Sunday, August 26, 2007

Apricot Chestnut Tarte Tatin

Stone fruit is at its peak right now, though technically it’s been in season since the second or third week in July. From mid-August until probably the first week in September, the peaches are at their most fragrant and the plums are at their juiciest. So this is the time to feast. Make jam, roast or grill some fruit for serving over ice cream, or just – and this is my favorite – sit in the bath with a large, unadulterated bowl of the juiciest specimens and have at it. My mother used to put us in the bath to eat peaches when we were small anyway.

Apricots are one fruit I actually prefer cooked. I’m not sure if it’s the slightly drier texture of the raw apricot, or the fact that, where even gentle cooking can diminish so many fruits’ fragrance and flavor, with apricots it brings them to their height.

Tarte Tatin originated in 1889 at the Hotel Tatin in the Loire region town of Lamotte-Beuvron. There one of the Tatin sisters, Stéphanie, who handled most of their hotel’s cookery, was overworked one day and left the pie apples cooking too long in their butter and sugar before wrapping them in pastry. Tradition has it that when she smelled burning, Mademoiselle Tatin tried to salvage the apples by tucking a pastry base over them and giving them a speedy bake in the oven just to set the dough. Upon inverting the dish onto a serving plate, she found the deeply golden apples set into their crust and the whole dripping in a decadent apple caramel.

This version, irresistible in late summer, was inspired by another hotel – one further south in the ancient Roman town of Nîmes. Years ago, I spent a few days there, and our hotel’s garden was full of chestnut and apricot trees – all heavy with fruit in that late Provençale summer. A few heavenly hours in that fragrant garden still serve as a sensory reminder of how magically natural the combination of apricots and chestnut is, and it wasn’t long before I started adding a little chestnut flour to my apricot Tarte Tatin. I find the gentle nuttiness and slight smokiness of the chestnuts really come out once the pie has had a chance to cool down a little.

Just be sure to turn the tart out as soon as you take it from the oven. Any apricots left in the baking dish can be rearranged once the tart is on the plate. And use a serving dish with a rim, as the caramel in this recipe is runnier than in the traditional apple Tarte Tatin. There’s no need to braise the apricots first as you do with apples, and I’ve kept the caramel light as I’m particularly fond of the way this, along with a little Grand Marnier or orange flower water, brings out the intensity of the apricots without over-sweetening.

Serves 6 - 8

¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ cup chestnut flour or all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
5 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, cold
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ lbs fresh apricots, sliced in half lengthwise, stones removed
1 tbsp Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur, or orange flower water)
2 pinches kosher salt

In a food processor, pulse the flours, salt, and sugar to combine. Add the cold cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like oatmeal. Add the egg and pulse a few more times until the pastry dough just comes together into a ball.

Working quickly to keep the mixture as cold as possible, dust your hands with a little flour and transfer the pastry dough, which will be quite sticky, onto a piece of parchment paper. Press the dough out into a 10-inch circle, cover with more parchment paper, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

When you’re ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 400 F and use the 2 tbsp of room temperature butter to coat the inside of a heavy 9-inch round baking dish.

Carefully pour the ¾ cup of sugar and the ½ cup water into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Plunge your hands into your pockets or wring them behind your back, but do not stir or swirl – you must resist the urge to do so, or the whole thing can crystallize, and you shall have to start over. Allow the mixture to bubble just until it takes on a tiny bit of golden color – about 10 – 15 minutes, but watch it closely.

Once the caramel is very lightly golden, pour into the baking dish. Working quickly to finish before the caramel hardens too much, arrange the apricots on their sides, all facing the same way with the skin side slightly down, in a circle around the outside of the dish (see photo above). Complete another circle in the same way, and then another. Sprinkle the apricots with the Grand Marnier and then with a couple of pinches of kosher salt.

Peel one piece of parchment off the pastry dough and invert the circle over the baking dish. Gently peel off the other piece of parchment and tuck the overhang into the baking dish against the inside edge. Pierce several slits in the pastry with a sharp knife.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan to catch any bubbled-over cooking juices and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove and immediately invert onto a serving plate with a rim to catch the caramel.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving, or wait until it’s room temperature. Either way, the tart is delicious alone and lovely with a little crème fraiche.


Cynthia said...

I have never had fresh apricots before and would have loved to taste this tarte tatin.

Mercedes said...

Ah, brilliant! I never would have thought to combine apricots and chestnuts, since they come into season at completely opposite times.

I saw those exact same apricots at the market this week, good but they don't compare to the Mediterranean apricots, different climate I guess.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Cynthia, they're not my favorite until they're cooked, honestly. But they're still pretty darn good, and I hope you have the chance to try them sometime!

