Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pear Tarte Tatin

I had to move fast to get a photo of this stunning pear tart because it wasn't around for long. Another culinary coup by B., from the book I wisely got for him: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

If we were harboring any doubts at all about the pears -- "True, the tree doesn't need much care but it's a hassle trying to pick them all at once and store them just right . . ." -- all quibbling is now forgotten. In fact, the pears are so delectable in this dish they may well be some kind of cooking or canning variety. The tree is pretty old. Does it date from an earlier time when canning was more routine?

The making of the tart is uncomplicated, especially if you have the brioche dough already made up and resting in the fridge (and especially if someone else is making it!).

Butter and sugar are melted in an iron frying pan, with some whole spices (cinnamon, star anise, cloves) thrown in. Then peeled and quartered pears are arranged on top. When the syrup has caramelized, the rolled out whole-wheat brioche dough is laid over everything and gently poked down around the edges. The whole thing goes in the oven. When done it gets inverted onto a plate and served warm. Heavenly.

A toast to the Tatin (ta-TAN) sisters who ran a small hotel in rural France at the end of the 19th century. The one who did the cooking -- some say Caroline, others say Stephanie -- came up with an upside down apple tart that drew people in droves. Its fame spread to Paris, from where spies were dispatched to procure the recipe. (The French take these matters seriously, so a bit of culinary espionage doesn't seem surprising.) Tarte Tatin is still on the menu at the little Tatin Hotel and has been on the menu of the Michelin ranked four-star Paris restaurant, Maxim's, for years.

Hopefully pear tarte tatin de la maison will be on our menu for a long time to come.

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