Tarte Tatin is a classic French dessert that was purportedly the happy result of a mistake in the kitchen when a baker made a tart, forgot to line the pie tin with pie crust, and threw it on top instead. It ended up baking into a glorious upside-down tart. It’s one of my all-time favorite desserts and it can be made with apples, pears, or quince (or all three!). In this version, the sweet Bosc pears bake in a rich syrup that infuses them with the unmistakable flavor of maple. The pears exude a lot of juice while in the oven, so we simmer the whole tart in the pan on the stove after it comes out to reduce and caramelize all of the juices.
Here's my recipe for quick puff pastry.
Recipe and headnote excerpted from Baking With Less Sugar (Chronicle Books, 2015). —Joanne Chang
one 9-inch tart
(1/2 cup) grade B maple syrup
recipe quick puff pastry (see headnote), or 3/4 pound storebought puff pastry
medium Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
Crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, or until thickened, dark, and reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 milliliters). (It foams up in the pan, so be sure to use a large enough pan so it doesn’t boil over. Once it foams, turn down the heat so it simply simmers—if it keeps foaming it will start to burn. Watch it carefully! It will look like it’s boiling away, so keep decreasing the heat to keep it at a low simmer.)
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour the maple butter into a 9-inch (23-centimeter) round cake pan. It may harden into a firm mass—do your best to spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan, but don’t stress about it.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F (175°C).
Place the pears, rounded side down, in the caramel in the cake pan, as close together as possible and overlapping them a bit to cover the entire bottom of the pan. You want every single possible bottom surface of the pan to be covered with pears; the fruit cooks down and reduces somewhat in the oven, so don’t be shy about packing the fruit in tightly. When you have covered the bottom layer as best you can, cut any remaining pear halves in quarters or eighths so you can better layer the pears on top of each other, arranging the fruit so that it is fairly level on top.
Remove the dough circle from the refrigerator and trim it so that it is an even circle, keeping it about 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter. Drape the dough directly on top of the pears and tuck the edges of the dough around the fruit into the sides of the pan. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, or until the puff pastry is deep golden brown and the juices from the pears are bubbling up along the sides of the pan.
Place a large serving platter on top of the tart and quickly and carefully invert the pan so the puff pastry circle is on the bottom and the fruit is on top. Rearrange the fruit, if necessary, as sometimes it gets jostled loose and falls off the pastry. Serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream. The tart can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I am a pastry chef/restaurateur in Boston passionate about all things sweet and savory. I co-own Flour Bakery+Cafe and co-own Myers+Chang, both in Boston. I love my work, I'm crazy about my husband, my staff keeps me going and is truly the most amazing group of people I've ever known, I am addicted to ice cream and fruit of all kinds. I used to run marathons but have scaled back a bit and am trying to be more well-rounded by attempting yoga. I read voraciously, I plan obsessively, I feel so very lucky to have found a life partner and a life passion both of which make me happy every day.