Pear Tarte Tatin
One of the things that gets me excited about Fall is Tarte Tatin, which I usually make with apples. And though the recipe I’ve used for years to make isn’t complicated, it does require quite some elbow grease. And to be honest, it’s this elbow grease that keeps me from making it very often. But yesterday I really wanted to make Tarte Tatin and I wanted to keep it simple, so I tried a new recipe. And in lieu of apples, I used pears.
Luckily, I had just received a bunch of pears from my good friend’s mother who lives on a hillside and has a pear tree. And these pears were amazingly good, ripe yet firm, just as they should to make a great tarte tatin. The softness and sweetness of the cooked fruit pairs perfectly with the slight bitterness of the caramel and the delectable buttery crust. I paired my generous slice with a small glass of Armagnac for a late evening dessert. I didn’t have any vanilla ice-cream or crème fraîche on hand, but if you decide to make this tart, I suggest you have some, they both work really nicely with this tart, since it’s served warm.
This recipe is just as good with apples. However, if you’ll be using pears like I did, make sure to get some firm pears, as softer ones will render too much juice while baking and it will look like a tarte soup once inverted. The truth is there should be no leaks from your tart once you’ve inverted it on a serving platter, but I really wanted to use these home-grown pears instead of buying a different, more firm kind, which is why there was a bit of caramelised pear juice on the side of my serving dish. And I didn’t mind at all. And perhaps you’d like to know that the Tarte Tatin was created by accident in France, at the beginning of the 20th century; you can read more about this fortunate accident here.
Pear Tarte Tatin
For the pastry:
375g/1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
150g/10 Tblsp unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
120ml/8 Tblsp ice water
1 egg yolk
To make the crust, mix the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix it in using a pastry cutter or knives until it resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining. In a small bowl or saucer, beat the ice water with the egg yolk, and pour it over the flour and butter mixture. Use a fork to mix everything. Then, with the aid of a spatula, flatten the dough a few times. Try not to touch the dough with your hands, so not to melt the butter, this is important. With the aid of the spatula, move the dough to a piece of cling film, cover it and shape it into a flat circle. Refrigerate this for 40 minutes.
Assembling the tart
130g/2/3 cups light brown sugar
4-5 large apples or pears or 6 smaller ones apples or firm and ripe pears (slightly underripe pears will do)
Juice from 1 lemon
60g/4 Tblsp butter, cubed
1 Tblsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tblsp honey
Twenty minutes after you’ve placed the dough in the fridge, preheat your oven to 180C/375F. In a 20cm/9 in oven-proof pan, place the sugar and allow it to caramelise. Keep an eye on it so that it won’t burn. Remove it from the heat. Halve the pears and remove the cores. Sprinkle the inside of the pears with lemon juice. Arrange the pears over the caramelised sugar, cut sides facing up and thinner sides facing the centre of the pan. Dot with the cubed butter and sprinkle with the honey. Place on the hob over medium heat and cook, undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge, sprinkle with flour and start rolling it out to a 23 cm/9in circle, keeping the dough on the cling film. When the dough is rolled out and the pears have finished cooking, place the dough over the pan, fit over the pears and a bit on the sided, then remove the cling film. Pop in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to sit for 20 minutes on the counter. Then, using a spatula, gently release the sides of the pan, place a serving dish on top and flip it. And good luck!
*This tart is best served warm with vanilla ice-cream or a little dollop of crème fraîche and it pairs really well with a nice digestif drink, such as Armagnac or brandy.
Recipe adapted from here