Fig Tarte Tatin
You’ve got a table full of dinner guests you’re trying to wow, but you don’t actually want to toil away in the kitchen. The simple solution? Make Erin McDowell’s recipe for fig tarte tatin, then prepare for the oohs and aahs.
“Tarte tatin is the most misunderstood dessert in the entire world,” the author of The Fearless Baker tells us. “Because it has a French name and because it’s made with puff pastry, it seems very fancy, but you can use store-bought puff pastry and any fruit that’s in season to make this dessert any time of year.”
We should mention: It all comes together in a single skillet, the most work you’ll have to do is slice some figs and the results are sticky-sweet caramelized fruit cradled in a blanket of crisp pastry. You’ve got nothing to lose.
“Unlike a lot of pies that need to cool completely in order to be sliced,” McDowell continues, “tarte tatin is served warm, so it’s a great dinner-party dessert. Thanks to the figs, the caramel ends up getting this kind of pinky-rose hue from the fruit juices, which is so beautiful. It’s the easiest thing to make, but you put it on the table and every guest is like, Whaaat? How did you make that?!”
Just shrug nonchalantly and tell them it’s French.
All-purpose flour, as needed
14 ounces (397g) frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)
½ cup (99g) light brown sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
About 15 medium (about 567g) figs, halved
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Have ready a 12-inch oven-safe skillet, preferably cast iron. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry until it’s about 1½ inches wider than the skillet. Dock the dough all over with a fork. Using the rolling pin, gently transfer the dough by wrapping it around the pin and unfurling it onto the prepared baking sheet. Chill the dough while you work on the figs.
3. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. If using the vanilla bean, rub the seeds into the sugar with your fingertips. Stir in the cinnamon, if using, and the salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly into the pan and let it melt for 15 to 30 seconds. Stir to help dissolve the sugar, then continue to cook without stirring until the mixture begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes. You can swirl the pan occasionally to keep the heat distributed and the mixture browning evenly, but avoid stirring it.
4. When the mixture has caramelized, swirl to evenly coat the whole base of the pan. Turn off the heat and carefully arrange the figs in an even layer. Be sure to pack them in as tightly as possible—they will shrink as they cook and you don’t want too many gaps between the fruit after baking.
5. Gently drape the pastry over the fruit, folding in a little around the edge to encase the figs. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the pastry is very golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
6. Invert the skillet onto a serving platter or cutting board to unmold the tarte tatin. Cool for 5 minutes more before serving.