According to culinary legend, the original tarte Tatin was created by the Tatin sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline, at their hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron during the late 19th century. The inverted pastry is usually made with apples, but firm-fleshed pears are also suited to this method. Comice pears remain firm when ripe, making them an excellent choice, but Anjous and Bartletts are great alternatives.
Featured in: “Harvesting the American Feast.“
For the Pastry:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-in. cubes
- 2 tbsp. shortening, cold
For the Filling:
- 2 lb. firm pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 1⁄4 cups sugar, divided
- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Make the pastry: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, rub the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until the dough just holds together. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Make the filling: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. On a cutting board, place one of the pears cored-side down. Starting from just below the stem, make 4 evenly spaced cuts lengthwise leaving the stem end intact. Repeat with the remaining pears, transfer to a bowl, and gently toss with the lemon juice and ¼ cup of the sugar. Set aside to macerate for at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the remaining sugar and cook, stirring continuously, until it turns light amber. Remove from the heat.
- Drain the pears (discard the liquid) and arrange them round-side down atop the caramel with their stems pointing toward the center. Gently fan the slices.
- On a lightly floured surface, use a flour-dusted rolling pin to roll the dough into a 10-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Drape the dough over the pears, using your hands to tuck the pastry around the fruit. Cut four ¼-inch steam holes in the center and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Tilt the skillet slightly, and using a baster, transfer the excess juices to a small bowl. Carefully invert the tarte onto a large plate. To the empty skillet, add the juices and turn the heat to high. Reduce until thickened, about 3 minutes, then spoon or brush it over the pears. Serve warm or at room temperature.