Pear Tarte Tatin
Tarte Tatin was a dish I first tasted many years ago, when I invited the owner of a local Pialligo orchard to come and present a class at my cooking school. Having grown up with my Hungarian mother's strudel and beigli, brioche and Gerbeaud slice, kifli and carnival doughnuts, I was amazed at how such a simple-to-prepare, upside-down dessert could taste so absolutely divine.
I have since road tested several recipes for Tarte Tatin, including one by Lorenza De Medici from her beautiful coffee table book, A Passion for Fruit. De Medici's recipe seems to offer a simpler process in the caramelisation of the sugar and, although I am a fan of her cooking, the results in my kitchen have not been as favourable as this one adapted in part from The Art of the Tart by expert cook and food writer, Tamasin Day-Lewis. There is slightly less butter, which leaves room for a little dollop of creamy indulgence on top, methinks.
We time-poor modern cooks are blessed with the availability of good quality, ready-made puff pastry. I prefer puff to shortcrust for Tarte Tatin, but if you would like to make shortcrust pastry, you will find a Day-Lewis recipe here. I have chosen pears over apples, as they are such good eating right now.
PEAR TARTE TATIN
1/2 cup (90g) vanilla infused caster sugar
60g unsalted cultured butter
2-3 small pears
juice of a lemon
1-11/2 sheets ready made puff pastry, thawed
cracked pepper, to finish
Keep the pastry covered with a slightly damp, clean tea towel as you work. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F. Sprinkle the sugar in a layer over the base of a heavy, oven-proof frying pan and heat it gently. *Day-Lewis suggests: 'Watch it all the time, as some bits will brown before others. You want the sugar to melt to a dark brown liquid all over without burning. On no account stir it, just shake the pan and turn it as you need to redistribute the sugar. Remove from the heat and immediately add tiny bits of butter, about a third of the 60g, over the sugar. It will bubble instantly'. Set the pan aside for a moment.
Then, peel the pears and cut them into halves. Remove the cores with a melon baller. Place the pears onto a dinner plate and squeeze the lemon juice all over them, making sure the pieces are well covered. This will prevent them from quickly browning. Arrange the pears over the top of the caramel in the pan. Dot with the remaining butter and place the pan over a gentle heat to start it cooking. Remove from the heat.
Cut the puff pastry to a circle, slightly larger than the frying pan you are using. Blanket it over the top of the pears and tuck it down the sides to seal the pears and the caramel in. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely golden. Remove the pan from the oven and leave it to cool for 10-15 minutes, then cover the pan with a serving plate and flip the tart over onto the plate. 'The fruit should look glossily, gloopily burnished', says Day-Lewis. Add a sprinkle of cracked pepper and et voila. Serves 2-4.
*The instructions are fairly specific in parts, hence I am quoting Day-Lewis verbatim, see italics.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.