~ Perfectly imperfect: Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin ~
By now you may have noticed that I am a huge fan of tarte tatins. Tarte tatin is an upside down fruit tart, traditionally made with apples. It’s named for the Tatin sisters who “invented” the upside down caramelized tart purportedly by accident in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1898. Legend has it that one of the sisters, due to fatigue or distraction (and we have all been there), somehow omitted the pastry in an apple tart, thereby adding it on top of the fruit in an attempt to salvage the dessert. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our kitchen disasters yielded such successful results?
Tarte tatins are a lovely way to showcase seasonal fruit. Homey and rustic, they ooze caramel and fruit. Best of all they are beautifully imperfect. Once you get the hang of making the caramel and the final turnout of the tart onto a plate, tarte tatins are an unfussy and pleasing dessert – and in my case, they are irregular, uneven and all the more charming for that. I use a sour cream pastry which creates a crumbly, cookie-like crust. As 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 and coat the crust like a candied apple. How can anyone resist this?
Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin
I like to serve this with lightly sweetened whipped cream spiked with a spoonful of pear brandy. Serves 8 to 10.
Sour cream dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup full fat sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 large Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and halved
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze
Prepare the dough:
1. 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-sized. Add the sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form.
2. Gather the dough into a ball, and then flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (The dough may be made one day ahead and refrigerated until use, or frozen for up to one month. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight before using.)
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.
Prepare the tart:
1. Place the butter in the bottom of a large oven-proof skillet with sloping sides. Sprinkle the 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, about 2 minutes.
2. Arrange the pears closely together, cut-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Cut the remaining pears into quarters to fill in the spaces. Mix the 1 tablespoon sugar, the cardamom, and nutmeg in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until a thick amber colored syrup forms, turning the skillet to ensure even cooking, about 25 minutes.
3. While the fruit is cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the pastry on parchment paper to a round shape slightly larger than the skillet. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator until the syrup is ready.
4. When the syrup has colored, remove the skillet from the heat and lay the pastry over the fruit (work quickly because it will begin to melt from the heat of the pan). Cut 3 to 4 slits in the pastry and brush the pastry with some of the egg glaze.
6. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the tart is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a rack 1 minute.
7. Cut around edge of skillet with a metal spatula to loosen the pastry. Place a large plate over the skillet and, using oven mitts, invert the tart onto the plate. If any of the pears or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with the spatula and spread on top of tart. Cool the tart slightly before serving and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.