I've always loved Tarte Tatin—great fruit desserts are my favorite and are often looked over for the chocolate. The crisp-chewy puff pasty coupled with an assertive fruit component, added to the gorgeousness factor, make this dessert a quick, elegant and delicious addition to any dinner party. It's a surprisingly easy, near fail-proof dessert that will always impress. —Clair Gu
1 tarte tatin, about 12 servings
Dried Bing cherries
Each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Halve, core, and neatly peel the pears. Set aside (or, stick them cut side up in the refrigerator to let them dehydrate a bit).
In a small bowl, combine the scotch, water, and cherries. Set aside.
In a 10-12" (24-30 cm) ovenproof skillet (I prefer cast iron), melt the butter over medium-high heat. When melted completely, beginning to brown, and smelling nutty, add the sugar, spices, and orange zest and stir to combine. Cook this mixture until in starts to look crunchy and darkens to golden brown. At this point, add your pears, cut side down.
Cook the pears, basting with the pan sauce, for 5 minutes. Flip the pears once and cook another 5 minutes. If your pears are giving off a lot of juice, turn the heat up to evaporate it off. They should be nice and caramelized on both sides. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll your puff pastry into a 14 or 16" round. If you are using store bought sheets, you will need to stack both sheets from the box on top of one another to achieve the pastry right thickness. Trim any square corners.
Return to your pear pan. Position the cooling pears into a pretty floral shape, cut side up, stem side facing the center of the pan. Pack them tightly—you'll want a bit of space between the pears and the edge of the pan. Sprinkle the rehydrated cherries into the pears to fill in any gaps between the fruit. Remove the orange zest.
Drape the prepared puff pastry over and around the edges of the fruit, tucking it under the outside edge so the pastry touches the bottom of the pan.
Bake the tarte for 15 minutes at 425. Then, reduce the heat to 375 and bake another 15 minutes until the puff pastry is golden and puffed.
Remove the tarte from the oven and set aside for exactly 15 minutes. Position a heat-proof plate large than the lip of your skillet over the puff pastry and flip your tarte out of the skillet and onto the plate, moving quickly. Reposition any pears slightly out of position and allow to cool.
Vanilla Creme Fraiche
In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche, vanilla, sugar, and cream and whisk until smooth and the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill until serving.