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Caramel Pear Tarts

These individual pear-shaped tarts are a takeoff on the famous French tarte Tatin. They make a great fall dessert when pears are in season. They’re popular with our catering clients, though they’re not difficult to make at home. The pear halves are cupped by pastry, and the stems peek out from underneath. They’re elegant and easy.–John Barricelli

LC Unfussy and Fancy Free Note

The original recipe calls for cutting out the dough with a pear-shaped cookie cutter. Uh, we can’t recall ever seeing one. (Not that we’ve ever looked for one….) Fortunately, the author also offers an unfussy and fancy free option of simply reaching for a knife, trimming the dough into circles, and shaping it to individual tart pans, an option we find far, far more fetching. Although if petite and pricey tart pans sound equally fussy, you can opt for wee cast-iron skillets or a whopping 8- or 9- or even 10-inch cast-iron skillet, seeing as the amounts below translate, quite fortuitously, to a family-size rustic tart.

Special Equipment: Individual tart pans

Caramel Pear Tarts Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 4 individual tarts

Ingredients

  • Flour for the work surface
  • 1/2 recipe Pate Brisee, chilled, or store-bought puff pastry, such as Dufour, thawed
  • 2 pears, any variety, peeled
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 8 teaspoons (roughly 2 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size pieces, at room temperature

Directions

  • 1. Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat.
  • 2. Divide the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each portion of dough to a circle 1⁄8 to 1/4 inch thick. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate.
  • 3. Slice each pear in half lengthwise. Then slice each pear half into three or four 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices, starting at the rounded bottom and cutting almost but not quite all the way through the stem end. The pear slices should remain attached to one another at the stem end. Place each pear half cut-side down on the work surface and, using the palm of your hand, gently press to fan out the slices.
  • 4. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, 1/4 cup of the water, and the vinegar. Bring to a boil, tilting the pan to swirl the sugar. Boil until the sugar dissolves and the mixture turns a deep amber color, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. When the caramel turns, well, caramel, immediately remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the remaining 2 tablespoons water (you may want to stand back, as the caramel will spit and spatter). Tilt the pan to swirl the caramel and water together. If the caramel seizes and hardens, return the pan to medium heat until the caramel turns liquid again and behaves itself.
  • 5. Working quickly, pour the caramel into the 4 tart pans, dividing it evenly. Plop 2 teaspoons butter onto each puddle of caramel.
  • 6. Arrange a pear half, rounded-side down, smack in the center of each puddle of caramel. Top each pear with a portion of dough, stretching the dough to cover the pear entirely and tucking it in between the pear and the side of the pan. Place the tart pans on the lined baking sheet.
  • 7. Bake the tarts, rotating the baking sheet about 2/3 of the way through the baking time, until the crust is cooked through, the caramel is bubbling, and the pears are tender when you peek beneath the dough and pierce them with the tip of a sharp knife, 30 to 37 minutes. You may wish to check the tarts after 20 minutes to make sure they’re not browning too quickly; if they are, cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil. Let the tarts stand in their pans for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the roiling caramel to calm down and thicken slightly.
  • 8. Using tongs or hot pads, carefully invert the pans onto a wire rack set over a piece of parchment to catch any drips of caramel. Carefully remove the pans from the tarts. Immediately place the tarts on serving plates and scrape any caramel remaining in the pans over the pears. Serve at once.
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