For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.
This months Daring Bakers challenge was to make a tarte tatin, sweet or savoury, using any fruit or vegetable we wanted; the only stipulations being that we made our own pastry and made caramel on the stovetop. I decide not to go for the classic apple tarte tatin as there are already so many recipes for it out there. I toyed for a while with the idea of using bananas, then rhubarb – both of which I would have enjoyed immensely, but Damian wasn’t particularly keen on either of those ideas…much to my annoyance…In the end I settled on pear and ginger – a flavour that both of us would enjoy.
Most of the recipes for tarte tatin that I came across served at least six people, and as it is a dessert that is best served fresh from the oven, and we didn’t have anyone coming over for dinner to share it with this month, I decided to make a mini one that just served two people – a good idea if you are trying to practice self control…I was recently given a couple of these little cast iron skillets, which are incredibly useful and great for making individual portions of things. A tart made in one of them is just the right size to serve two.
Tarte tatin can be made with puff or shortcrust pastry, I went for shortcrust as it is easier to make such a small amount of shortcrust pastry than it would be of puff, you can use shop bought pastry if you prefer but seeing as shortcrust is so quick and simple to make there’s no reason not to really. The tart is cooked in two stages – first you make a caramel in your skillet and add the pears, cook them gently in the caramel until they have softened. At first it may not look like the pear slices will fit in the pan in a single layer, but they shrink a little as they cook so once they are done you will be able to arrange them prettily. Once the pears have cooked you need to leave them to cool, then arrange them how you like in the pan. At this point, if you like, you can place the skillet of pears in the fridge and continue with the bake later on in the day – you can prep the tart in the morning and bake it for dessert in the evening (don’t cover the pears with the pastry until you are about to put it in the oven though or the pastry will go soggy.). Once you have arranged the pear slices to your liking, roll out the pastry and cut out a circle a little larger than the skillet, cover the pears with the pastry and tuck the edges down between the fruit and the sides of the skillet then bake for about half an hour before flipping the tart out onto a plate.
The tart is gooey on the the top and crisp underneath; the soft, caramel infused pears are delicious with the crisp pastry and a hint of warmth from the ginger. It was exactly the right size for the two of us to devour greedily, warm, topped with a dollop of ice cream. It would make the perfect end to a romantic meal for two, no need for separate plates… (having to take photos of it while eating kind of destroys any romance though…).
- 75g (scant ⅔ cup) plain flour
- 15g (2 tbsp) icing (powdered) sugar
- pinch salt
- 40g (3 tbsp) cold butter, cubed
- 1 medium egg yolk
- ½ to 1 tbsp ice cold water
- 2 medium pears, ripe but firm
- 65g (1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 15g (1 tbsp) butter
- 1 ball stem ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp stem ginger syrup
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- To make the pastry, mix together the flour, icing sugar and salt. Add the butter and rub in until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg yolk then add enough ice water to bring it together into a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
- Peel and core the pears and cut each into 8 slices, set aside.
- Place a 15cm/6in cast iron skillet or oven proof frying pan over the heat, sprinkle the sugar evenly over the base and add the tablespoon of water. Heat, swirling the pan regularly, until the sugar has melted and turned caramel. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the butter then the stem ginger, ginger syrup, ground ginger and cinnamon and the salt.
- Add the pear slices and stir to coat in the caramel. Return the pan to a low heat and cook, stirring regularly, for 10-15 minutes until the pears have shrunk and softened slightly but still retain their shape.
- Set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.
- Once the pears have cooled, arrange them in a single layer in the skillet. Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick (you want it a bit thicker than you would usually roll it) and cut out a circle a couple of centimeters larger than the diameter of your skillet.
- Place the circle of pastry over the pears and tuck the edges down in between the fruit and the sides of the skillet.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes - until the caramel stops bubbling.
- Place a plate (one with a bit of a rim - there will be caramel spill-over) over the top of the skillet and carefully invert the tart onto the plate, rearrange the pears if need be.
- Serve warm, with a dollop of ice cream.