This holiday tart is perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other special occasion that calls for a delicious and unique sweet. My mom and I found this recipe in a 1997 edition of Gourmet Magazine and have been making it ever since.
Step 1: Make the Dough
Although you could go out and buy pie crust for this step, this tart tastes much better if you make it yourself
Pie Crust Ingredients:
- 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Make sure the butter and shortening have been in the fridge until about a minute before you use it. You want to be able to blend it with the flour without it melting.
Step 2: Combine Dry(ish) Ingredients
In a food processor, pulse to combine the flour, cubed butter, shortening, and salt until the mixture resembles something similar to coarse meal. It is okay if there are some bigger lumps of butter and shortening; this will add to the flakiness of the crust.
Don't have a food processor? NEVER FEAR! This can be done without one as well. Just as before, combine flour, cubed butter, shortening and salt in a bowl. With your fingertips, start to blend the ingredients together. What is important to keep in mind here is you don't want the butter or shortening to melt (which can often happen faster if you have warm hands). Work the ingredients through your fingertips until it resembles a coarse meal.
Step 3: Add Water
Okay, this sounds like a simple step, but this part is very important in order to achieve the right consistency of dough. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the ice water into the dry mixture. Pulse a few times until incorporated (or use a fork if doing it by hand). To test if the dough is the correct consistency, gently squeeze a handful of the mixture. If it holds together after you release your grip, it is ready.
Keep in mind that depending on the air, humidity, and other weather conditions, the amount of water you add can vary. If it is humid, you may only need 1.5 or 2 tablespoons. However, if the air is very dry, you may need to add the full 4 tablespoons or possibly more. The key is to add a little at a time.
Step 4: Bringing the Dough Together
Turn the dough onto a work surface and press it together into one lump. Next divide that lump into 4 pieces with a knife. For each quarter, smear it forward with the heel of your hand. This step helps distribute the fat evenly so that the crust comes out nice and flaky. Do this with the remaining three quarters and then combine all 4 pieces together.
Wrap the dough in wax paper, and place in a plastic bag. Then refrigerate for a minimum of an hour and maximum of a day.
Keep in mind, this is a good stopping place for this recipe. The dough can be made a day ahead or a few hours ahead.
Step 5: Preparing the Pears for the Tart
Pear Tart Ingredients:
- 2 pounds firm-ripe Bosc pears (3 to 5) Make sure the pears are not quite ripe yet. Ripe pears will turn mushy in the oven (EW!)
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pastry Dough (made above)
Peel, half, and core all pears. We used a melon baller for this part and it worked really well. It also made the tart look pretty and clean. Be careful when coring, as the pears can be very slippery because they do not have skin.
Step 6: Putting It in the Pan
Now is the time to run to cabinet and find a pan that is both stove and oven safe. We used a well-seasoned cast iron pan (about 10" diameter) and it worked great, but you can use really any pan that you can start on the stove and finish in the oven.
Melt the butter in the pan and add the sugar once the butter has completely melted. The sugar will not dissolve (as seen in the picture above). I'm warning you now, the kitchen is going to smell AMAZING! Resist the urge to eat all the hot sugar and butter in the pan.
Once the sugar and butter are just combined, place the pears one by one in the pan with the pointy part of the pear facing in and the cored part of the pear facing up. It may take some arranging, but after they are all in, it should look kind of like a flower.
Sprinkle pears with cinnamon and let cook over medium heat until the sugar-butter mixture has turned a deep golden brown (aka caramel). Let the pears cool for at least 30 minutes.
This is another good stopping place. You can let the pear-caramel mixture completely cool and move on to the next step a few hours later if needed.
Step 7: Putting Everything Together
Preheat the oven to 425ºF
Take your dough out of the fridge and let it thaw for about 5 min. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Make sure to keep flipping the dough and flouring your work surface as needed so the dough does not get stuck. The rolled out dough should be a little bigger than the pan that the pears are in. To transfer the dough from the work surface to the pan, carefully roll the dough onto your rolling pin, making sure it does not stick to itself.
Carefully unroll the dough over the skillet with the pears. Tuck all the edges of the dough in around the pears (as pictured above). Remember, this is going to be the BOTTOM of the tart (as it is an upside down pear tart) so don't worry too much about how it looks.
Step 8: Bake and Plate
Put the tart in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. While the tart is in the oven, choose the plate you will be serving this delicious dessert on (this should be a ceramic, glass, or metal plate, no plastic. You will see why in a minute). This plate should be flat and slightly larger than the pan the tart is baking in.
When your tart is golden brown and delicious, take it out of the oven and have your serving plate ready. As soon as you take the tart out of the oven, invert the serving plate on top of the pan (this is why it cannot be plastic) and, while wearing oven mitts, tightly press the pan and plate together and invert the skillet all in one motion so that the plate is now on the bottom (See GIF above). Be extremely careful as the pan and the caramel inside it are VERY HOT! Carefully lift up the skillet.
Your Caramelized Upside Down Pear Tart should be waiting for you once you have lifted the pan away. Keep in mind that if you wait too long to invert the skillet onto the plate, the caramel in the pan will start to harden and your pears may stick.
Step 9: EAT!
This is the most important step of all!
Cut, Serve, Eat, and of course ENJOY!