The book of French cooking is absolutely mottled with happy accidents. Take the vol-au-vent, the chocolate truffle, or Roquefort: not one of them was planned, but each is considered a classic of French cuisine today. Of these numerous faux pas, the tarte tatin – that delectable upside-down apple tart – is one of the most famous. And as with any good tart, there’s always room for some improvisation. My favourite twist on the classic apple version is making one with halved pears…
Around the end of the 19th century, two sisters who went by the names, Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin, were running a hotel-restaurant in Sologne. On one of those days when Stéphanie the youngest – who did most of the cooking – found herself overworked, and her thoughts resembled the flight pattern of a butterfly more than that of a duck flying south for the winter, she neglected to line the pan of her tart pan with dough. Unfazed, she simply proceeded to pop the dough on top once the apples had cooked. And the upside-down tart was born!
125 g (150 g ) caster sugar
40 g (45 ml) unsalted butter
5 ml ground cinnamon
3 ml ground cardamom
5 pears, peeled and pitted
1 x 400 g sheet puff pastry
Place a 20 cm pan (that you can place in the oven) on your stove top.
Over a very low heat, melt the sugar without stirring. (Stirring it can cause it to crystallise.)
Once the sugar has melted, add the butter, cinnamon and cardamom.
Gently stir until it’s all mixed.
Add the pears to the caramel, arranging them in the pan with the sliced side facing down.
Cook the pears until just soft (you’ll have to use a toothpick to test it, as pears differ). Take off the heat and let it cool before popping the pastry on top.
Then, preheat the oven to 200 °C.
Cut the pastry in a circle, slightly larger than the pan. Place the pastry on top and tuck the outside edge inwards into the pears.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes.
Place your serving plate face-down on top of the pan and turn it around confidently but carefully.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.