I'm almost ashamed: it took me almost 34 years to bake my first tarte tatin. Embarrassing? Maybe, but let me explain. Italy and France are so close, yet for most Italians French cuisine is as exotic as Chinese or Indian. If you take away the few creperie and bistros, there is hardly anything else French-food related left in Italy, and even then not a good replica of the original at that. It is easier to find an Italian who knows what sushi is than one that has tried a real blanquette de veau or a choucroute Alsacienne, unless you meet someone who spends his or her holidays across the Alps. Until I moved abroad I was not different from my fellow compatriots.
Since then my food interest have luckily widened, also thanks to the web and fellow food bloggers, especially Clotilde and Martine, and my home cooking now includes a few French dishes I really enjoy. To my own surprise I've even made duck confit from scratch, with quite pleasing results. Five years ago I didn't even know what confit was.
Tarte tatin had been on my "to try" list for quite a long time. It sounded easy, maybe even too much so. Baking some of Pierre Herme's desserts seemed more challenging and stimulating. Once I found out this great photo essay on how to make tarte tatin on eGullet I could not wait any longer.
According to the official tarte tatin website it all began early in the last century in the heart of France, in Lamotte Beuvron. Caroline and Stephanie Tatin, two sisters running the homonymous Tatin Hotel, are the two women we have to thank for this delicious cake. Tarte tatin was probably born from a baking disaster turned into a success:
[Stephanie]... was a particularly fine cook but was not the brightest of people. Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth. One day during the hunting season, during the midday scramble, Stéphanie placed her tart in the oven the wrong way round. The pastry and apples were upside-down but, nevertheless, she served this strange dessert without giving it time to cool.
Thank goodness for that mistake!
Did I think tarte tatin would be simple? Hit me with a stick. The recipe itself might be simple but getting a perfect result definitely is not. For a first try I am quite pleased with my tarte, yet I know it can get better. Still work to do in getting the right caramel color, not too light but not too bitter, choosing the right apples and laying the apples in a nice regular design. Mainly because of my laziness I used puff pastry instead of shortcut, I can see how the latter could make the tarte even better. And now sorry... off to bake tarte tatin again ;-).