I was delighted to discover an official website for La Tarte Tatin, developed in honor of the 100th anniversary of this wonderful dessert.
The website, now sadly offline, was run by the Confrérie des Lichonneux, a “taster’s fraternity” to enable them “to defend their beloved tart and promote its consumption.”
(If you have spent any time in France, you know that the French are serious about food, and this Confrérie is just one example of that devotion. There are many confréries devoted to defending local products such as truffles, cherries, wine—or tarts.)
But back to Tarte Tatin…according to the web site, Jean Tatin started the Hôtel Tatin du Terminus in Lamotte-Beuvron in the 1850s, after the Prince-Président, the future Napoleon III, bought a nearby chateau to model and encourage agricultural development in the Sologne region (just south of Orléans and the Loire).
After Papa’s death, daughters Caroline and Stéphanie took over the hotel. Stéphanie was the chef, and her specialty was apple tart. One day during a busy lunch time, she somehow made the dessert with the pastries and apples upside down. She served this strange dessert hot and voilá! A new favorite!
While the official recipe calls for caramelizing the apples in butter and sugar on top of the stove, I have made a version that has you caramelize a pie pan and then add the apples, topping it with the crust.
After reading the (late) official website, however, I may have to reconsider. I learned that the Confrérie des Lichonneux de Tarte Tatin was formed because they were “particularly tired of seeing very ordinary apple tarts or tarts made with other fruit served under the attractive name of Tarte Tatin.” Further, every spring the Confrérie held a Grand Chapître à venue, where the members “play host to people wishing to taste, evaluate and defend the Tarte Tatin.”
Even more intimidating, “it travels to the four corners of France and beyond… to congratulate and encourage those who maintain this original recipe and to criticize the heretics.”
So, with fear in my heart that I would be exposed as a heretic, I nonetheless offer my unofficial recipe for Tarte Tatin, which has served me well. But in the interest of authenticity—and perhaps to save my soul—I have also included the Confrérie’s Official Tarte Tatin recipe, from Le Grand Maître du Secret, “the member who holds and protects the recipe of the tart, etc…”
I have not yet discovered what the “etc.” refers to, but it makes me a little nervous…