Now that the holidays are behind us, it's time to get rustic and comfortable with our food. Try a tarte tatin for dessert. The popular French upside-down tart is unfussy and forgiving, oozing caramel and fruit. Like a favorite relative they can be imperfect and irregular, and all the more charming for that.
This recipe incorporates a sour cream pastry which creates a crumbly, cookie-like crust and winter pears from the market. While the tart bakes in the oven, the caramel from the fruit filling will bubble up in spots through the crust. Fear not – the crust will continue to bake, and when the tart is finished and cooling, the wayward caramel will harden to a sheen, coating the crust like a candied apple. The trickiest bit is flipping the tart onto a plate, which is the singular carpe diem moment: Just do it. The beauty is that if it's a little messy (mine always are), just rearrange the fruit and cooling caramel before it hardens and encases the fruit. Imperfection never looked (or tasted) so good.
Spiced Pear Tarte Tatin
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/3 cup full fat sour cream
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 6 large pears, peeled, cored and halved
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze
- Prepare the pastry: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-size. Add the sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (The pastry may be prepared to this point one day ahead; refrigerate until use, then remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out.)
- Prepare the tart: Arrange the butter in the bottom of a 12-inch oven-proof skillet with sloping sides (preferably cast iron.) Sprinkle 1 cup sugar evenly over the butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Arrange the pears closely together, core-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Cut the remaining pears halves into smaller wedges to fill in the spaces. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon evenly over the fruit.
- Set the skillet over medium-high heat. Boil until a thick amber-colored syrup forms, turning the skillet from time to time to ensure even cooking, about 25 minutes. Watch the caramel carefully – it should be the color of peanut butter; it will continue to darken in the oven.
- While the fruit is cooking on the stove, preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper to a round shape to fit the size of the skillet. When the filling is caramelized, remove the skillet from the heat. Working quickly, lay the pastry over the fruit (it will begin to soften from the heat of the pan.) Cut 3 to 4 slits in the pastry and brush the pastry with some of the egg glaze.
- Bake the tart until the pastry is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, about 25 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a rack one minute. Cut around edge of skillet with a thin spatula to loosen the pastry. Using oven mitts, invert the tart onto a heat-proof serving plate. If any of the pears or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with the spatula and arrange on top of tart. Cool the tart slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.