While there are varing accounts of how and when this took place, there’s one that seems to appear most in telling:
Two sisters, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin, helped at their small family run hotel in the Loire Valley in France aptly named, Hotel Tartin. The story goes that one day back in the 1880’s, Stephanie was in the kitchen making the filling for an apple pie when she became distracted and the apples began to brown on the stove. Instead of tossing the dish she tried putting a pie crust on top of the pan and throwing it into the oven to brown. The dish was such a hit with the hotel guests it became a house specialty. The resulting “tarte” is what we all now know and enjoy.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3-4 pounds of apples (about 7-9 apples), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
Put racks in middle and lower third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Roll out pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface into a 10 1/2 inch square. Brush off excess flour. Using a plate as a guide, cut out a 10 inch round with a sharp knife. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate.
Spread butter thickly on bottom and sides of a 10 inch oven safe (or cast iron) skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit in tight concentric circle in the pan, standing them on end (vertically, apples will stick up above the rim of the skillet).
Cook apples over moderately high heat, without stirring, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, about 18-25 minutes. *Juices may color unevenly, not to worry, you can move the pan around if you like to even it out.
Lay a sheet of foil or place a baking sheet on a lower oven rack to catch any overflow that may happen while the apples cook. Put the skillet on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove skillet from the oven and lay pastry round over the apples. Bake until pastry is browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a rack to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Just before serving, invert a platter over the skillet and, using pot holders to hold the skillet and platter together, invert tart onto platter.
Replace any apples that stick to skillet. Brush any caramel remaining in the skillet over apples. Don’t worry if there are any dark spots in the apples from cooking, it will still taste great!