The Tarte Tatin is not an easy dessert, but a simple one. And, like all the simple dessert, made with a few ingredients, it needs to be done with all the care that it deserves to be really good.
We have to make a good caramel sauce, to carefully slice the apples, cover them in pâte brisée (or puff pastry, if you prefer) and make sure that this little masterpiece doesn't burn, so that, once you've pulled it out of the oven and turned it upside down, it stays perfect like you've dreamed, ready to be eaten slightly cooled down, served with some semi-whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream, but also in its simple perfection.
The simplicity of the Tarte Tatin, however, lies also in its possible speeding, if you use ready made pâte brisée (or puff pastry). I know that home-made dough is an all different thing, that no one knows what ingredients are there in the ready made one .. I agree with your hesitations, but (there's always a but) let's say you have so many apples and no butter (but you have a ready made pâte brisée in your freezer), let's say you have to make a quick dessert for some unattended guests or let's say you simply feel the irresistible urge to have a slice of Tarte Tatin or you feel the irresistible urge to spend a Parisian afternoon … well, in these cases don't give up … home-made is better, but sometimes home-made could be sacrificed (at least in my humble opinion).
Ingredients (for a 24 cm baking pan)
* a roll of pâte brisée (or puff pastry)
* 200 g all-purpose flour
* a pinch of salt
* 100 g butter
* 3/4 tablespoons cold water
* 140 g sugar
* 2/3 tablespoons of water
* a few drops of lemon juice
* about 1 kilo of apples
Put the flour in a bowl with the salt, then add the cold butter cut into small pieces and begin to crumble it together with the flour with your fingertips. When you have a grainy mixture, pour 3 or 4 tablespoons of cold water and knead very quickly (as you would do to make shortbread). Form a ball and put it to rest in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
(Obviously you'll skip this phase if you use the ready-made dough).
Meanwhile, peel the apples and cut them into 8 slices, then leave them aside and make the caramel sauce (I quote from my Bonet recipe, 'cause the procedure is the same). Put sugar, 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and a few drops of lemon juice (to help the caramelization, without crystallization) in a thick bottomed pan, and simply let all melt together, without even mixing.
Grease a pan (don't use a spring form pan, 'cause apples release a lot of cooking water), then cover its bottom with your warm caramel sauce. Then arrange the apple slices very close to each other (their volume will decrease while cooking), leaving a few millimeters around the edge of the the pan empty (so you can tuck the dough).
If you use the ready made dough, I suggest you to cook the apples for about ten minutes in a 356° F (180° C) oven, before you cover them with the dough (since the average ready made dough has a 10 to 15 minutes cooking time). Then take the pan out of the oven, let it cool for a minute, cover with the dough (tucking the dough all around the apples) and then put it back in oven until the dough is golden brown (it will take about 15 minutes).
If you use the home-made brisée, you have to take it out of the refrigerator and roll it out until you have a round sheet (equal or slightly larger than the diameter of the pan) about half a centimeter thick. You'll use this sheet to cover the apples, always tucking the dough around the apples. Bake in a 391° F (200° C) for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 356° F (180° C) and continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes (or until the dough is golden brown).
Take it out of the oven, let it cool down for a bit, take a fork and… bienvenue à Paris…