Crisp, buttery pastry topped with caramel-drenched pears make a simple yet impressive dessert. Try it served warm with some vanilla ice cream scooped directly on top or a few dollops of tangy crème fraîche. —Samantha Seneviratne | Love, Cake
cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the pears:
unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
4 to 5
medium-ripe Bosc pears (about 7 ounces each), peeled, cored, and cut into sixths
In This Recipe
To prepare the dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces. Add 3 tablespoons ice water and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Add 1 to 2 more tablespoons water if necessary, but stop before the dough gets too wet; it should just hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. (Alternatively you could pulse the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add a few tablespoons of water and pulse to combine. Don’t add too much water.)
Set the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, press it together, wrap it up, and flatten it into a 6-inch disk. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10-inch circle. Set the pastry on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until the pears are ready.
To prepare the pears, melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the melted butter and cook over medium until the mixture begins to turn amber, swirling the pan occasionally, about 2 minutes. (Don’t worry if the mixture separates. Once you add the pears it will smooth out again.) Remove from the heat, sprinkle the anise seeds and salt evenly over the caramel, and carefully top with the pears.
Return to the heat and cook until the caramel turns a deep amber, occasionally stirring and flipping the pears gently with a heatproof rubber spatula, 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be simmering, but not too vigorously, or the caramel may break; adjust the heat as necessary. Take care not to smash the pears.
Remove the skillet from the heat. If you like, you can use a fork and the spatula to carefully rearrange the pears into a pretty pattern. I think it looks just as lovely when the pears are haphazardly strewn about. Top with the round of pastry, tucking the edges in with the spatula. Using a paring knife, cut 4 small slits in the pastry. Bake until the top is golden brown and the caramel is bubbling, 24 to 28 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. (Be sure to wrap the skillet handle with a towel for safety.)
Run a knife around the edge to loosen any pears that might be stuck. Top the skillet with an overturned plate that is at least 1 inch larger than the skillet. Quickly flip the skillet so that the tart is right-side-up on the plate. Rearrange any pears that have fallen out of place and scrape any caramel from the skillet onto the tart.
Serve warm topped with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Store leftovers well wrapped in the fridge for up to 2 days.