I watched the hazy morning glow streaming in through the windows give way to tiled rectangular shadows on the wall like the black and white keys of the piano. I counted the seconds as I watched them slowly and gradually grow fainter. …seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… and they were gone.
Lately my mind has been a haze of minute details haphazardly stitched together like a patchwork quilt of photos zoomed in much too close. The shine of the glaze of a tart when the light hits, a spoonful of softly whipped cream leaning over the edge of the cake it adorns, the deep ruby of red wine, the resistance of a tart crust as the tines of a fork pierces through before it breaks away and crumbles reluctantly. There are times when the larger picture does not captivate as much as its elements. Perhaps no dessert proves that the devil is indeed in the details as much as a tarte tartin – a deliciously rewarding challenge, but consider yourself warned.
Red Wine Poached Pear Tarte Tartin
makes a 7 inch tart
For the poached pears:
375 ml fruity red wine
125 ml water
65 grams sugar
40 grams honey
2 slices of a fresh orange
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 medium sized pears, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored
For the tart crust:
102 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams icing sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
64 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 large egg yolk
Make the poached pears: Combine the red wine, water, sugar, honey, orange slices and cinnamon in a pot and bring to a boil. Carefully transfer the pears to the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and poach the pears over low heat for about 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. To check, the pears should be soft enough such that the tip of a knife will slide in easily. Be careful not to overcook them.
Remove the pears from the pot and transfer them to a heatproof container or dish. Discard the orange slices and cinnamon stick and let the liquid cool until lukewarm. (If you leave the pears in the syrup as you let it cool they may get overcooked. Pour the cooled liquid over the pears, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days.
Make the tart dough: Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the pieces of butter and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. Add in the egg and pulse to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap. Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour.
On the day of baking: Pour the red wine syrup into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat until you have about a 1/2 cup of syrup. Pour about 3 tablespoons into a 7 inch glass pie plate (I just used a cake pan without a removable bottom) and keep the rest for brushing onto the tart when it’s done baking. Arrange the pears cut side up on the bottom of the pan as neatly as possible. Don’t worry if they overlap.
Roll out the tart dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s slightly larger than the diameter of the pan. Drape the dough over the pears and tuck the edges of the dough down the sides of the baking dish and in between the pears. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes at 190C, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to flip the tart out, place the wire rack over the baking dish. Have a baking sheet underneath to catch the syrup that will leak out. Gripping both the wire rack and baking dish in each hand, quickly flip tart over and allow any excess syrup to drip off the tart.
Brush the tart generously with the reserved red wine syrup reduction. Serve warm.
Recipe partially adapted from David Lebovitz.