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.