~ 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 8-10.
For the Sour Cream Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup full fat sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in 4 pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
6 large pears, peeled, cored and halved
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of peas. Add sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made one day ahead; refrigerate until use. Pastry dough may also be frozen up to one month in freezer before rolling. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight.) Remove pastry from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.
Arrange butter in bottom of large oven-proof skillet with sloping sides (preferably cast iron.) Sprinkle 1 cup sugar evenly over butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Arrange pears closely together, core-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Cut remaining pears in quarters to fill in the spaces. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar, cardamom and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Set skillet over medium-high heat. Boil until a thick amber coloured syrup forms, turning skillet to ensure even cooking, about 25 minutes.
While the fruit is cooking on stove, preheat oven to 425 F. Roll out pastry on floured surface or parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. Place in refrigerator while you wait for the filling to caramelize. Remove skillet from heat. Lay pastry over fruit (work quickly because it will begin to melt from the heat of the pan.) Cut 3-4 slits in pastry. Brush pastry with some of the egg glaze.
Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and cool on rack one minute. Cut around edge of skillet to loosen pastry. Invert the tart onto a platter, using oven mitts. If any of the pears or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with a knife and arrange on top of tart. Cool tart slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.