Cast Iron Pear Tarte Tatin

I’ve always fancied myself a chocolate person, but I think I might really be a caramel person. And a pastry person – definitely a pastry person. Possibly both. Or all of the above. (This could explain why in the realm of body shapes in which most classify themselves as apples or pears, I’m starting to categorize myself as a snowman.) But oh, some things are worth it. I mean, look at this!

A tarte tatin – an inverted pie typically made with apples and a quick butter-sugar caramel started first in a skillet – is unlike any other fruit pie. Its bottom, having been baked as its top, is crisp and golden, saturated with caramel. This is what Danishes should look like. (In miniature, of course. Or at least the size of a salad plate rather than a dinner plate.)

The fruit is soft and caramelized, kept in halves or fanned out like these pears. With so many more varieties available at the market, it seemed the time to make one. It has been taking up a chunk of headspace since I saw it on Saveur.

It’s the last thing I made before leaving town for Toronto (yep, I’m there now! are you here too? Come see Sue and I at the Cookbook Store between 2 and 3 on Sunday!); my aunt was coming for dinner and I needed to pull together something quick and fancy-ish; it took under ten minutes to dump a chunk of butter and cup of sugar into a cast iron skillet and simmer it into caramel while peeling and coring (a small spoon works perfectly to scoop out the soft flesh) four ripe pears.

And fanning them out in the bottom of the pan. Kind of.

A chunk of thawed puff pastry took about ten seconds to roll out roughly as big as the skillet, then draped overtop. Regular pastry (enough for a single crust) would work just as well – next time I’ll try a hazelnut crust, I think. But I do love puff pastry in this particular placement – it allows you to wind up with something like this:

I really strongly urge you to give this a go, particularly if you are at all pie-phobic. There’s no need to line a plate with pastry, nor crimp the edge – the more haphazardly you put it together, the more rustic it looks, in fact. It’s one of those recipes that you make once, and then can just do, using apples, pears, peaches – bananas, even. Not that you’d ever want to stray from pears when they’re this good.

Saveur instructs the baker to remove excess juices with a turkey baster and reduce them further in a small saucepan. I did not bother to read the whole recipe, and am just reading that part now. I didn’t find the juices to be overly so, and didn’t mind the caramelly puddles, but I do recommend gently inverting the pan onto a plate to avoid a backsplash.

Cast Iron Pear Tarte Tatin


October 12, 2011


1 chunk of frozen puff pastry, or pastry for a single crust pie


1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

a squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 Tbsp.)

2 lb. firm pears, peeled, cored, and halved lengthwise (about 4 pears)


1Preheat the oven to 425°. Put the sugar and butter into a heavy cast iron skillet with a squeeze of lemon and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring until it turns deep golden. Remove from the heat.

2To fan the pears, place core-side down on a cutting board and cut into 4 lengthwise slices, leaving the pointy end attached. Arrange cut side up in the pan, fanning them slightly, and placing them close together (fruit shrinks as it cooks).

3Roll the pastry out until it's about as big (or a little bigger) than the skillet; cover the pears and tuck the edge in around them. Cut a few slits in the top and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

4Carefully invert the tarte tatin onto a plate while it's still warm.


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24 comments on “Cast Iron Pear Tarte Tatin

  1. Anonymous
    October 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Looks so yummy. Your paragraph about caramel calls for butter and flour – which would be better for my blood sugar (or would it?) but is maybe a typo.

  2. JulieVR
    October 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Sorry – meant sugar! thanks for catching that – been a long day.. changing it now!

  3. Nancy
    October 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    looks wonderful…..welcome to Ontario!

  4. Tina
    October 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    ahh, beautifully simple. Definately a caramel person, and a pear person. I’ll try this soon!

  5. Sue. D
    October 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    WOW. That is one fine lookin’ dessert. I’m actually salivating just looking at it! Gorgeous.

  6. Laurie from Burnaby
    October 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm


  7. sara
    October 13, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Gorgeous! Love the idea of making this tart with pears, sounds simply delicious. 🙂

  8. renee@sweetsugarbean
    October 13, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Holy Cow! Definitely going to give this a try. Pears and caramel and a little puff pastry action are some of my favourite things!

  9. CathyH
    October 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

    That is absolutely beautiful! Almost too beautiful to eat!

  10. sarah
    October 13, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Looks like you are in Toronto for your new book about beans! Wow, is it available in Calgary?

  11. Fiona
    October 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I love caramel. And I knew there was a reason I bought puff pastry the other day. I think I’ll make this over the weekend, only with apples.

    You are not helping my Maui diet.

  12. Melissa W
    October 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Ooh I want to try this. I haven’t got a cast iron skillet (yet) but do have one of those heavy cast iron enamel-coated ones. Do you think that will work? I will give it a go.
    Love that you made this with pears, too.

  13. Terri
    October 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    OMG – that looks beautiful Julie. Love your recipes!! Snowman – me too. Ugh.

    xo Terri

  14. rea
    October 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm


  15. Andi
    October 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Absolutely amazing. Just flipped it out of the skillet and couldn’t resist a crazy hot taste! I did take out some juice and reduced it further (mainly because I was scared of fipping it onto a plate!!) This is going into regular rotation.

  16. Stephanie
    October 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    I am 100% a caramel person and this looks so so tempting. I love the rustic look but more importantly the fact that everything is drenched in caramel

  17. Beverley M
    October 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Tried this tonight with apples. Turns out it’s possible to overcook it… the caramel had an undertone of “burnt” — sad, it’s borderline… edible but not enjoyable so it’s going in the garbage. Will have to try again sometime

  18. Eleanor
    October 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    My first time baking a Tartin and it came out perfect and was delicious!

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  24. Rosemarie
    November 13, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Definitely a lot of liquid……… I recommend bakers to try to get the caramel to be a little underdone because it will continue to cook off heat (caused mine to burn a bit).

    Not sure this was good instructions. I tried this with a homemade pie crust too since frozen puff pastry is garbage and far too difficult and time consuming to make from scratch. I’m gonna see about further reducing excess liquid in separate pan.

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