RECIPE: The first published Tarte Tatin recipe

Whether or not (as Lamotte-Beuvron's site claims) Stephanie Tatin actually overturned an apple pie and served it unawares to a group of hunters, there seems to be little doubt that the Tatin sisters invented the Tarte Tatin at their hotel there. Caroline died in 1911, Stephanie in 1917. In 1923, Comoedia published what is probably the first known recipe for a dessert that took some time to make its way to Paris and, after an uneven history there, today is a standard offering (for those, that is, who can still ingest shameless amounts of sugar).

Regrettably, there was not room in my upcoming book to include the whole, and delightfully rustic, original. Here it is in all its home-spun, imperious glory:
The Misses Tatin’s Tart, from Lamotte-Beuvron
Build before you a pyramid of hard apples, well-peeled, and beside it on a dish an ordinary dough made with butter, flour and water.
To begin your tart, you need a copper mold 20 to 30 centimeters in diameter, with a rim of about 6 to 10 centimeters. Without a copper dish, no tarte tatin, it is no use to try. with another recipient, your tart will be burned while baking.
Equipped with your copper dish, dear reader, you will do as Marie, who takes handfuls of fresh butter and, without sparing it, while energetically kneading it, garnishes the whole inside with it. Put on this butter a good layer of crystallized sugar. 
This done, take the apples, cut them and garnish the mold with them. The first layer, that on the sugar, will be made up of large pieces of apples, the smaller ones on the following layers. For a dish 30 centimeters in diameter, you will use four or five apples. The last layer will be garnished with crystallized sugar. Finally you will cover all this with your dough. But here the easiest step is done.
To bake your tart, you need a charcoal stove. Otherwise, it is as with the copper mold, you are wasting your time.
Your hearth well covered with lit coals and charcoal – but neither too much nor too little – set on it your copper dish. Cover this with what Marie calls a "hollow tart cover" [a Dutch oven, basically]. And in this cover burning charcoal. Again neither too much nor too little, because all the skill is in the baking.
Your tart bakes then on top and bottom, and it must not bake faster on top than on bottom. You will see that this is not so easy. After fifteen to twenty minutes the tart is baked. You will realize this at first by the delicious odor coming off it and the gilded crust taking shape.
Take it off the fire. Re-cover the mold with a plate and turn it over. The bottom becomes the top. Serve....
Remember now: copper dish, charcoal stove. Or all is lost. And no, I don't know who Marie was.

Interested in the history of the food of Paris?
Visit the Paris Food History site.


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