The first time I ever made a tarte tatin was during my one-month cooking course in Dublin. We made it from scratch including the pastry. Flipping the tart out of the pan onto a plate was quite an anxious moment. I remember we did it in turns with everybody standing around the person whose turn it was, cheering them on. We were a small close-knit group of just 7 people so it wasn’t nerve-wracking to have people around you while you were hoping that it didn’t turn out into a major fiasco.
It was simply the best tarte tatin we’d ever tasted – flaky pastry topped with sweet golden caramelised apples, simply heaven! Although I’ve made an upside down cake a couple of times since then, I’ve never tried my hand at a tarte tatin since that very first attempt.
Recently, I bought a nice heavy stainless steel pan from a shiny new department store that just opened its doors in a town close to where we are. If you’ve ever been in a brand new supermarket, you’ll know what it must have felt like as we walked from one shiny aisle to the next gawking at their array of products arranged so neatly and with all their labels turned perfectly to face you as you walked by. It was like a set out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.
Anyway, since that purchase, I’ve been toying with ideas to take advantage of my latest acquisition. So when we got our hands on some lovely ripe pears from our in-laws’ garden, the first thing that popped up in my mind was ‘tarte tatin’.
I pored over recipes online trying to find something that clicked. At last, I settled on a recipe from the Saveur website. I kinda mixed two of their tarte tatin recipes. I made the pastry following instructions from their ‘Upside down apple tart‘ recipe and followed their ‘pear tarte tatin‘ recipe for the rest since the pastry recipe in the latter somehow didn’t seem like it would yield enough to cover my pan.
The next time round, I’ll play around with the butter and sugar ratios for the caramel listed in this recipe. My caramel turned out to be more toffee like after baking the tart whereas it should have been nothing but pure golden liquid. However, I did manage to get some of the liquid caramel out of the pan after turning out the tart which I then reduced and poured back over the tart.
All said and done, it is something I will definitely try out again. So if you have any extra pears lying around and don’t know what to do with them, give this a try. As long as they’re ripe yet firm, this should turn out to be a treat.
Pear Tarte Tatin (original recipe from Saveur.com)
For the pastry –
190g plain flour
For the filling –
about a kg of ripe firm pears
juice of half a lemon
A note on the ingredient measurements – these are listed originally in cups and I’ve done my best to convert them into metric measures.
Begin by making the pastry. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar together. Add the butter in small cubes and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. This can be easily done using a food processor as well. Add about 3 tablespoons of ice cold water to bring the dough together. It’s important to not overwork the dough. As soon as it comes together, shape it into a ball, cover with some clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
For the filling, peel, halve and core the pears and place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and sugar to the pears and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed cast iron or steel pan (the one I used is around 11 inches wide), melt the butter. Add the sugar and keep stirring until it melts and forms the caramel. Once the caramel is dark in colour remove from heat. Arrange the pear halves around the pan, cut side facing up.
Remove the pastry from the fridge. Place on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to an even thickness making sure that it is wide enough to cover the entire pan with a bit of overhang. You’ll have to eyeball this one.
Cover the pan with the rolled out pastry. Tuck the edges into and around the pan. Cut about 2-3 tiny holes in the centre for steam to escape.
Place in an oven that’s been preheated to 180C (conventional) and let it bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is nice and golden brown in colour.
Remove pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Run a knife along the edges to loosen the pastry, place a large plate or cutting board on top of the pan, carefully invert the pan holding the plate against it in one quick motion. Lift the pan, the tart should now be sitting on the plate. If there are any pieces of fruit stuck to the pan, you can remove it and place it on top of the tart.
Serve warm along with whipped cream if you like. It’s a truly delightful tart – one whose taste lingers in your mouth long after the last bite.