford Reserve was sitting in our liquor cabinet. With the help of my preferred local wine shop, I chose a 2003 Château Lamothe Guignard Sauternes - a good year, the merchant told me - and a 2000 Royal Tokaji. A couple of hours and one warm tarte Tatin later, we were ready to taste.

Now, far be it for me to make bold exaggerations - I usually leave that to Brandon - but I discovered something momentous at the table that evening. It is this: apples were invented, I believe, for the express purpose of being served alongside a Hungarian tokaji. Sure, bourbon is lovely: smooth, spicy, with a whiff of vanilla and a delicious afterburn that together bring intrigue to the simplicity of apple. It’s awfully hard to quibble, too, with the soft sweetness of sauternes, or with its satisfying, syrupy mouthfeel. But the amber-colored tokaji was the only one that had us pausing to mull over its complex flavor - brown butter, butterscotch, silky, delicious - and then reaching for a refill. It not only made the tarte Tatin’s deep, caramelized flavor taste even deeper, but in turn, the tarte somehow made the tokaji taste even better too. Less sweet than sauternes and less cloying than bourbon, this stuff is addictively good; as Brandon said, “I want to drink the entire bottle.” But thank heavens he didn’t, because the little bit we have left - not to mention the other 19 pairings to be tried - gives me good reason to bake another tarte. Andrew and Karen, I owe you one.

* Brandon, Mr. Bourbon Man, was surprised to see that his beloved booze was not listed as a possible pairing under the word “apples.” But we flipped to the listing for whisky, and sure enough, there it was: “apples.” We assumed that whisky / bourbon’s absense from the apple listing was just a simple oversight, and so we forged ahead. Please pardon our boldness.

Tarte Tatin
Adapted from David Rosengarten’s Taste and Julia Child’s The Way to Cook

Don’t be intimidated by this classic dessert’s fussy look, or by the length of this recipe: it’s very straightforward. And I’m very verbose.

5-6 large apples, preferably Golden Delicious or Ginger Gold
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
6 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
About 14 ounces puff pastry (store-bought, such as Dufour brand, is just fine; if frozen, be sure to let it thaw for about an before using)

Peel and quarter the apples, removing the cores such that each quarter has a flat inner side. Toss the apple quarters in a large bowl with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes.

In a 9-inch cast-iron skillet set over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar, along with a few tablespoons of the apple-lemon juices. Stir to mix. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture is a smooth, bubbly, pale caramel color.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add apple quarters, arranging them rounded-side-down in a decorative pattern. Arrange a second layer of apples on top wherever they fit, closely packed. This second layer need not be terribly neat. Top the apples with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into dice.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the apples over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, occasionally spooning the bubbling caramel liquid over them. Press them down gently with the back of a spoon — don’t worry if they shift a bit in the liquid; just move them back to where they were — and watch to make sure that no one area of the pan is bubbling more than another. Shift the pan as necessary so that the apples cook evenly. They are ready when the liquid in the pan has turned to a thick, amber ooze. The apples should still be slightly firm. Do not allow them to get entirely soft or the liquid to turn dark brown. Remove the pan from the heat.

On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to a thickness of about 3/16 inch. Using a sharp, thin knife, trace a circle in the pastry about 10 inches in diameter (1/2 inch wider all around than the skillet), and trim away any excess. Carefully lay the pastry circle over the apples in the skillet, tucking the overlap down between the apples and the inside of the pan.

Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the pastry has risen, and is dry and golden brown. Remove the skillet from the oven, and let it to rest for a minute or two. Tilt the pan and look down inside the edge: if there is a lot of juice, pour most of it off into the sink. [Do not pour it all off, or the apples may stick to the pan.] Place a serving platter upside-down over the skillet and, working quickly and carefully (it’s hot!), invert the tart onto the platter. Rearrange any apple slices that may have slipped or stuck to the skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with a tokaji.

Yield: 8 servings - or less, if you, like me, like seconds


Blogger Pille said...

Molly, you always post timely recipes! When moving my stuff from my parents' house to my boyfriend's place last weekend, I found a forgotten bottle of 1988 Tokaji (4-stars) in my cupboard. I've also got loads of apples from my mum's garden, as well as from my granny. Sounds like a match made in heaven, eh?!

2:37 AM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

First time I made one of these it came out black with motor oil sugar sauce :P Second time I used cooksillustrated's recipe and it worked damn well :D

6:58 AM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Love the beautiful, rich color. Bet it tastes as good as it looks.

7:04 AM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

Yum yum Mollie, your tarte tatin looks délicieuse ! Tu me prends par les sentiments, là !

7:54 AM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger christianne said...

