Friday, September 28, 2007

A HARVEST TIME FAVORITE's just about here! Fall, that is. And with it comes the annual harvest of the last that the growing season has to give us. Thanksgiving makes us stop and think about that for about five seconds before we slice up that golden turkey and pour the wine. It's good to realize how tied to the earth and to what she gives us we really are, even if it's only once a year.

About two weeks ago I saw the pickers clean the orchards of
pears. The stone fruits were gone long ago. The pears were packed into massive bins, loaded onto trailers by tractors and hauled off to co-ops around the Okanagan. All that are left hanging now are apples.

To be honest with you, pears are not my favorite fruit. I like them very much, but they're not my favorite. They are down on the list a bit. But two things I absolutely love are pear jam and pear Tatin.

Tatin is traditionally made with apples; Granny Smiths to be exact. Tart Tatin is a super classic French tart served with creme friache. It's a killer dessert and dead easy to make. But the focus with this post is not Tart Tatin made with apples, it is Pear Tatin.

Pears work really well for this dessert even though they lack the tangy snap that Granny Smith apples do that makes Tart Tatin so good. Pears make up for this, however, by blending so well with the caramelized sugar and lending a distinct taste to the dessert. The spices and lemon juice in the following recipe give the pears a bit more backbone.

As mentioned, Tatin is simple to make and a guaranteed pleaser. Here's a recipe for Pear Tatin that you are sure to enjoy. Serve it with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Pastry Dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter
6 tbsp. ice water

For the Pear Filling:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 or 4 firm, ripe Bosc pears (about 2 lb. total weight), peeled, halved and cored
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves


To Prepare the Pastry Dough:

In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch chunks and add to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until pea-sized pieces form. Add the ice water 1 tbsp. at a time, stirring lightly with a fork and then rubbing with your fingertips. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

To Prepare the Pear Filling:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Using 1 tbsp. of the butter, grease a 12-inch round baking dish with 2-inch sides, preferably of glass so you can watch the syrup forming. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the dish bottom. Place the pears, cut sides up, in a tightly packed layer in the prepared baking dish. If necessary, slice a half lengthwise and use the slices to fill in any gaps between the halves. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar over the pears. Top with the crystallized ginger and the lemon juice. Cut the remaining 2 tbsp. butter into bits and dot the tops of the pears. Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and the mace, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pears.

To Assemble and Bake:

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough a little larger than the diameter of the baking dish and a scant 1/4 inch thick. Drape the pastry over the rolling pin and transfer it to the baking dish. Carefully undrape the pastry over the pears. Tuck the edges of the pastry down to the bottom of the dish to form an interior rim that will encircle the pears once the tart is turned out of the dish. Prick the top all over with a fork. Bake until the crust is golden brown, the pears are tender and a thickened, golden syrup has formed in the dish, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. To unmold, run a knife around the inside edge of the baking dish to loosen the sides of the tart. Invert a platter on top of the baking dish and, using pot holders to hold the platter and the baking dish tightly together, flip them. Lift off the baking dish, gently removing any of the pears that may have stuck to the dish and repositioning them on the tart. Serve warm.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

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