An upside down tart when you make it, and the turned out result is always sublime.

French origin

You have probably heard about the origin, but here is a brief synopsis:  the sisters Tatin owned a Hotel Tatin in a village about 100kms south of Paris. One of the sisters overcooked the apples for the tart by allowing them to caramelise slightly. She simply bunged the pastry on top of the mixture and baked it. When she turned it out she had this crisp pastry base covered with delicious caramelised apples!  Her Tart Tatin became a classic legend and today we all love it!

I have experimented with various versions, both sweet and savoury and it is honestly always a winner.

Tart Tatin is traditionally with apple but as you may gather I am on a seasonal ‘citrus roll’ at the moment. I find so many winter pudds a little too rich and heavy so when I turned to the fruit bowl and saw a pile of tiny manadrins (naartjies in South Africa!) I got the puff pastry out of the freezer!

If you are using mandarins choose the seedless variety, unless you want to pick out all the pips!

The pastry

I always have a roll of puff pastry in the freezer. Who makes puff pastry these days? Even when using frozen pastry there are some rules to follow to get the best crisp results:

  • It is important that the pastry defrosts slowly and in a cool environment so you need to do some planning ahead of time.
  • To get the best puff follow the pastry rules by always handling it in a cool environment. That’s why our Grandmothers made pastry at sunrise when the day was cool and used marble slabs!
  • Do not stretch the pastry when rolling or handling it.
  • Do not be tempted to use too much flour on the surface when rolling it. In the case of frozen pastry I try to roll it on the plastic sheet it comes rolled in.
  • Do not put the pastry over warm fruit. It will be soggy and never crisp.
  • Keep it cool while making & hot while baking!

Start with the caramel base

The fruit is placed on a bed of caramel. There are several recipes, but my version is actually butterscotch. I love the buttery richness and it is less sweet. small saucepan and pour it into the pan. I sprinkle the additional seasoning over the caramel to get an even distribution. You can add spices, salt or citrus zest to the caramel. I added some mandarin zest this time. For apple tart tatin I sometimes add thyme or a spoonful of salt flakes. I always make the caramel in a saucepan and then pour it into the pan.

The pan

If you bake the tart in a frying pan, you must use a pan with a metal, oven-resistant handle. Otherwise use a shallow cake pan or tart pan. I bought a 30cm diameter, non-stick cake pan especially for tart tatin. A non-stick surface is recommended!

I find it easier and safer to use a shallow metal cake pan or a tart dish, especially when turning it out.

The fruit

In the case of citrus or soft fruits such as nectarines and apricots, I use fresh raw fruit, but for apples and pears I either slice them thinly (8 wedges) or par-cook the fruit slightly in the caramel. When I use quinces I ensure that they are fully cooked.


You can prepare the tart in advance, provided that you keep the pastry cool, but then bake it closer to serving time to serve it hot or warm. It is the ideal pudd to make if you are using a hot oven for cooking your main course. It bakes for 25-30 minutes, so it can cook while you enjoy the main course.

When you turn the tart out place the serving plate onto top of the baking pan and using a thick dish towel or oven gloves (I hate oven gloves and prefer a tick dish towel!) quickly invert it together being careful not to spill the hot caramel !

Serve with

I love the contrast of cool ice cream with a Tart Tatin. Whipped cream also works well.

Recipe: Manadarin Tart Tatin

Recipe: Apple Tart Tatin