Mercedes, yes! The beauty of chestnut flour! It does go wonderfully with the fruits of the region, and this is a pairing I've seen from the Languedoc all the way to Liguria. Maybe even Tuscany, actually. And I prefer Mediterranean apricots too! Juicier.

Jen said...

I still haven't mastered Tarte Tatin... and this version looks wonderful. I think I'll give it a try. My last try earlier this summer ruined some beautiful peaches. Any hints on not overcooking the fruit while the pastry is cooking?

tribecachef said...

Apricots and chestnuts together? Absolutely perfect! I like a lighter caramel on tarte tatin anyway, so this sounds great!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jen, hmmmmm. I think for starters you should be sure to use a heavy iron baking dish - mine's Le Creuset. That will help deliver a more gentle, steady heat to the fruit. Also, in traditional tarte tatin - which is made with apples - the fruit is caramelized in suagr and butter on top of the stove for an hour before it goes into the oven. When dealing with softer fruit, make sure you skip this step, as I do here. Let me know if this helps, ok?

Tribecachef, thanks! I know what you mean. The caramel can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. I like to taste the fruit too. Also, I've added some salt to the apricots here, which helps them to stand out against the sweetness of the caramel. You might try tis step when you do the traditional apple version too.

CollyWolly said...

I have just discovered your lovely blog and will definitely be visiting here regularly. Beautiful recipes, I love Med food and I love apricots. I live in South Africa so dont see chestnuts around here but will try something else. Any suggestions? Thanks :)

Garrett said...

Wow... now that just sounds and looks amazing!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Collywolly, thank you! You know, this tart is still wonderful even if you only use all-purpose flour. But if you do want to have that subtly nutty, smoky edge, I use Dowd and Rogers Italian Chestnut flour. It's available at
The flour's actually a pretty nice ingredient to have on hand for other things too. You can work a little bit into homemade pasta, gnocchi, bread, etc. Please do let me know if you have any luck.

Garrett, thanks! I often wish I could use a higher percentage of the chestnut flour in baking, but it can really screw things up. This I'm pretty happy with though. You can still taste the smokiness - especially once the tart's cooled a bit.

Mimi said...

I love anything with apricots, but the combination of apricots and chestnutes sounds divine. It all seems very, very Parisian to me - the perfect dish to mark the end of summer.

Anh said...

I have bookmarked this recipe to make when apricot appears in Melbourne. I love this combo. brilliant!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Mimi, thank you! It's a combination I know that I, for one, have greatly enjoyed. And I hope you will too!

Anh, thanks! I need to start bookmarking all the wonderful recipes I see on your blog and others in the southern hemisphere for when the season is right up here! I constantly have season envy!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

ohhhh...this looks beautiful and I can just imagine the smells coming from the kitchen when it is baking! I actually love fresh apricots, but I think I would give up a few for this! Nicely done, yet again, Amanda!

Jan said...

Amanda, your house must have smelled incredible while this was baking!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I really like the story behind tarte tatin, Amanda - this version with apricots look so good!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jenn, thank you! The house does smell great when I bake this, and I love the intensity of flavor the apricots pick up.

Jan, you're right! Summer-y and comforting all at the same time.

Patricia, thanks! I love the story too. And don't you find so many wonderful dishes come out of happy accidents?

Sylvia said...

The apricot season started in last of November,December here. I never try make a tatin whit those amazing fruits ,just for innovate with cherries tomatoes.But I certainly will try after your amazing post.

Aileen said...

It looks scrumptious! I love the heartiness of chestnut flour. Here, where it's matched with the unlocked flavour of baked apricots, it must be....well, scrumptious!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Sylvia, cherry tomatoes are just wonderful in tarte tatin! Very innovative indeed.

Aileen, thank you. Unlocked is well put indeed! Just a quick bath in a light caramel, and the apricots are transformed.

Lucy said...

Chestnut flour? Amanda, you REALLY know how to make me swoon. Wonderful.

My favourie apricots are the dried, unsulphured Turkish ones...heavenly.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Lucy, thank you, and I agree about those apricots! Cooked or dried is what I prefer with these fruits, and those Turkish ones are what I keep in the house. I don't mind about the color - they taste infinitely richer and they're better for us!

Maryann said...

This sounds lovely.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Maryann, thanks so much. Enjoy!

David Hall said...

Tarte tatin, what a dish! I'm going to do this with quince and plums very soon. I've done this with walnuts but never chestnuts. Once again, a brilliant combination.


Figs Olives Wine said...

David, quince and plums sounds fabulous! Walnuts in the crust too - I can't wait to see the recipe!

culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

This sounds amazing :)

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