Pear Tarte Tatin
If you have trepidations about pie crust, let this tarte tatin ease your mind. From France, tarte tatin is a simple upside-down caramelized fruit tart. No matter what you do, however it slumps and curves, and whatever bubbles up, the dessert is always beautiful. Rustic and lovely. Legend has it that tarte tatin was born from a mistake when Mme. Fanny Tatin forgot to line her apple tart with pastry. She threw the pastry on top, flipped the tart over, and created a classic. I make my version with succulent pears and a bit of anise seed to flavor the bittersweet caramel. Serve it with a traditional dollop of crème fraîche.
Recipe from The New Sugar & Spice by Samantha Seneviratne. Order your copy here.
Pear Tarte Tatin with Anise Seed Caramel
- 1 1/2 cups (63⁄4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface and the rolling pin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3 to 5 tablespoons ice water
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4 medium-ripe Bosc pears (about 7 ounces each), peeled, cored, and cut into sixths
- Crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, for serving
To prepare the dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces. Add 3 tablespoons ice water and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Add 1 to 2 more tablespoons water if necessary, but stop before the dough gets too wet. It should just hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. Gather the dough into a rough ball in the bowl with your hands. Set the dough on a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up, and flatten it into a 6-inch disk. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours or up to 2 days. Alternatively, freeze the dough, well wrapped, for up to 1 month.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10-inch circle. Set the pastry on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until the pears are ready.
To prepare the pears, melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the melted butter and cook over medium until the mixture begins to turn amber, swirling the pan occasionally, about 2 minutes. (Don’t worry if the mixture separates. Once you add the pears it will smooth out again.) Remove from the heat, sprinkle the anise seeds and salt evenly over the caramel, and carefully top with the pears. Return to the heat and cook until the caramel turns a deep amber, occasionally stirring and flipping the pears gently with a heat proof rubber spatula, 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be simmering, but not too vigorously, or the caramel may break. Adjust the heat as necessary. Take care not to smash the pears.
Remove the skillet from the heat. If you like, you can use a fork and the spatula to carefully rearrange the pears into a pretty pattern. I think it looks just as lovely when the pears are haphazardly strewn about. Top with the round of pastry, tucking the edges in with the spatula. Using a paring knife, cut 4 small slits in the pastry. Bake until the top is golden brown and the caramel is bubbling, 24 to 28 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. (Be sure to wrap the skillet handle with a towel for safety.)
Run a knife around the edge to loosen any pears that might be stuck. Top the skillet with an overturned plate that is at least 1 inch larger than the skillet. Quickly flip the skillet so that the tart is right-side-up on the plate. Rearrange any pears that have fallen out of place and scrape any caramel from the skillet onto the tart.
Serve warm topped with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Store leftovers well wrapped in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Photography copyright © 2015 by Erin Kunkel