Thanks for the book recommendation -- we have Champagne Tuesdays over at our house (most) every week and are always looking for new foods to pair with our wines.

The tart looks beautiful. I've never made one before, but I might need to give it a shot this weekend.

9:24 AM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous kayenne said...

Mmm... I've always meant to make a tarte tatin, but I often end up doing an apple oat-crumble instead, at my sister's pleading. I still want to try it though and this post just reminded me why. I'm one fo those who just can't leave a recipe alone. Often having to change this or adjust that. That said, I'd love to try this with peaches and pears and perhaps a scattering of walnuts and a touch of cream. Ambitious of me? hehe

In reference to your previous post on licking knives, I've a habit dad's been after me on. An apple on one hand, a sharp paring knife on the other. I eat slice apples up as I eat them out of hand. Using the tip of the knife to pop apple pieces into my mouth. =D I felt that bting into an apple, especially with company is too unfeminine or lacking in poise. so I use a knife. LoL

BTW, I love the way that your blog is so unpretentious and simply down-to-earth despite having so many followers. It's easy to read and makes you more "reachable" or "accessible" to your subscribers.

Keep it up!

9:31 AM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous FoodieNerd said...

Hi Molly! I just wanted to let you know that Andrew and Karen are hosting a dinner with drink pairings at the Dahlia Lounge on November 6th (it includes a signed copy of their book). I am going and you should too! Here is a link for more details. http://www.kimricketts.com/cooks.html

It looks like one of my favorite bakers, Dorie Greenspan, will be in town on Nov. 15th, too.

9:55 AM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anita said...

That is one gorgeous tarte tatin. And I love the pairing with Tokaji - what could be better? Bravo!

2:13 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Judy said...

I've never eaten Tarte Tatin, but I sure love saying it!

6:30 PM, October 27, 2006  
Anonymous lory said...

mmmm,ça l'aire très bon!!

7:36 AM, October 28, 2006  
Blogger LB said...

What a beautiful tarte tatin! And I've got a bottle of Tokaji just sitting around waiting for the right partner!

3:22 PM, October 28, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Nice looking tart, Molly. I see French isn't the only thing you mastered in Paris!

3:11 AM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger Tony said...

Ah, Molly, a tarte tatin recipe that must be tried!

It looks like the real mccoy. http://www.tarte-tatin.com-sommaire is very strict about what constitutes a tarte tatin: they even have a collective de la pomme and suggestions about how to pick and reject poor copies in restaurants...

Your recipe is almost exactly the same and so I am sure they would approve!

In moments of laziness, I have cooked cored, peeled apple quarters in butter and cinammon with calvados, lined ramekins with caramel and popped them in the oven covered with pastry. needless to say, this is not a tarte tatin and although yummy, the collective de la pomme would not approve. They would approve less of the sour cream/sugar/almond essence that I have served with it....

I also have a bottle of tokaji that has found a use. Thanks!

Just back from Burgundy (gosh do they eat well) so I'm off to make gougeres with gruyere.

6:39 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger pat barford said...

Tastes as good as it looks! The tart topped off what turned out to be a mainly Molly meal with the roasted cauliflower, shaved fennel salad and the tart tatin for dessert. It was fabulous, though the pastry shrunk quite a bit and might almost been mistaken for a beret.

8:30 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger lobstersquad said...

well, well. I´m I the lucky one or what? I just received a bottle of tokay a few days ago, and since tarte tatin is my absolute all time favourite apple dessert...thanks!

12:44 AM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Esther said...

Any non-alcoholic drink recommendations? For those of us yet underage?

12:46 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh, your tart looks stunning. Carmelize anything to such a dark, sticky degree and I'm slayed. I'll definitely go looking for some Tokaji. I love wine pairing that takes me a little ways off the beaten track. Thanks!

7:53 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Lia said...

Tarte tatin really is one of my most favorite desserts, especially this time of year. I like to serve mine with a nice dollop of thick, creamy Greek yogurt to help cut the sweetness a bit. And although I think I make a pretty mean one, yours looks absolutely amazing. You certainly are impressive Molly!!

If only you had posted this one week earlier, I would have served a tokaji with the one I made last Sunday. Now I know for the future!

8:40 AM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Leah said...

Molly, why are you always so darned cute? More to the point, how are you always so darned cute?!

10:35 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Pille, we must have synchronized our kitchen clocks or something - what perfect timing! That bottle of tokaji is just begging for a tarte Tatin, I'll bet...

Wheresmymind, you're a good man to have given it a second shot! That "motor oil sugar sauce" could have scarred you for life - yikes - so cheers to you for persevering!

