This caramel pear tart, inspired by the classic tarte Tatin, is super simple to make: a couple of pears, sugar, butter, and store-bought frozen puff pastry. Easy elegance.
These individual pear-shaped tarts are a takeoff on the famous French tarte Tatin. They make a terrific autumn dessert when pears are bountiful. The pear halves are cupped by pastry, and the stems peek out from underneath. They’re elegant and easy.–David Leite
CAN I MAKE ONE TART INSTEAD OF INDIVIDUAL ONES?
Although many bakers have individual tarts pans laying around the kitchen, not everyone does. If not, what about 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? Less fussy, more classic.
Caramel Pear Tarts
- 4- to 5-inch Individual tart pans
- Flour for the work surface
- 1/2 recipe Pate Brisée 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
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
- Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Crank the oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat.
- Divide the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each portion of dough into a circle 1⁄8 to 1/4 inch thick. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate.
- Slice each pear in half lengthwise. Then slice each pear half lengthwise into four or five 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.
- 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, 5 to 10 minutes. When the caramel turns, well, caramel-colored, immediately remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water (stand back, as the caramel will spit). 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 liquefies again and behaves itself.
- Working quickly, pour the caramel into the 4 tart pans, dividing it evenly. Plop 2 chunks of butter onto each puddle of caramel.
- Carefully arrange a pear half, rounded-side down, smack in the center of each puddle of caramel. Top each pear with a portion of the dough, stretching it 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.
- 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 35 minutes. To be safe, 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. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the tarts stand in their pans for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the roiling caramel to calm down and thicken slightly.
- 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is basically a tarte Tatin using pears instead of apples and served in individual portions. My tasters loved this dessert, which I served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I used puff pastry instead of pate brisée, which turned out nicely both in terms of appearance and flavor.
The biggest challenge with this recipe is finding the correct pan(s) to bake them in. I baked the tarts for 30 minutes, which was almost too long as one of the tarts ended up slightly overdone, but fortunately not burned.
I wasn’t sure how the more mellow pear would stand in for the tart apple I always choose for traditional tarte Tatins, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the sweet caramel, earthy pear, and buttery dough came together in one fantastic dessert. The less crisp pear is also a convenient stand-in because it requires no pre-cooking to achieve the desired tenderness in the finished dessert.
I cooked the individual tarts in the small cast-iron pans, which worked wonderfully. If you don’t have small pans, though, simply make one big tart in a 10-inch cast-iron pan or traditional glass pie plate. To serve my individual tarts, I turned them out of the pans and then stuck them crust-side down right back in the same pans—just keep in mind that if you do this you have to serve them immediately or the crust will get soggy. This prevented me from dirtying more plates and made sure everyone got all the delicious caramel at the bottom of the pans.
Although I prefer this tart on its own with no embellishment, I could be convinced to top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In addition, even though it’s not traditional, I intend to try the recipe again with half a teaspoon of cinnamon in the pate brisée because I can’t resist the urge to add cinnamon to all things fall!
Originally published October 12, 2021