A Pear Tarte Tatin With an Unexpected Star Ingredient

It's easier than pie.

November 30, 2018

We've partnered with Bosch, makers of high quality home appliances like the Benchmark side-opening wall oven, to share recipes, tips, and videos that highlight the little details that make a dish truly delicious.

My first apartment in New York City featured mysterious smells that came up only through the closets, bold roaches, and a cozy mattress bed on the floor. My second, a gigantic step up, included my dear friend as a roommate, even bolder mice, and an alternative to the stairs that we lovingly referred to as “the smellevator.”

Now on my seventh New York City apartment, I have nothing to complain about. Actually, I never did. Despite their imperfections, I knew exactly how to make each one of those apartments feel like home. All I needed was flour, butter, salt, sugar, and a little elbow grease to make discs of pie dough and stockpile them in the freezer.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Back in that first apartment, I used a couple of knives held in opposite hands to mimic the motion of a pair of scissors to carefully cut the butter into the flour. Once I had more than one storage drawer in my kitchen, I bought a pastry blender, a handy tool that made the job a little easier and much faster. And when I finally had the counter space, I started making my dough in the food processor. So while the method evolved over the years, the practice has been consistent. Because with a disc of dough, rested and ready in the fridge or the freezer, I was never that far away from a supremely tasty, wonderfully comforting homemade dessert.

What would I create with that dough? Anything I could dream up. On Saturday mornings, I would stroll over to the supermarket or the farmer’s market and see what I could find. Maybe I’d turn one disc into a simple apricot and raspberry galette; another week, it would become a vanilla bean and sour cherry jam crostata. If the fruit at the market had seen better days, I’d make a chocolate cream pie or cut the dough into cinnamon sugar cookies.

This pear tarte tatin with anise-spiced caramel bakes to perfection in a Bosch oven. Photo by Dave Katz

That pie dough saved me from self-doubt and homesickness. I was doing my thing in New York City; it wasn’t perfect but it was great. When my roommate came home, we could snuggle up on the couch under a blanket, each cradling a slice of blueberry tart with a big melty scoop of vanilla ice cream, catch up, and make each other laugh again. Years later, the first week my new baby Arthur was with me at home, I made a blackberry and peach galette while he napped on a pillow on the kitchen floor. Sleep deprivation and stress be damned, I found myself again with that disc of pie dough.

And while working on my first book, The New Sugar and Spice, I came up with this special pear tarte tatin, sprinkling anise in as I swirled the caramel topping on my stovetop. As soon as the seeds hit the warm butter, their scent was in the air and I felt happy. And once that tarte tatin hit the heat of the oven, the aromatherapy kept on coming! It’s easier to let the small stuff go when your apartment smells like caramelizing sugar, buttery pastry, and cooked fruit. Trust me.

The difference is in the details

Prep the pastry dough.

I always make my dough in advance so that I can take the time to get it right. Cold butter, ice water, and a cool apartment all help me get the perfect little butter specks in my dough, which lead to flaky pastry. A proper rest in the fridge or freezer is also important to give the gluten time to relax. You can keep a disc of dough well-wrapped in the fridge for up to three days, and in the freezer for one to two months.

Use Seasonal Fruit.

I’m partial to pears; I love their floral, honey-like sweetness. Cozied up to spiced caramel they really shine. But, this recipe is wonderfully adaptable. Apples would be an obvious substitution, but feel free to let the market guide you; in-season fruit will taste the best.

Spice It Up!

The anise seeds add a sweet, licorice-like essence to the caramel in this tatin that goes beautifully with the pears. If anise isn’t your thing, go ahead and try something else. A few crushed green cardamom pods, a fresh vanilla bean and its seeds, or a sprinkle of cinnamon would be just as nice.

Just remember, freshness is key with spice. Ground spices tend to lose their potency pretty quickly, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few bottles in my spice drawer that should probably be tossed. Give your spices a good sniff before you use them. If they still smell delicious then they will taste delicious. If they smell sour, dusty, or simply don’t have an aroma at all, toss them out!

We're firm believers in the fact that little things can make a big impact. The quality and freshness of ingredients can take a simple dish from good to great. Sharing a treasured recipe with friends can creating lasting memories around the dinner table. And home appliances that are reliable and intuitive—like the Benchmark side-opening wall oven we used to make this recipe—can streamline getting dinner on the table, making your entire week less stressful. We've partnered with Bosch to celebrate these small but vital boosts in our day-to-day lives, with recipes, videos, and more.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Biagio D'Angelo
    Biagio D'Angelo
  • Maria I Arana
    Maria I Arana
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Writer. Baker. Sticky bun maker.


Biagio D. May 29, 2020
Sam, I baked this Tarte Tatin a few days ago for me, just for me... and it is wonderfully delicious!!! Your book is fantastic too, full of great recipes and stories. In the next days I would like to test Banana-Cardamom combination as you said in your video. Oh, I loved the video too!!! with your beautiful child! All the best!!!! Ciao ciao !
Maria I. December 4, 2018
I'm not a fan of anise so I love that you have recommended alternatives for this ingredient. Can't wait to try this recipe. It looks delicious!
Emma L. November 30, 2018
Love this video and recipe so much, Samantha! Especially with the surprise guest at the end!