Monday, January 17, 2022

Tarte Tatin #Recipe by Maya Corrigan

In honor of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday this week (Jan 19th), I'm sharing a recipe for tarte Tatin from my 4th Five-Ingredient Mystery, The Tell-Tale Tarte. When my sleuth Val caters a dinner for a book club discussing a novel set in Paris, she serves a French apple tarte. The dessert exposes the truth about a crime, as the tell-tale heart does in Poe's story of that title.

I'd eaten tarte Tatin in a French restaurant, but never made it myself until I had to come up with a recipe to include with my mystery. My first step was to read half a dozen recipes from reliable sources. The recipe I found most helpful was "Foolproof Tarte Tatin" by Julia Moskin, The New York Times, October 22, 2014. Though I use the same ingredients, I changed the recipe to cook the apples before adding the pastry. I also altered the cooking time on top of the stove and in the oven.

In a previous post, I showed how to make a personal tarte Tatin, an easy dessert. The full-sized version of this upside-down apple dessert isn't easy or quick, but it's well worth the effort. It's the most daunting dessert I've ever made because it requires turning a hot cast iron skillet upside-down to release the baked tart onto a platter. 

Have you ever tried making a daunting dish?


6 - 8 large apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (A mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples works well.)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) softened unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 frozen puff pastry sheet (defrosted according to package instructions)

Equipment: a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet


Slice the bottom off each apple to give it a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples lengthwise and remove the cores.

TIP: Cut the apples 1 - 3 days before making the tarte to dry them out. Otherwise, you may end up with too much juice in the tarte. Put the cut apples in a lightly covered bowl in the refrigerator. However, if you don't have time to let the apples dry out, put a piece of foil on the wire rack under the skillet when it goes in the oven to catch any drips. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees when ready to cook. The apples cook first on top of the stove and then in the oven. They go into the oven twice, first without the pastry on top, and then with the pastry on.   

Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of the seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet and sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom.

Arrange the apples vertically in the skillet, standing them on the flat end, in concentric circles. Pack the pieces close together so they support one another. Apples that stick up higher than the pan rim will shrink down as they're cooked.

Cook the apples you've placed in the skillet over medium high heat, 15 - 25 minutes until the juice is bubbling and a deep golden or light brown color.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake the apples for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (F).

Prepare the pastry while apples are baking: roll out defrosted puff pastry on a floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Put a 10-inch plate upside-down on the pastry and use a sharp knife to cut out a circle the size of the skillet's top.

Once the apples are ready, lay the pastry circle over the apples, and tuck it around the apples. cover them with the pastry circle.

Put the skillet in the oven with the pastry on top and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (F).

Remove the pan from the oven, 

The raw pasty on top of the apples 

Bake the tarte at 400 degrees until the pastry is browned, approximately 20 minutes. Check it after 15 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too dark. You want the crust to be a nice golden brown. If it still looks pale after 20 minutes in the oven, bake it a few more minutes.

The pastry after baking


Move the skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. If the tarte stands longer than 30 minutes after being baked, heat it over low heat for 1 - 2 minutes before turning the skillet over.

Put a cutting board or platter over the skillet. Use potholders to hold the skillet tightly against the board or platter. Turn the skillet upside-down. If apples stick to the skillet, add them to the top. 

Cut the tarte in wedges and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or just eat it plain.

Serves 8

The top of the tarte Tatin after inverting it

I made this tart in the final hours before The Tell-Tale Tarte book was due to the publisher, so I didn't stop to take a lot of photos. However, the fabulous baker and mystery writer Kim Davis featured this Tarte Tatin recipe on her blog, "Cinnamon and Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder." She also created a video illustrating how to make the Tarte Tatin

Five-Ingredient Mystery #4

It’s a cold January in the Chesapeake Bay area, but Cool Down Café manager Val Deniston has plenty to sweat over—like catering a book club event, testing recipes for her Granddad’s cookbook, and catching the author of a deadly tale of murder . . .

The last thing Val needs in her life is an unsolved murder, especially when the victim, an actor famed for impersonating Edgar Allan Poe, happens to be dressed exactly like her Granddad. To keep an eye on Granddad, whose latest job takes him to the home of Rick Usher, a local author inspired by Poe, Val gets herself hired as a cook in Rick’s House of Usher. When she discovers the actor wasn’t the only one doing an impersonation, separating the innocent from the murderous becomes a real-life horror story. But Val must decipher a killer’s M.O . . . or she can forget about finding POE-etic justice.


Maya Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries featuring café manger Val and her live-wire grandfather solving murders in a Chesapeake Bay town. Maya lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Before writing crime fiction, she taught American literature, writing, and detective fiction at Northern Virginia Community College and Georgetown University. When not reading and writing, she enjoys theater, travel, trivia, cooking, and crosswords.

Visit her website to sign up for her newsletter. One subscriber wins a book each time a newsletter goes out. Check out the easy recipes, mystery history and trivia, and a free culinary mystery story on the website.

What's the most difficult recipe you've ever tried?


  1. I am so happy to find your recipe today. It is snowing, gray and the rhododendron leaves are stiffly folded downwards against the cold. All of the ingredients are in my kitchen and I look forward to serving Tarte Tatin with dinner! Many thanks!

    1. Thank you for commenting, Lil. I hope you enjoy the Tarte Tatin. ~Maya

  2. At one time I thought my recipe for this light and fluffy cheesecake was the most difficult one to make. It's not that it's hard, but rather there are three different parts of the recipe and each step has to be at the perfect stage when mixed for the dessert to be a success. Now after years of making it and knowing when to start each step to get to that perfect stage, it's a whiz to make. So I think part of what makes a difficult recipe might be the newness of the procedure, unfamiliar with the ingredients or just needing to practice to get there. I've learned to just not give up. A recipe might not be perfect the first time or the second but if you love the flavors or the one's you've eaten else where, it's worth the practice and time it takes to get it just right. :)

    Can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kay. You're right that practice in cooking, as in everything else, improves the results. I hope you try the recipe and enjoy the tarte Tatin. ~Maya

  3. I made Julia Childs' Triple Chocolate Bomb for my husband's birthday one year. First you make a brownie like cake in a sheet pan. Then you cut it to fit an 8" bowl. (I'd made paper templates before to make it easier.) Then a luscious chocolate mousse. Any left over brownie gets mixed into that. The mousse goes into the brownie lined bowl with a disk of brownie covering the top. Cover and chill. Turn it out onto a plate. (It looks like a wonderful dome of chocolate-ness.)
    Over this you drizzle melted chocolate and a scattering of chopped nuts.
    It's so intense that you need barely sweetened whipped cream to go with it. It looked small, but a little went a long way.

    1. Wow, Libby. I'll look for that recipe and give it a try. Thanks!

    2. Thanks for describing that rich dessert, Libby! It sounds wonderful. ~Maya

  4. Oh my word, Maya. I can smell it and taste all the way over here in Illinois. Mmmmmmm.

    1. Nothing perfumes a house better than baking with apples, butter, and sugar. I'm glad you picked up the aroma in Illinois! ~Maya

  5. I need something for a church carry-in dinner and I think I found what I am making! Thank you for sharing the recipe. As far as a difficult dish I've make - homemade cheesecake - I did it in my instant pot and it was wonderful.
    madam hawk at g mail dot com

    1. Thank you for your comment, Madam Hawk. I never knew cheesecake could be made in an instant pot. ~ Maya