Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper

Apple Tarte Tatin
Apple Tarte Tatin on a metal plate sitting on a timber board

Apple Tarte Tatin (tah-TAN) has to be one of the greatest desserts ever. How flour, butter, sugar and apples can turn into one of the finest desserts in the world is simple, but it does have two distinct watchpoints.

Absolutely delicious caramel apples infused with star anise and vanilla baked till golden with a flaky, buttery pastry is on its way!

ingredients to make Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper on a concrete table

Jock Zonfrillo

The recipe for this tarte tartin with a twist is from Scottish born chef Jock Zonfrillo, who presently is one of three new judges on Australian Masterchef.

Jock’s twist to this classic tarte is the addition of star anise, cracked black pepper and apple juice in the caramel reduction. Sounds an unlikely combination however, once you taste the sweet vanilla infused caramel with the warmth that the star anise and freshly milled black pepper bring to the party, we think you’ll be a convert!

Zonfrillo’s restaurant Orana was named Australia’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year by Gourmet Traveller Magazine, the same year Zonfrillo was named Australia’s 2018 Hottest Chef in The Australian.

Sadly Jock has recently announced the closure of Orana due to the covid 19 pandemic.

the apples

apples placed in a frying pan to make Apple Tarte Tatin
arrange the apples closely together so they hold the pattern when cooked

We’ve used pink lady apples as these were what Jock used for his recipe. Floury cooking apples are entirely wrong for Tarte tartin as the apples must hold their shape during the cooking. Floury apple varieties such as Red Delicious are a no-go for this recipe. However other great cooking apples can be used, such as:

  • Granny Smith
  • Braeburn
  • Cox’s orange pippin
  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious

the pastry

We love to make our own pastry when time permits, there’s something quite magical about the rolling and folding process, resulting in hundreds of layers of crisp buttery pastry.  BUT…. when short on time or inspiration turn to the freezer department at your local supermarket.

Try to use a quality all-butter puff pastry as nothing beats pastry made with butter for a fantastic flavour.

pastry covering apples in a frying pan ready to cook Apple Tarte Tatin
cut the pastry slightly larger than the area covered by the apples

the caramel watchpoint – don’t burn yourself

We have made Tarte Tatin numerous times and each recipe has a slightly different way of making the caramel, Jock’s recipe has to be the easiest! No serious watch points, except don’t burn yourself. Just place the ingredients into a moderately hot pan and keep the mixture moving until the butter has melted.

Ingredients to make the caramel for Apple Tarte Tatin in a black frying pan
place caramel ingredients into a frying pan over a moderately high heat and allow the butter to melt and ingredients to combine

Once the butter has melted and the mixture is gently bubbling add the apple juice or water and allow it to bubble and foam for a minute or so until the sugar appears to be mostly melted. Note, don’t get too hung up on every grain of sugar being melted as the oven will finish the job. 

caramel ingredients bubbling in a frying pan on a hot plate to make apple tarte tatin
over a moderate to high heat add the apple juice or water and allow to bubble for a minute or so

releasing the tart watchpoint

Flipping a hot apple Tarte Tatin can be a little daunting for the uninitiated but basically you take a plate larger than the cooking pan. Place the plate over the pan and put your spread out hand firmly onto the plate. With your other hand hold the frypan and quickly turn it over so that the plate now has the tart sitting on it.

turning the cooked Apple Tarte Tatin out onto a metal plate
once you have turned the tart over gently remove the pan, replacing any pieces of apple that may have stuck to the pan

history of apple Tarte Tatin – direct transcript from What’s Cooking America

1888 – Two French sisters, Carolina (1847-1911) and Stephine Tatin (1838-1917), created this tart.  The sisters lived in Lamotte-Beuvron, a small rural town in the Loire Valley of France.  They owned and ran the hotel called l’Hotel Tatin in 1888.  The elder sister, Stephanie, dealt with the kitchen.  She was a particularly fine cook but was not the brightest of people.  Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth.  One day during the hunting season, during the midday scramble, Stephanie placed her tart in the oven the wrong way round.  The pastry and apples were upside-down but, nevertheless, she served this strange dessert without giving it time to cool.

Cooked Apple Tarte Tatin on a metal plate resting on a wooden chopping board

The French call this dessert tarte des demoiselles Tatin (the tart of two unmarried women named Tatin).

This dessert gained it’s popularity when famed Maxim’s Restaurant of Paris, France put it on their menu:

According to some historians, when word of this new gastronomic delight reached Paris,  Maxim’s owner decided he must have the recipe.  He supposedly sent a cook/spy, disguised as a gardener, to Lamotte-Beuvron to discover the secret.  The spy is successful, brings the recipe back to Maxim’s, and it has been on the menu of that famous restaurant ever since.

Watch How To Make Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper

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Scroll to the bottom for the Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper recipe

check out some more winning apple desserts

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click on the link for the recipe…..Sicilian Apple Cake

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click on the link for the recipe…..Quick Apple and Sour Cream Slice

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click on the link for the recipe…..Apple Frangipane Tart

We would love to hear from you in the comments below when you make this superb Apple Tarte Tatin recipe.

Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper
Yield: 6

Apple Tarte Tatin with Star Anise and Black Pepper


  • 5 medium pink lady apples
  • 200g raw sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 2 star anise, whole
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
  • 30ml fresh apple juice or water
  • 1 sheet all butter puff pastry


  • preheat oven to 220c (430f) on fan
  • cut pastry just slightly bigger than the area the apples cover in the pan, then using a small round cutter to remove the pastry from the centre of the circle or use a knife to cut a couple of vents (this allows steam to escape and helps to reduce the caramel from bubbling up and over the side of your pan) see pastry photo above
  • peel the apples and remove the core. Cut the apples in half and then each half into three. If you don't have an apple corer don't panic! just cut the apples in half and then use a melon baller or a teaspoon to remove the seed pod of the apple.
  • combine the sugar, butter, star anise, pepper, vanilla seeds and pod in a large frypan over medium heat.
  • melt the butter, dissolve the sugar then bring all to a simmer and cook until the sugar starts to caramelise and butter foams.
  • add apple juice or water and bring to the boil, stirring until emulsified.
  • using tongs remove the Vanilla pod and Star Anise or pass through a fine strainer to remove the pepper also. (we opted to leave the pepper in for a nice little hit - entirely up to you)
  • pour a 3-4 mm thick layer of caramel into the bottom of a 20cm (8 inch) frying pan (cast iron is ideal)
  • assemble the apple, around the base of the pan, leaving a 5mm gap between the apples and the edge of the pan.
  • place puff pastry over the apples and tuck edges down between the apples and the edge of the pan. (we used the handle of a spoon to help with the tucking)
  • bake for 45 minutes or until pastry is puffed and dark golden. Set the pan aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • run a knife around the outside of the pan to release any apple or pastry that may have stuck to the side of the pan.
  • place a serving plate over the slightly cooled tart and invert to flip out of the pan and apple side up onto the plate.


  • when cutting puff pastry, always use a sharp knife and in this case don't press the plate into the pastry as this bonds the layers together and reduces the visual of the many layers.
  • ensure your pastry is chilled before placing over the apples - this makes it easier to handle, as when the pastry warms it becomes difficult to place without stretching it or making holes in the pastry.
  • we have made the caramel with water replacing the apple juice several times and although the flavour is different it is still delicious.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 434Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 59mgSodium 43mgCarbohydrates 57gFiber 4gSugar 49gProtein 1g

Nutritional information provided here is only intended as a guide.

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