There's nothing as American as apple pie, but France's tarte Tatin is an easier (and, dare I say, tastier?) way to enjoy autumn's abundance of apples.
Tarte Tatin features deeply caramelized apples that are topped with a crust and baked, then inverted when it's taken out of the oven so the crispy crust is on the bottom and the beautifully golden apples and gooey caramel get a chance to shine on top.
I think we all can agree that making the crust for a traditional apple pie is a torture best suited to those with perfect marble countertops (try rolling out crust on sloppily grouted tile, and you'll know what I mean) and the patience of a saint (for both rolling of the dough and then scraping it out of said grout).
Luckily when it comes to tarte Tatin, the crust doesn't need to be perfect. In fact, tarte Tatin is often made with premade puff pastry, so you don't have to worry about making your own crust at all.
If you do desire the buttery crunch of a traditional shortcrust, never fear. You need to roll out only one, and since it's going to be on just the bottom of the tart once you flip it, it doesn't need to be perfect. You can patch and press dough crumbles together, and no one will be the wiser once the tart is inverted. I've used this super-easy food processor crust from The Food Lab with great results in the past, and this vegan pie crust from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken is surprisingly flavorful and easy to work with too.
As for apples? Firm baking varieties work best, from the classic Granny Smith to Jonagolds and Fujis. But the best thing you can do is use firm-fleshed apples from as local a source as possible, and don't be afraid to mix several varieties. The tarte Tatin is made with thick slices of apple, so their flavor really shines, and it's the perfect way to showcase the best varieties the season has to offer.
Ready to start baking? You can try our own faux tarte Tatin, which is real enough for us. It has only four ingredients, which is a very good thing if you bake as much as I do in the fall. You may find the tips in this tarte Tatin recipe from The New York Times helpful as well.
Don't get me wrong, American apple pie is a treasure. But sometimes you want a little something special, and when the elegant version of your favorite fall treat is actually easier to make, what have you got to lose in making it?
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