Whilst it may not officially be autumn just yet here in Wales, it would seem that nobody told the weather. There’s a shift in the air & things are getting ever so slightly chillier & darker (I’m having mixed feelings about this). Recent storms have only added to the state of affairs, leaving us curled up in our homes, sheltering from the winds & rain whilst desperately praying for the lives of our sunflowers & beans in the garden!
It’s not all bad though, strong winds bring with them lots of seasonal windfall fruits at this time of the year. Suddenly I’ve found myself with an abundance of apples & pears in the kitchen (mostly from kind neighbours). Whilst they may not have been quite ready to leave the tree yet, they’re still perfectly good for use in chutneys, jellies, crumbles & cakes.
Since my stash of Bramleys has far more uses at this time of year, I’m saving them to make some herb jellies & chilli jams, still leaving me with a whole load of pears. Pears which have come to an untimely harvest are perfect for cooking & baking as underripe ones keep their shape better.
With this in mind, they’re excellent to use in something decorative & attractive right now & what could be more attractive than a glistening, golden, caramelised tarte tatin?! A traditional French dessert that is deceptively easy to make.
Traditionally made with apples (but let’s face it I make things like courgette jam around here, let’s mix it up a bit!), tarte tatin consists of sweet pears (or apples), sticky vanilla caramel & buttery flaky pastry, what’s not to love?
PEAR TARTE TATIN
(Makes one 20cm tart)
- 300g ready-made puff pastry
- 3 – 4 pears
- 100g caster sugar
- 45g butter
- 1 vanilla pod
- Begin by rolling out the puff pastry to roughly the thickness of a £1 coin
- Place a 20cm ovenproof frying pan in the centre of the pastry & use a sharp knife to cut out a circle that is roughly 1-2cm larger than the pan
- Cover the pastry with some baking parchment or film & place in the oven to chill for later
- Slice & core the pears into thin, similar sized slices & set aside
- Next, make the caramel by setting your frying pan over a medium – high heat
- Pour the caster sugar into the pan & shake to spread out in an even layer
- Leave the sugar to cook on the heat until it eventually starts to melt & caramelise (around 5-10 minutes)
- As soon as the sugar has turned an amber colour or begins to smoke a little in the pan, take it off the heat & stir in the butter
- Whilst the caramel is still warm, arrange the pear slices in a tight circle around the edge of the pan before using any smaller slices to fill in the middle & any gaps
- Put the pan into the oven at 180C for 15 minutes to begin to soften the pears
- After 15 minutes, remove from the oven & set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes
- Once cooled slightly, lay the pastry circle over the top of the pear slices & use your fingers to squeeze the edges of the pastry down the sides of the pan, tucking them over the pears
- Pierce a few holes in the top of the pastry & put back in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, until the pastry has puffed up & turned golden
- Remove from the oven & leave to cool for 10 minutes
- Next, take a large enough plate over the top of the frying pan & carefully invert them (turning the frying pan upside down to sit on top of the plate) to release the tart