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  • Writer's pictureNina Dudko

Apple Tarte Tatin

Even though the first day of fall is officially September 22, fall is already in full swing for me. Football season started this past weekend, the weather is cooling, and I have so many fall activities planned! Like apple picking, my favorite fall thing. What’s better than taking a trip to a lovely orchard, picking your own apples, and then baking oodles of fall apple treats? Hard to think of something that could top that—I know.

Spending a few hours outside wandering around a farm picking fruit is a perfect way to spend a crisp, slightly overcast day. Plus, yummy goodies made with apples! Yes, I know pumpkin is delicious and all and I love pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but apple is the superior fall flavor.

Though there aren’t many orchards within DC Metro distance, there are plenty that are about an hour or so drive in Maryland and Virginia. So this weekend I drove out to Markham, Virginia, to visit Hartland Orchards. I brought Ashley (who has never gone apple picking before) and my friends Erin and Colin. I booked a Zipcar for the day and off we went.

The orchard is right off I-66 West—super convenient. We picked up some bags, parked the car, and picked away. The view was spectacular, with the rolling mountains all around. I can only imagine how stunning the view is when the leaves start to turn.

The trees were already full of fall apples like Jonagold and Red Delicious. No surprise that the best apples were out of reach—we needed to get creative to reach them. After an hour, our bags were nearly overflowing. At this point I’m already making a mental list of the apple treats I’m going to make with my share. The two bags together were about $16 for almost 30 pounds of apples. Incredible.

On our way out we explored the other parts of the farm, which also had pick-your-own sunflowers, squash, tomatoes, blueberries, pumpkins, and raspberries. Erin and I love tomatoes and I’ve never picked my own tomatoes before, so this was extra-exciting. For $1/pound we went pick-happy. From tiny adorable cherry tomatoes to beautiful red heirlooms—I think picking tomatoes might be more fun than picking apples.

Next came the raspberries, which was a first picking experience for all of us. The only downside of picking raspberries is the occasional prick from their thorny stems. Pretty content with the pints we came out with. We had to keep them in the trunk of the car so we wouldn’t eat them all on the way home.

It was too early to end the day and since we were in winery country it seemed like a waste to not visit at least one. Conveniently across the road is Chateau O’Brien, which has stunning views perfect for sipping and relaxing. The winery was understaffed so getting a tasting took a while, but being in good company helps pass the time. The tasting comprised five wines, including their signature apple rose and apple wine. The apple wine tasted just like apple juice, which is dangerous. We all ordered a glass of something (I got a glass of the Malbec since the taster had a bottle open), ordered a meat and cheese plate and a baguette, and just sat on their patio taking in the scenery.

I dropped Colin and Ashley off at home, and Erin joined me for dinner and baking. I mean—when you come home with a bag of apples, the first thing you do is bake, right? Right. Apple pie is the go-to dessert choice, but I like to feel fancy and French from time to time. Erin and I made a Tarte Tatin, which is an upside-down apple pie. The recipe came from a food magazine no longer in publication and has been enjoyed in my family for years.

The apples are gorgeously caramelized and so soft that they melt in your mouth. The caramel is the perfect degree of sweetness with a slight edge from the burnt sugar. Sometimes caramel can be overbearingly sweet, but this caramel comes out just right. The pie crust is very simple and flaky. Together, the pie is gooey, sweet, and a little tart from the fruit. A very sophisticated take on the classic apple pie (though I have tons of apples left so I will probably make a traditional apple pie, too).

Recipe notes:

*This recipe is a bit time consuming, so make sure you have plenty of time and patience.

*Flipping the baked pie onto the serving plate is a bit tricky. Use a plate that is fairly flat to make removing the pie easier.

*Put a baking sheet under the pie dish when baking to catch any overflow and prevent gunk from sticking to your oven.


Apple Tarte Tatin

Servings: 8



1 cup flour

6 tablespoons cold butter, diced

3 tablespoons cold water

¼ teaspoon salt


6 apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (I prefer Granny Smith because they are tart and hold their shape when baked)

5 tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups sugar­­­­



  1. Butter a 9” pie pan and set aside.

  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Cut the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal mixture, with a few small lumps remaining.

  3. Sprinkle in the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing together until the dough comes together in clumps. Shape the dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Filling and Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter and sugar until golden brown and the mixture is sizzling.

  3. Add the apples and stir until well coated with caramel mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft and cooked through.

  4. Raise the heat to high and continue cooking the apples and stirring until the apples are a deep caramel color, 15–20 minutes.

  5. Pour apples into the prepared pie dish, rounded side down.

  6. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a disc slightly larger than the pie dish. Cover the apples with the dough, folding back the excess. Press the dough against the side of the pan below the rim.

  7. Place the apple tart in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

  8. Remove the tart from the oven and let stand for about two minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and let cool for 10 minutes.

  9. Enjoy either warm or cold.

What’s your go to fall apple treat? Let me know!

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