“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love this–admittedly oft used–quote. It reminds me of starting school, which, even at almost thirty, is what I think I should be doing each September. But this year it’s particularly apt. The Frenchman and I got married (for the second time) in September, by which time two things were already true: I was deep into a recipe project that’s as exciting as it is overwhelming, and and and, we’d started mortgage paperwork for an apartment. And and and, we sign the papers today. Today! By tonight, we’ll be home (er, apartment) owners. (!!!!)
Soon, we’ll move from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn–where we’ve lived for almost five years, a near eternity in this nomads life–to Jersey City. I’m both excited and heartbroken. Heartbroken and excited. All of a sudden the Frenchman and I are doing very adult things, like biking to West Elm on blustery Saturday afternoons to test out every couch in the showroom, and sending each other paint color links. (By the way, did you know that there are about 8,000 shades of white? It’s ridiculous.)
I’ll have a lot a lot a lot more to say about our new place, and what it feels like to be moving not actually that far away, but what feels like very far away from our neighborhood, the place that’s become our home. For now I’ll just say: in our new place, I will have a pantry, and for that I’m very grateful.
This recipe is adapted from Deb’s 2008 version of tarte tatin (she has since posted an updated version), which came to her via her friend Molly, who seems herself to have adapted it from The Joy of Cooking. I’ve made this recipe over a dozen times, both with apples and with pears. It’s consistently a showstopper. The important thing is to use fruit on the firmer side, so that it holds its shape as it cooks.
For this recipe, I used cinnamon from a company called Cinnamon Hill. They’re the only company in the world to sell fresh cinnamon, which looks, smells, and tastes worlds better than anything I’ve seen before. It’s so much fresher–softer and more brittle–than what you’ll find in the supermarket that they had to invent their own grater, which is finer (and, to be honest, prettier) than a microplane.
Cinnamon Hill currently sells two kinds of cinnamon: Ceylon (from Sri Lanka, subtle, warm, citrusy) and Saigon (from Vietnam, hot, sweet). I used the Ceylon in this recipe.
Some notes about the dough: If you don’t have whole wheat flour, replace with regular flour. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar or vodka, replace with water.
Some notes about the pears: It you can only find medium to large pears, quarter them instead of halving. Needless to say, this recipe also works well with apples. I used Bartlett pears.
- 1 cup (125 grams) flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
- 1/4 cup (32 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 stick (1/2 cup/113 grams/4 ounces) salted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- 12 small pears (2 pounds/950 grams)
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) salted butter
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Scoop the flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor; pulse 10-15 times, to mix. Turn the cubed, chilled butter into the bowl and mix until the butter breaks down, but you still have a few pea-sized pieces, 10-15 seconds. Add the vodka and the apple cider vinegar, and pulse for 10 seconds, until the dough barely comes together–you won’t have a cohesive ball, but the dough should stick together when you press it between 2 fingers. (If the dough doesn’t do this after 15 seconds, add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)
- Turn the dough onto a large, floured sheet of plastic wrap. Form a disc with your cupped palms, working quickly so as not to warm the dough. Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic. (If you’re making the dough more than a few hours ahead, wrap it in a second sheet of plastic.) Move the dough to the fridge for 1 hour at the very least, but ideally several hours or overnight. (You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead and store it in the fridge, or keep it in the freezer for several months.)
- Heat the oven to 375F/190C. Peel, core, and halve the pears.
- In heavy, oven-proof, medium-sized skillet (mine measures 7-inches across the bottom, and 10 1/4-inches across the top), melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter is mostly melted, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir off and on for 5 minutes, as the sugar melts into the butter. (I can never get the sugar to melt completely before I add the fruit, so don’t worry if you can’t either.)
- Arrange the pear pieces, cut side down, in the pan in concentric circles, starting at the edge of the pan and moving inward. Nestle the fruit closely together; the pieces will shrink in cooking. When you’re finished, you should have up to three pear halves left over; reserve these.
- Turn the heat up to medium, so that the sugar and butter starts to bubble. Don’t panic. (If the caramel darkens past copper, turn down the heat.) Let the pears cook for 8-10 minutes. By this point, they will have shrunken in the pan, and they’ll be golden brown. Using tongs or the point of a knife, flip each pear half. Fit the leftover pears pieces into any open spots in the pan. Continue to cook the fruit for 5 more minutes.
- Meanwhile, roll out the pie dough so that it is about 1-inch wider than the edge of the pan. (For example, I roll the dough into a circle with an 11-inch diameter.) Brush off any excess flour.
- Take the pear pan off the heat, and carefully place the pie dough on top of the fruit. Use your knife or tongs to gently tuck the excess dough inside the lip of the pan. (If the dough breaks, patch it up.) In the oven, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the dough is browned and sounds hollow when you tap it with a finger. Out of the oven, allow the tarte tatin to cool for about 30 minutes. (This gives the fruit some time to set up. It will still be warm, but not lava hot.)
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan, to loosen any crust that may be stuck. Lay a large plate over the pan, and carefully flip the tarte tatin onto the plate. (Note: the pan will still be hot, so use potholders or a dish towel. The pan will also be heavy!) Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, yogurt, or crème fraîche. You can also top the tarte tatin with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.
Thank you to Cinnamon Hill, who sponsored this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
Each Cinnamon Hill cinnamon box comes with five cinnamon sticks, each stick individually wrapped, to preserve freshness. The company only sends cinnamon from the most recent harvest, which is dated on the box. You can sign up to be notified of their twice-yearly harvests.
With the holidays coming up, if you know someone who loves cinnamon, I honestly recommend checking out one of their packs.