Pear Tart-Off: Tatin Vs. Galette
"Food Guy" Jon Jackson loves a good French pear tart. "I once went to Paris once specifically to get some pear tarts, and you know, the people there were anxious for me to have them." Jon asks Other "Food Guy" Greg Patent: is it worth trying to substitute pears for apples in tarte tatin, the Hotel Tatin's signature caramelized upside-down apple tart recipe?
Greg's answer comes in three parts:
1. First, an overview of apple tarte tatin. Cook cut-up apples with butter and sugar in a cast-iron skillet and top it with a sheet of flaky pastry, then bake it all in the oven. If there's too much liquid - which will depend on the variety of apple you use - set the skillet over medium heat on the stove, rotating it periodically to slowly boil down the liquid without allowing it to burn. Cover the skillet with a serving dish, carefully invert the skillet over it. Wait a few seconds before lifting off the skillet. If things go well, you'll have a layer of beautifully caramelized apples atop a perfectly-baked pastry.
Whatever variety of apple you choose, make it a firm, tart one, and stick to just one apple variety for each tarte.
2. Using pears in a tarte tatin recipe is tricky, because pears are a lot softer than apples. A Bosc pear that'll hold its shape is ideal. But it could be a trial and error scenario.
3. A reliable pear tart approach: poach pears in sugar syrup with a vanilla bean till they're tender. Slice the pears and place them atop a cooked pastry containing almond filling.
Or opt for simplicity and make a pear galette by rolling out a sheet of pastry, topping it with ground almonds and sugar, and then placing ripe, raw slices of pears in a swirled pattern on top. You'll bring up the sides of the pastry dough and press firmly to adhere, then bake.
Given these options, what did Jon Jackson do? "I decided the heck with the pear tatin. The galette is so good, why bother?"