Do you ever save the best for last? I have to say that I have a tendency to do this quite often, especially when it comes to food! In the last few posts we have done the appetizer – Sommerset Tiddy Oggy – which was so much fun to make and quite tasty, learned what a swede was and substituted mashed potatoes for a treat of mashed rutabaga, and in the last post made good on the phrase ‘awesome sauce’ with a delicious port wine reduction sauce.
Now I’m not saying that one of these was any less fantastic than the other, but I do have rather a bias towards dessert – and this was some dessert. Of course it made sense to have the dessert recipe last anyway, but have a look for yourselves. Go on, just peak down. Right? This is a pear tarte tatin with pear schnapps, recipe courtesy of ‘Britain’s Best Dish’ cookbook.
If you’ll remember, my mom and I had picked out this meal (my last one at home before heading back to school) based off this cookbook the day before we made it in order to get all the ingredients. This was all good and fine…until it came to the pear schnapps. We checked three different spots before settling on something.
The first two stops on our hunt for schnapps were the two major grocery stores on the island. Both had such things as peach schnapps, apple schnapps, but absolutely no pear schnapps (despite having even elderflower schnapps…). So in we went to one of the liquor stores in town. We browsed the shelves glancing through bottles of this and that, and found nothing.
The backup plan was to just use up the small amount of peach schnapps my mom was fairly certain remained at home. However, in a last ditch effort we figured we would just ask the clerk up front. Readers, when in doubt, a simple question to the right person can do wonders. Now he had two different bottles of pear schnapps presented to us.
One was a pretty legit looking liqueur. Picture a beautiful bottle with actual pears sitting inside the liquid to help flavor it. Apparently, the bud of the flower is grown inside the bottle and that’s how full sized pears managed to find themselves in there! (There’s no way you could have fit one through the neck of the bottle.) Understandably, this bottle was going to be fairly expensive.
The second was a regular bottle with green liquid inside, and was a much better price for experimental use in one recipe. About $15 or so, we debated as he helped another costumer and decided, ‘What the heck? Let’s try it this time to really complete the experience!’. And so that’s how we found ourselves walking out of the store with a large bottle of pear schnapps that was more than enough for this dessert. The one condition was that I had to promise to find some kind of drink to have it with, too, so as not to let it go to waste.
So we had our schnapps and pears. Let’s get on to the recipe, then, shall we? I have to say that this recipe, though it seems like a lot of work, is actually not too difficult nor too time consuming once you get the hang of it. It turns out beautifully and is very cool to see it come together. You will need a pan that can go into the oven to make this with as little fuss as possible.
Ingredients: [Serves 6-8]
For Pastry: For the Tarte:
1 cup flour 1 stick butter
2 tablespoons sugar 3/4 cup sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon 8 ripe pears*
4 ounces butter, chilled 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons pear schnapps
For Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar
*“Use a ripe, yet firm, pear that holds its shape. My favourite pear for this dish is Comice as it’s naturally firm-fleshed even when ripe, and has a nice, round-bottomed shape. In my restaurants we peel the pears and leave them, uncovered, in the fridge for a day. This helps them dry out, so they won’t release too much juice and dilute the caramel when you cook them. Don’t worry about them going brown as this actually adds to the finished dish.” from Gordon Ramsey, BBC Good Food.
To make the pastry:
Mix together the sifted flour, sugar, cinnamon. Add slices of butter and mix with a pastry blender until small pea size shapes form. Add 2-4 tablespoons of water, one at a time until the dough comes together to form a ball. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Can be made a day ahead.)
To create the tarte:
Peel, core and cut the pears into quarters. (Can peel a day ahead and refrigerate) Preheat oven to 350°.
To make the caramel, smear the butter over the bottom of a tarte tatin pan or ovenproof cast-iron frying pan. Sprinkle over the sugar and dissolve over a medium heat until the sugar starts to caramelize. Keep turning the pan now and again, so that the sugar does not catch. Stir until the butter just starts to separate and the sugar has started to turn a light golden toffee color.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the pears to the butter and sugar mixture in the pan, arranging them in a layer over the bottom of the pan and packing them in tightly. Return to the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until really golden. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and add the pear schnapps. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a round large enough to cover the pan. Carefully lay the pastry on the top of the pears, tucking the edges down in between the fruit and the edge of the pan.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.
Leave the tart to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a serving plate.
To serve, but into slices while still warm and serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
For the whipped cream:
In a deep bowl, add the whipping cream, vanilla and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until stiff. (Can be made ahead.)
This dessert is absolutely fantastic. Everyone loved it! The pear and caramel flavors blend together for a smooth, sweet, but mild taste. The homemade whipped cream just adds another layer and creaminess to the otherwise fruit dominated dessert. Each aspect, simple as they are, just comes together and creates an overall taste experience. The only disappointment I had was that I wouldn’t get to partake in the left overs!
This pear tarte tatin has gone onto to my favorites list and would be a great recipe for a dinner party due to the presentation and taste – both ‘wow’ factors. We did make drinks with the pear schnapps as well to have with our appetizers that night. I just threw things together that I like and we ended up with a tasty concoction of pear schnapps, pineapple juice, and carbonated sanguinello juice – possibly cranberry juice…none of us actually wrote down how we made it so it was some mixture of these types of drinks. Whatever the exact mix was, it was good accompaniment with the meal!
And that’s that. Our British inspired meal was a success and I hope you’ll find the same should you decide to cook these up as well. In other news, I’ve just sent out my very first ‘real job’ application (so it begins…) and my fingers are crossed. Of course, I have a lot more work to do on that front! But for now, I’ll settle with a new blog post. Enjoy your weekends and thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…