Tarte Tatin is a sweet, sticky and delicious dessert – but the best thing about it is its versatility. Here is a pear and vanilla version.
By Elizabeth Ellory
“Tarte Tatin” has now become an absolute French classic. It is traditionally made using apples, but I guess due to its huge popularity these days, people are looking for variations on the recipe. Our variety is to use pears in place of the apples. A tarte tatin is a layer of fruit coated in caramel with a layer of pastry placed over the top, with the whole thing being turned over after baking in the oven. We wanted to add another flavour, vanilla, into the finished product. There is no better smell than that of a vanilla pod. It is rich and creamy and works really well with pears. Some recipes suggest to just cook the pears for 10 or 15 minutes in the caramel first before baking in the oven, but we have again adapted this and used a poaching liquid to par-cook the pears and to infuse the vanilla flavour. When we turned over the pan and revealed the tart, we saw a beautifully crisp pastry with soft, sweet and sticky pears. Served with custard, it was delicious. A Tarte Tatin is a sweet, sticky and delicious dessert but we think the best thing about it is its versatility. There is so much room to personalise this to your liking and it can be kept as simple as possible, or you can put in a little more effort and make it really luxurious. We opted for the latter.
- For the pears
- 4 pears - peeled
- 400g caster sugar
- 170g butter
- 400ml water
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 star anise
- 1 vanilla pod
- For the pastry
- 200g plain flour
- 125g butter
- about 2-3tbsp cold water
- For the caramel
- 100g sugar
- 50g butter
- Start by preparing the poaching liquid. Heat the sugar in a saucepan until it turns into a dark caramel. Then add the butter in small amounts until all melted.
- Add the water and add the lemon, star anise and vanilla pod (slice the vanilla pod in half first).
- Bring to a very slow simmer and leave for about 30mins. Then strain the liquid and return to the heat.
- Add the pears and cook until just soft and then allow to cool in the liquid to soak up all the flavours.
- Once cooled take the pears out of the liquid, half them and take out the core.
- To begin the pastry, add small cubes of cold butter to the plain flour, and then use a knife to cut through and break up the lumps of butter, before binding it together with the cold water (you may need more or less, but just enough to bind it all together).
- Once the dough comes together you then roll it into a long thin piece before folding it into thirds; bringing the top third down onto the second third and the bottom third over the top third. You then repeat the rolling and folding 3-4 times to trap air into the pastry. You should always take care to roll away from you to avoid squashing the bubbles you have worked so hard to create. Once it has been rolled and folded to your desired specification, it should be rested in the fridge for 30mins
- Next, in an ovenproof frying pan (about 20cm diameter), melt the sugar to make a caramel and then add the butter. Once melted, add the pears to the pan with the core side facing up.
- Roll out the pastry to a circle a little larger than the frying pan. Then place the pastry over the pears and tuck it in between the pears and the edge of the frying pan.
- Place in a preheated oven at 180C and cook for about 30mins or until the pastry is brown and crisp.
- Take the pan out of the oven and allow to cool for 10mins. Then find a plate which will fit neatly inside the pan. Place it on top of the pastry and then turn the whole lot upside down so that the tart sits on the plate with the pears facing up and the pastry on the bottom.
- Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.