Editor’s Note: Los Angeles-based pastry chef Shannon Swindle worked at Tom Colicchio’s Craft for more than a decade, where he served guests inventive and satisfying sweets inspired by Southern California’s bounty. This week, he gives us a recipe that relies more on natural sweetness and seasonality than added sugar.
Pears are an unsung hero during the fall season. There is a nuance and complexity to the flavor that adds so much dimension to pastries, such as this caramelized cider pear tart tatin. This dessert really puts the pear in the spotlight, not masking the flavor with any added sugar. The key is working with perfectly ripe pears—ideally warren or bosc—and if you can get them [in the L.A. area], the warren pears from Frog Hollow Farms are the best.
Caramelized Cider Pear Tart Tatin
Serves 8 to 10
- 8 firm, but ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
- 2 quarts freshly-pressed apple or pear cider (not apple juice)
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons green cardamom seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 1 pinch of fine sea salt
- 6-inch square of cheesecloth or towel
- 4-inch piece of kitchen twine or string
- Pie dough or puff pastry for a 10-inch pie
Toast the spices in a small dry pan until just smoking and fragrant. Wrap the spices in cheesecloth and tie with a string to make a sachet. Place the cider, spice sachet, vanilla bean, seeds, salt and ginger in a pot large enough to hold all the pears.
Add the pear quarters and bring the poaching liquid just to a slight simmer over medium heat.
Reduce the heat, and gently poach the pears until tender, but still intact. Time will vary depending upon varietal and ripeness.
Test for doneness with a small paring knife or cake tester.
Remove pears from the heat and allow them to cool in the liquid.
Remove the pears from the liquid, and set aside on paper toweling to dry off.
Strain the poaching liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot, and place over medium high heat.
Reduce the liquid to ¾ cup. Pour the reduced poaching liquid into the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan. Do not use a springform pan.
Arrange the 24 pieces of pear on top of the cider reduction in two circles, covering the entire bottom of the cake pan and using all the pears. Cover the pears with a 10-inch round of pie dough or puff pastry, and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the pastry is completely done and the caramelized cider reduction is bubbling. Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it upside down (which is now right side up!) onto a serving platter. Serve warm with crème fraiche or ice cream.