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Vanilla Spiced Caramel Pear Tart

June 22nd, 2012 by Susan

I have never fancied myself a baker.  Especially since moving to Colorado, recipes I thought I had mastered didn’t work so well.  After many failed attempts, I gave up.  That is, until recently, when I again took up the challenge of baking in the Rockies.  If I do say so myself, I made several awesome desserts:  Alsatian Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Friands, Dulce De Leche Cupcakes, and Apple Caramel Upside Down Cake.

So, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, and my mother-in-law and I were trading recipe ideas, I was pretty confident that I could make what I thought was a pretty complicated tart recipe at sea level.  Considering there was only one slice left after dinner, I would say my efforts were successful.

Vanilla Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart (adapted from Bon Appeitit)

1 Sheet Puff Pastry

For the Pears:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole star anise

3 whole cloves

pinch of salt

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut in half lengthwise

For the filling

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 whole star anise

6 whole cloves

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

pinch of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 egg white, beaten


Roll out the puff pastry into a 12 inch square.  Trim the edges to make a round crust.  Transfer the pastry into a 10-inch springform pan.  Press the pastry firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Cover and freeze until firm.  The original recipe indicates this should take about an hour and a half, but I just left the crust in the freezer overnight.

Start by preparing the pears.  Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and salt.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the mixture and add the bean.  Increase the heat to medium high.  Stir until the sugar melts and turns brown.  Once the sugar is melted, add the pears, rounded side down.  Cook until the pears are almost tender, about 15 minutes.  Be sure to move the skillet around frequently to ensure even cooking.  Carefully turn the pears and cook until very tender, another 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the caramel mixture.

Next, prepare the filling.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Scrape in the vanilla bean seeds and add the bean.  Add the cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.  Increase the heat to medium, and cook until the butter is golden.  Remove the vanilla bean and the spices from the butter.  Whisk the sugar, egg, and salt in a bowl.  Slowly add the browned butter to the egg mixture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the puff pastry with the beaten egg white.  Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the crust.  There isn’t much filling, so it will be very thin. (I almost didn’t haven enough to cover the crust.)  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the skillet.  Drain the excess syrup into the skillet, and place the pears, rounded side up, in the filling.  Reserve the syrup in the skillet.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set and brown at the edges, about an hour.  Let the tart stand uncovered until warm.  Before serving, reduce the syrup and discard the spices.  Serve the tart with the syrup.  I also served mine with some vanilla whipped cream.


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