Thank you, Sarah! It did taste pretty damn fine, if I do say so myself.

Bea, tu es trop gentille!

Christianne, this Champagne Tuesday thing sounds like something we need to do at our house too! Wow. Yes.

Thanks so much for your kind words, kayenne! It's important to me that Orangette be the sort of blog that I want to read, so that's how I try to write it. And as for the tarte Tatin, it's high time you tried it! It would be delicious with pears, too.

Thanks for the tips, FoodieNerd! I have heard about those Cooks & Books dinners, and I would love to go. Unfortunately, Brandon and I aren't going to be able to make it to the Dornenburg-Page dinner, and I'll be traveling for work when the Dorie Greenspan one rolls around. Harumph!

Thanks, Anita!

I know what you mean, Judy. "Tarte Tatin" does roll off the tongue awfully deliciously.

Merci bien, lory!

LB, it sounds like there's a tarte Tatin in your immediate future...

Aww, thanks, David! I didn't actually get to try making one of these in Paris - not having an oven in my apartment was a real drag - but trust me, I tried plenty of 'em to know a good one when I eventually made it.

Oooh, Tony, I am very jealous of you, what with that recent trip to Burgundy. My mom and I did a little road trip there in late 2001, and we ate lots of gougeres - among other things, of course! And as for the tarte Tatin, thanks for letting me know about the Collective de la Pomme. Somebody's got to protect us from the sub-par tarte Tatins out there...

Pat, I'm honored to hear of this "Molly meal" of yours! Too funny. And as for your beret of a puff pastry base, hmmmm. I wonder what could have caused it to shrink like that? Anyone have any ideas?

You're welcome, lobstersquad. Hope you enjoy...

Good question, Esther. Andrew and Karen's book also recommends apple cider (alcoholic or non-), Darjeeling or Ali Shan Oolong tea, and ginger ale (a spicy type like Reed's might be interesting). Hope that helps!

You're welcome, Julie! I was so happy to discover what a good match this is. I'm now officially an enthusiastic advocate for tokaji...

Lia, I should have known that you would be a fan of tarte Tatin! I love your idea of a dollop of Greek yogurt - it's perfect, sort of like a less rich creme fraiche. I'll have to try that next time...

Oh Leah, I just ooooze cuteness! It's coming out my pores. Except for when I'm a terrible, horrible, cranky person, which happens sometimes too. Brandon, want to tell 'em about the not-so-cute stuff? Man, sometimes I am so not cute.

8:09 PM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger melindy said...

Hey Molly- not related to your current post- but I live in Portland, Oregon. I wanted to direct you to


I tried your carmelized cauliflower with chickpeas, red onion, and poached eggs and loved it- good call.

10:02 PM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Anali said...

The tart looks great and you were especially timely with the tokaji. I love sweet wines and a while back, a Hungarian co-worker mentioned it as something that I would like.

A few weeks ago, I remembered the tokaji, because I saw an article stating that this wine has protected status as a product of Hungary. I guess this is going to be a problem for some Italian wine producers. Here are some interesting links.



10:15 PM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Molly, that pedestal you're on just keeps gaining altitude! Tarte tatin is my personal nemesis. I have made it no less than seven times, and each one has been an utter disaster: burnt caramel, undercooked apples, overcooked apples, soggy pastry... I was beginning to think a perfect homemade one was just an urban legend, but you've certainly shot that theory down!

6:15 AM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger Julia said...

oh, molly - it's if you've read my mind(!) thanks for your (great looking) recipe, I was just looking for one and this one looks sooo stunning (!) amazing!
this weekend I had my FIRST tarte Tatin EVER in Paris at Laduree, and you can't believe how good it was...(or maybe you can - perhaps you ordered it as well once - or twice - when you lived there...) =)
can't wait to try this one, and have memories floating back by tasting it...=)

7:50 AM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Very nice to meet you, my southerly neighbor Melindy. And I'm so glad to hear that you're as big a fan of that caramelized cauliflower as I am. Pretty good stuff, huh?

Thanks for the links, Anali! Very interesting...

Melissa, given all the gorgeous baked goods that come out of your kitchen, I am just floored to hear of your bad luck with tarte Tatin! Don't give up, my friend - this is one nemesis that can definitely be conquered.

Oh Julia! I know just the tarte Tatin you mean - Laduree makes a divine one! You picked the right place to have your first tarte Tatin. It's going to be hard to match it, ma cherie, but this one, if I may so myself, is pretty darn good.

10:11 PM, November 01, 2006  
Blogger karin said...

