A friend has been making Tarte Tatin, so I thought I would join the party, and show you my version. It’s not so much the famous version of Tarte Tatin, which is made with apples, as my own ersatz version. But it’s still delicious.
Tarte Tatin is a caramellised apple upside down pie. It’s very, very simple to make, but very, very hard to get right. You need to use a pan which can go from the stovetop and into the oven. Therein lies my first problem. I have no such pan, and as yet, I haven’t found one that is about the right size, and not too expensive. One day… I hope.
So I make do with a saucepan, and a standard quiche dish, and a quick transfer. And I make one other major alteration. I make my Tarte Tatin with pears, not so much for the taste (I like both pears and apples) as for the shape.
First of all, you will need pastry. Most recipes suggest using puff pastry, but I just make ordinary old shortcrust pastry. I make a slightly smaller batch than usual – about 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, and 150 grams of butter. Cut it into a round about 5cm bigger in diameter than the pan or quiche dish you are going to use for the tart, and set it aside.
Next, peel, quarter and core the pears, squeeze a little lemon juice over them, and set them aside. You will need four or five pears. Then, if you are using my ersatz make-do method, grease the quiche dish thoroughly.
You should turn the oven on to heat up about now, to about 200 degrees (celsius).
Then, make a caramel. I do this in a small saucepan. I melt 1/2 cup of caster sugar, and 2 tablespoons of butter, slowly, and then let the mix simmer gently until it turns a rich, nutty brown. When you think the colour is good enough, tip the mix into the middle of the quiche dish, and spread it around a little, ‘though not right to the edges. It will stiffen and set a little, but don’t worry – it will melt again in the oven. I lost courage with this particular caramel; I should have let it get much browner. But it still tasted good!
Now you need to arrange the pears in the quiche dish. As you can see, I put them on their sides, and circle them around the dish, with two or three in the middle. I try to push them in from the edges just a little, to leave space for the pastry.
Drape the pastry round over the top of the pears, and tuck it in down the sides. I tend to fold the edge back a little, to give a stronger crust. I usually put two or three slits in the pastry, to let air out as it cooks, but this probably isn’t necessary, given that the edges of the pastry aren’t sealed.
Into the oven it goes, for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is brown, and the pears soft.
Next comes the very tricky bit. You need to flip the pie. This can result in disaster.
Here’s how I manage it. I put a big plate upside down over the top of the cooked pie. I fold a teatowel into a strip, and lay it over the top of the plate and piedish, and having shooed the children out of the kitchen, because really, you don’t want to be distracted while you’re trying to do this, I flip it over, and ease the teatowel out from underneath. Then I lift the quiche dish off, and with luck, it comes away smoothly, leaving a beautiful pie on the plate. This does take a bit of practice. Do it in private, without guests in attendance.
Serve with pouring cream, and maybe a little drizzle of port. Next morning, make sure you’re the first person up, so you can have leftovers for breakfast. Alas, I was too slow last time I made this pie, and the elder Miss Eight got to it first.