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Caramel Pear Tarts

Three caramel pear tarts on a wooden board.
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.
John Barricelli

Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr
Dessert
French
4 tarts
530 kcal

Equipment

  • 4- to 5-inch Individual tart pans

Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions 

  • 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.