Pear and Gjetost Tarte Tatin

Tarte tatin. Back in high school, I used to LOVE tarte tatin. The idea of caramelized fruit wrapped in a flaky dough, what’s there not to love? Well except in my case where I’ve been traumatized by it across 2 seasons of Masterchef. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s my one huge blindspot when it comes to pastry, or maybe something about that kitchen and reliving the initial trauma of it that keeps me from making them properly on national TV? Either way, I definitely wanted to tackle another one(again), just to get it out of my system. The one thing I noticed the second season around that I still kept mucking up on was the caramelization process of the fruit. During season 10, I was under the impression that I would cook the fruit over the raw sugar and butter and let them all caramelize together? At least that was what I remember seeing during Gordon’s demo. But when we did that in season 12, the judges said that our tarte tatin was boiled. So I guess let’s not do that? This time around, I tested another method, where I got the caramel dark first, then seared off the fruit in the already-formed caramel, just to get more high heat at the fruit quickly, which in turn, extracts the juices from the fruit more rapidly as well. The end result was a lot more desirable in my opinion, though I will not deny there still being a little bit of PTTD(post traumatic tarte disorder).

For the caramel, I infused it with ginger, since I love the combination of ginger with pear. I also flambeed the pears and the caramel in bourbon prior to wrapping it in the pastry, since the flambe will help infuse more flavor into the fruit, while also caramelize it all that much more. I took the caramel fairly dark, since the pears once added will seep out a lot of juice into the caramel, prolonging the amount of additional time it would take for the caramel to get any darker or even burnt. It is important to cook out as much liquid from the pears as possible, since any additional liquid would add to the baking time for the dough you are placing on top. With the dough, I infused it with gjetost cheese. Gjetost is a Norwegian goat cheese that tastes like caramel. Think Mexican cajeta, but without the cinnamon, less sweet, and a solid instead of a liquid. I love pairing gjetost with fruit, and it works especially well with caramel-y applications, like this tarte tatin! I went with a significantly smaller tarte tatin, as I only had 3 pears on hand at the time of making this, and I wanted to make sure that it was cooked and baked properly. Needless to say, after several immortalized on TV screw ups with it, tarte tatin will always be my nemesis, nightmare fuel, and something I will bring to holiday parties.

For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2oz gjetost cheese, finely grated
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a food processor, puree the flour, butter, baking powder, sugar, gjetost cheese, and salt into a fine crumbly powder. Slowly blend into that the water and vanilla to form your dough. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Then on a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 10 inches in diameter. Place back in the refrigerator until time to bake.

For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
8 slices of ginger
a pinch of salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 pears, peeled, halved, and cored
2 tbsp bourbon or brandy

In a 6-inch nonstick pan, heat up the sugar with ginger and salt. Once the sugar is golden brown in color, add in the butter and allow that to melt into the sugar. Then place the pears into the caramel, round side down, and sear them for 5 minutes. Flip the pears and sear them on the halved sides for another 2 minutes. Then re-flip them to the round side and add in the bourbon or brandy. Tip the pan to flambe the pears in the caramel. Take the pan off heat and allow the pears and pan to cool down for 3 minutes before gently wrapping the pears in the still-cold pastry. Prick the top of the dough with a fork and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Carefully flip the tart onto a plate that is significantly larger than the pan, as it will release a large amount of caramel.

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