I’ve been chasing it for a long time.
It started with a birthday (Alyson‘s) and a pan that I had bought over Thanksgiving last year. Last year, folks.
It continued with a pâte sucrée that took months to perfect.
There were few false starts. The caramel burned. The pâte fell apart. The caramel burned again. And then.
And then one tarte had the potential for greatness. The wine and sugar caramelized. The pears softened. The pâte rolled out and tucked in beautifully.
But then it fell short.
Note to self, peel and cut more pears to fill the center.
And finally, finally last week, perfection. Or pretty damn close.
Or course, when the tarte cooperates, the sun does not.
I actually placed the tarte on a rolling cart and chased the sun around my apartment. I finally got one good shot of the whole tarte in all its glory. Scroll back up to the top if you want to relive this shining moment.
Ilana came over to “taste” this year’s version of the tarte.
There wasn’t very much left over.
Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin
Serves 6-8. (Or 1 hungry Ilana.)
This tarte was inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine but unfortunately I found the proportions, use of puff pastry, and cooking time to be off target, resulting in a burnt mess on my first attempt. Instead, I adapted the tarte tatin recipe included with my tarte pan to incorporate red wine into the caramel and replace traditional apples with pears. This is a recipe that is not for the faint of heart. There’s a crust to make from scratch. Caramel to try not to burn. A breath-stopping flip of a juicy tarte. This is a special occasion dessert.
– 2 C red wine (I’ve made it with house red, Bordeaux, and Cabernet)
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 1/4 C butter (or margarine)
– 1/2 C sugar
– 3-4 Bartlett or d’Anjou pears
– 1 batch pâte brisée or sucrée (see below) or prepared pie crust
Preheat. Preheat oven to 400°F
Reduce. Bring wine and cinnamon sticks to a boil, reducing down to about 1/4 C of syrup. This takes about 10 minutes. The kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon.
Caramelize. In the tarte tatin pan, melt butter/margarine with the sugar and stir frequently over low-medium heat (I use #3 – 4 on my induction stove) until it starts to turn a golden brown. Watch carefully. Really carefully. The second it starts to turn brown, take it off the heat. Turn down the heat and return the pan to the burner and let it get a little more golden. Watch it like a hawk. Add the wine syrup and simmer on low.
Cut. While the wine is boiling and then the sugar is caramelizing, peel and core the pears. I used a mini melon baller to help core them. I have made this with halves and quarters and find that while halves may look prettier, quarters are easier to slice and eat.
Cook. Arrange the halves (cut side up) or quarters (on their sides or belly side up if they’ll balance) in a circle around the pan (still on low heat) with thin ends pointed in. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat. The caramel will bubble up as the pears soften and pear juices seep out.
Roll. Take cold pâte sucrée out of freezer/fridge and roll between two sheets of wax paper into a circle about 1-2 inches larger than your tatin pan. Remove the top sheet, flip the crust over the fruit, and peel away the wax paper, tucking the dough in around the edges. Cut a few slits into the crust so steam can escape.
Bake. Bake 30 minutes until crust turns a nice brown.
Unveil. After cooling the tarte for a few minutes, place a plate (slightly larger than the tatin pan) over the pan, hold your breath for a second, and carefully flip the tatin on to the plate. Excellent warm or at room temperature. Try it with vanilla ice cream or gelato.
For pâte sucrée crust:
– 1 1/4 C flour
– 2 T confectioner’s sugar
– 1/4 t salt
– 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen
– 1 egg yolk
– 3T cold water
Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistency of corn meal.
Pulse again. Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.
Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.
Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.
Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.
Freeze. Freeze for 20 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using.