Pear-Honey Tarte Tatin

Having just watched, I don't remember why, someone who is apparently not Jamie Oliver make Tarte Tatin, I stared at three pears waiting to rot in the fridge, and had a mad idea.  I think, in retrospect, I was more enamored with the madness than the idea itself (not that there is such a thing): make Tarte Tatin with these pears, but use honey for the caramel (there's no sugar in the house).  If this is "madness" my life must be terribly mundane.  It became apparent when I started peeling the pears that every recipe I had read used enough fruit to fill the pan completely, sometimes layering more on top.  Julia Child's pan, the extreme case, is brimming over.  So it would be a scant tart.

For a recipe I followed the "filling" part from smitten kitchen's, and (roughly) Helen Rennie's extremely explicit pastry technique.  Except I halved smitten kitchen's recipe, because I was only using half the amount of fruit, I used ~1/3 cup honey instead of 1/2 cup sugar, and for the crust whole wheat pastry flour, which is not as heavy as whole wheat flour, but does taste like something and has some texture. 

The problem, I think, with using honey is that it caramelizes more quickly than sugar.  So while smitten kitchen's recipe called for cooking the caramel with fruit for ten minutes on high heat, after five minutes I was afraid I had ruined the whole mess, and then I only cooked it for another minute or two after flipping the pear halves over.  And even then, I think it came out just a little too burnt.

But despite being maybe a little too caramelized, and not terribly pretty, it was still delicious.  I made enough dough for another, maybe next time I'll try apples--more than three, even.

What follows is the untested recipe I would follow if I were to make this again.

Pastry (for two tarts) 13.5 oz (~3 cups) whole wheat pastry flour 2 1/2 sticks butter 1 tsp salt 2 tsp sugar 1 cup ice water

With a postage scale, weigh a medium bowl, and then subtract this weight to weigh 13.5 oz flour in it.  Set this aside, and put the sugar and salt on top of it.  Cut the (cold) butter into lengthwise quarters and then many chunks (~1cm square).  Scatter these on a plate and put in the freezer for ten minutes.  Move the flour with salt and sugar to a food processor.  Put in the butter chunks.  Pulse repeatedly until the butter is cut into pea-size or smaller pieces.  While pulsing every second or two, slowly pour 1/2 cup ice-cold water.  Pick up some dough with your hand and squeeze it.  If it holds together easily, not falling apart after you stop squeezing, it's enough water.  If it falls apart, add more water in small increments until it does hold together.  Dump half of the not-yet-formed dough mixture out onto a flat, clean surface, scrape it together into one mass (despite the paranoia of heat that accompanies pastry dough, I think your hands are fine as a scraping instrument), and squeeze into a ball.  Do the same with the other half of the unformed dough mixture.  Seal with plastic (a bag, or plastic wrap) and refrigerate.

Fruit 6 pears 3/4 cup honey 1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Peel, halve, and core pears.  Splash a little lemon juice on top of them.  Melt butter on low heat in a large saucepan that can be put into the oven (no plastic parts).  Remove from heat, and stir in honey with a whisk.  Arrange pears facing down (they will be flipped).  Cut pear halves into pear quarters to fill in gaps.  While it's cooking, roll out pastry dough into something that will more than cover the top of the pan.  Cook on high heat for 3 or 4 minutes.  Flip pears.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Roll the flat dough onto a rolling pin or other cylindrical object, to make transferring it onto the pan easier.  Lay it on top of the pan.  Push the edges into the sides of the pan, where possible between the pears and the sides of the pan.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.  When the crust is just barely browned, take it out.  Let it cool for 30 minutes.  Unstick the edges of the crust from the sides of the pan with a knife.  Place a plate (significantly larger than the pan if possible) on top of the pan.  Using pot holders on both hands holding the pan and the plate together, quickly flip them over so that the tart falls onto the plate.

19 October 2010

Oops, I didn't cut the edges free from the pan before turning it out.