When you think of upside down desserts what pops into your mind? For me its upside down pineapple cake, a pear version I tried once in a crock pot, a ice cream cones that have succumbed to gravity. But for much of the world, there are many foods prepped upside down and flipped for presentation. And this month, 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. For those who don’t know what a tarte tatin is, it’s sort of like an upside down, single crust pie. You make a caramel, cook a bunch of fruit (or veggies), top with a pastry crust, and bake the whole thing in the oven. It’s then flipped out of the pan when your ready to eat it.
I also have a confession to make. Last year I tried to make a banana tarte tatin and I set off every single fire alarm in the house. I am not quite sure what went wrong – the recipe looked so simple, but the caramel was black, the bananas were dried and crispy, and the puff pastry was akin to granite. So when this months challenge came out, I was … shall we say apprehensive? But I was having a bunch of people over for a dinner party, who could help me eat a pastry (don’t ask why I try things I’ve failed at before while I have guests over instead of making a tried and true recipe) so I forged ahead with this attempt. I went with a simple pear version, using some pretty red anjou pears that I found at a local fruit stand but this recipe can be adapted for almost any fruit and for many vegetables. My version turned out pretty well though next time I think I’d skin the pears (as you can see below, they didn’t keep their color).
Quick Puff Pastry:
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cold salted butter
1/4 cup ice cold water
1. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is moderately incorporated – you want to still be able to see chunks, but for it to have flour mixed in.
2. Add the really cold water and mix until just incorporated – the dough will probably want to fall apart a bit but should stay together if you press.
3. Shape the dough into a rectangle.
4. Roll the dough out into a rectangle that is approximately 10-15 inches long
5. Fold the dough into thirds like you were folding a piece of paper to fit it in an envelope
6. Using your rolling pin press down hard along the open edges and in an x across the dough.
7. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn, so that an open end is now facing you.
8. Repeat steps 4-7 until you have completed the folding procedure 5 times.
9. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for later use.
Caramel and Fruit Filling
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
I am going to very upfront with you reader, I burnt the living daylights out of my first attempt at this caramel and the only reason I didn’t throw up my hands and say that caramel just isn’t for me is because I already had a house full of people expecting dessert. So take my instructions with a grain of salt and if something seems off please TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT. You’ll save your self heartache later. If after that bit of honesty you still want to forge ahead, here’s how I did the second attempt that ended up being served.
1. Quarter and core your pears, leaving 1/2 un-quartered for the center of the dish.
2. Place the fruit in a big bowl and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar and the lemon juice.
3. Set aside for 15 minutes.
4. Melt the butter in your cast iron skillet.
5. Sprinkle the remaining cup of sugar over the top.
6. Stir until the sugar begins to melt.
7. Allow your sugar/butter mixture to come to a light golden brown/amber color. Watch it carefully at this point because caramel goes from perfect to burnt in less than seconds. (Trust me, I know).
8. Remove the skillet from hear and stir until slightly cooled.
9. Add the pears (do not add the juice that they’ve produced, just the fruit) with the skin side down.
10. Return the pan to a very low heat.
11. Allow the pears to cook for 3-4 minutes then flip them so the other cut side is up.
12. Arrange them prettily in the skillet.
13. Remove from heat.
14. Roll your dough out into a circle that is ~ 1 inch larger than your skillet.
15. Lay the dough over the pears and tuck the edges down into the pan.
16. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, checking and rotating at the 20 minute mark.
17. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
18. The pears will have produced a lot of liquid as they’ve cooked. Drain as much of the liquid into a separate pan as possible before you try to un-mold the dish
19. Place a serving plate over the skillet.
15. Holding the plate and the skillet together quickly flip so that the pan is now on top. The pastry should un-mold easily (two people may make this easier, especially if your pan is still hot).
16. If any pears stuck to the pan use a fork to ease them off and back onto the tart.
Optional pear caramel sauce:
1. Take the juice you’ve strained off the pears, and any caramel stuck to the pan into a small sauce pot
2. Simmer until thickened.
Serve a slice of the tart warm with vanilla ice cream drizzled in your homemade sauce.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, make the caramel and cook the pears on the stove top, then transfer them into an oven save pan before adding the pastry and bake as instructed.
My final thoughts on tarte tatin. Fun to try and I’m glad I got it to work this time….but I don’t think I’ll be making it again in the near future. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a beautiful show stopper but I think I’ll be sticking with things that I can make more than one time out of three. However, I love the quick puff pastry recipe included here, I really want to try making puffy cheese sticks out of it. And I like the idea of poaching the fruit in caramel – I think just poached pears with vanilla ice cream would be lovely. Overall I’m going have to vote right side up for pies – but this recipe certainly was daring!