These pears looked so incredibly lovely at the market I just couldn't resist them, even though they are more of a fall specialty. The colour of their red skin of and their perfectly ripe, not too hard, not too soft, texture sold me instantly.
As you can see from last week I have been on a bit of a puff pastry kick lately, tomato, thyme, white wine & goat cheese puffed tarts. These tarts are so flavourful and are the perfect excuse to use up those beautiful local tomatoes that are popping through here on the west coast.
I had been keeping my eye open for something to use for the other half of a leftover box of puffed pastry when I saw these pears at the market, I knew instantly what I wanted to make. A french inspired (a country I am urning to go to not only for its amazing luxurious food but its beautiful, warm design, one that I am dreaming of for our next reno) pear tarte tatin, again it seems to be a pretty fall-ish dessert but sometimes on those cozy, grey, summer days when your body is craving soup and a warm dessert, here it will be waiting for you to make in all its lovely puffed glory.
Tarte tatin's a well known dessert originating from France are almost like an upside down cake but instead of a batter on top of the caramelized fruit it is beautifully golden and flakey puffed pastry. If you tend to read my blog often you will know that I don't use white or brown sugars in my baking or anything for that matter. Sometimes it can make it hard and sometimes recipes just do not work out at all but I knew this would be a perfect one for maple syrup.
I use quite a high grade of maple syrup (B to be exact) so it is much darker than normal, which gave this tart a richly, deeply coloured caramelization in the end. It is not burnt trust me but depending on the syrup you use it might not end up as dark so don't worry about that.
If you can't find red pears you can use any kind of pear that you like. Just make sure they are not too ripe and not too hard. That in between medium stage is what you are looking for, but when in doubt go for a little harder over too soft as they do bake for a little while and that will naturally soften them up. You don't want mush.
The pear tarte tatin is best served warm and with a side of ice cream, although whipped cream or even crème fraîche would be just as lovely. And if you are desperate for a bite straight from the fridge without warming it up again, no one is judging you here.
richly caramelized walnut & pear tarte tatin
4 1/2 red D'Anjou pears (medium ripeness)
1/2 package of puffed pastry
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup walnuts
4 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp pure vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
juice of one lemon
Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the pastry square on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to about a 10 inch square. Invert a 9 inch cast iron skillet over the pastry sheet (or use a plate the same size as the skillet). Using the skillet as a template, trim the excess pastry to make a circle. Prick the pastry circle with a fork and place it on the plate and refrigerate until ready to use.
Peel the pears, cut them in half and toss in a bowl with the juice of one lemon (you will have to cut one of the halves into another half for the center pear and of course eat one half fresh). Set aside.
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Pour 2 tbsp water in the center of the skillet and add the maple syrup (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp). Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the maple syrup bubbly, thick and deep in colour. Do not stir. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the salt, butter and vanilla. Carefully tilt the skillet so that the syrup mixture butter and vanilla swirl together until well blended, again do not stir. Let the mixture cool for 2 minutes.
Sprinkle the walnuts in the skillet and place the cinnamon sticks and star anise in. Arrange the pear halves around the edge of the skillet, cut-side up, with the tops pointing toward the center. Place the remaining pear half, cut-side up, in the gap in the center of the skillet, trimming to fit, if needed.
Cook the pears over medium heat for 10 - 12 minutes or until tender. Do not stir. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Place the pastry circle over the pear halves, pressing down slightly and tucking the edge in around the inside of the skillet.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let the tarte tatin cool in the skillet on a wire rack for 5 minutes. You do not want to turn it over to soon as the caramel will not set properly but you also don't want to leave it too long or it will stick to the bottom of the skillet, it is best to set a timer. After 5 minutes carefully invert the tarte tatin onto a serving plate. Remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Cut and serve immediately with a side of ice cream or whipped cream.
If you have a larger or smaller skillet this recipe will work just the same. Just roll the pastry out to the size that you have and peel enough pears to cover the bottom of the pan.