I made this on the weekend and it turned out fantastic, the leftovers were quickly demolished! I think I may have overcooked because I did not get the apple definition you have in your pictures, but the applesauce topping was very delicious.

5:08 PM, November 07, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh Karin, I'm so glad to hear that you liked it - applesauce-y or no!

10:30 PM, November 08, 2006  
Anonymous jo jo said...

hi molly,

i'm a fan of your blog, yummy recipes. please check out my dating & dining blog


i couldn't find a contact email for you so i'm writing to you on your comment section.

my best,

jo jo

5:13 PM, November 10, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, jo jo! I'm so glad that you left a comment to tell me about your site. I just hopped over there and am smitten already - love it! All the best to you and your new blog.

7:25 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger andrea said...

this recipe looks so wonderful...i was just wondering what i can do without the puff pastry. is there a way i could make it myself?
thanks for your beautiful site by the way

10:17 AM, April 24, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Andrea, I'm sorry for taking so long to reply to your comment - I was out of town and away from the computer until the 27th - and I hope it's not too late! As for the puff pastry, if you can't find it in your grocery store, you can certainly make it yourself, although it's very labor-intensive - so much so, in fact, that I've never dared to try making it myself! I'd suggest using pate brisee instead, which is a classic, French-style pie or tart dough. My favorite recipe is Martha Stewart's, which you can find here. You'll need only a half batch for this tart. Good luck!

7:10 PM, April 29, 2007  
Anonymous DC Sarah said...

I'm such a fair weather friend. In the beginning of summer, I am so thrilled, and want to frolic and picnic and go to the beach. However, come the end of August I feel limp and droopy and am CRAVING FALL. That's my mindset right now. I want pretty leaves, crisp days, the smell of fires, and cute sweaters. And I want yummy apple desserts. Guess what I'll be trying my hand at soon, for the 1st time?? :) This looks AMAZING, and I think it will be just the thing to welcome my boyfriend back from a month in Saudi Arabia, and welcome the return of Fall, n'est-ce pas?

10:01 AM, August 31, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Yep, DC Sarah, this is definitely just the thing! Hooray for apples, and crisp days, and pretty leaves! Hope you and yours enjoy it all.

9:18 AM, September 03, 2007  
Anonymous Daughter Fish said...

Molly, just wanted to let you know that I've made this tart twice in the last week (and once long ago) and it's now my favorite desert. I added a quarter cup of Pommeau de Normandie (blend of apple must and apple eau-de-vie) to the butter and sugar mixture, which adds an extra layer of flavor. But otherwise left everything the same. Love this recipe! Thank you!:)

5:18 AM, December 02, 2011  
Anonymous Amy, UK. said...

Hey Molly. I wanted to let you know about the exciting cake I made for my friend's birthday last night- it seems like the kind of thing you'd be interested in knowing about.

Based on your recipe I made her a tarte tatin cake- I cooked up the apples just as you would for a tarte tatin but instead of then adding pastry and putting in the oven I transferred them to the bottom of a lined cake tin. I then added the batter for a basic Victoria sponge cake and cooked up another sponge cake too.

I kept hold of the precious cooking liqueur left over from the bubbling apples and bubbled up another batch of apples while those cakes cooked. I let the second batch of apples cook so they were almost falling apart and completely saturated with the delicious buttery caramel- which I then took out of their caramel and blended to a tarte tatin puree.

I then combined the leftover appley caramels and let them bubble away for quite a while until they were quite thick and sticky- to which I added about 100ml of double cream to make a butterscotch sauce.

Once the cakes had cooled I sandwiched them together with the blitzed appley goo and copious amounts of the delicious appley butterscotch sauce.

And it was good.

All the best,
Amy xxx

2:32 AM, February 05, 2012  
Blogger Molly said...

Amy: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That sounds absolutely incredible. Incredible! Feeling inspired now...

Cheers to you.

11:19 AM, February 05, 2012  
Blogger Cannella Vita said...

Just made this, and like all of your recipes, it came out wonderfully :) I only needed three apples instead of 5 :) (maybe my skillet is a bit smaller). I will do a post on it soon!

2:20 PM, September 19, 2012  
Anonymous Julia | JuliasAlbum.com said...

Well, I've made this, following your instructions and also Smitten Kitchen post. It came out fabulous! I also added strawberries in the center and cooked them in the caramel sauce, too. Strawberry and apple flavors infused with caramel - it was such a delicious dessert!

3:47 PM, March 21, 2013  
Anonymous kirst said...

aaaaah! pour off the cooked apple juices into the sink?! non, pour them into a pan, reduce to a delicious syrup, and glaze the tarte. Then you have the most wonderful apple flavour

1:36 PM, November 19, 2014  

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