Recipe: Ginger pear tarte tatin

HOT DINNERS, COOL DESSERT: Julie Le Clerc has probably made more tarte tatins than you've had hot dinners.
HOT DINNERS, COOL DESSERT: Julie Le Clerc has probably made more tarte tatins than you've had hot dinners.

Julie Le Clerc has probably made more tarte tatins than you've had hot dinners. The Auckland chef, foodwriter and TV presenter will be sharing the secrets of the classic French dessert and other baking favourites at her Masterclass session at Wellington On A Plate this Sunday (August 12).

We have ONE double weekend pass (worth $339) to the Masterclasses, in which Le Clerc and other culinary luminaries such as Jonny Schwass, Ruth Pretty, Michael Meredith and Ben Shewry will be revealing how to get the X factor in your cooking.

To enter, email with your name and contact details. Please put 'Masterclass' in the subject line. Contest closes at 5pm Wednesday August 8.

In the meantime, check out Le Clerc's now not-so-secret recipe, which combines crisp ginger pastry with juicy winter pears.


Thick and smooth with a wonderfully rich and velvety texture, crème fraiche is widely used in France, where the cream is unpasteurized and contains the "friendly" bacteria necessary to thicken it naturally. Since crème fraiche doesn't curdle when boiled, it's the ideal thickener for many sauces and soups.
You will need to start making it two days in advance of serving.

Step 1: Creme fraiche

1 cup cream, at room temperature
2 Tbsp buttermilk

Place cream and buttermilk in a glass jar and cover with a tight fitting lid. Shake the jar for 15 seconds. Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours (the warmth will help the cream to thicken) or until very thick, stirring once or twice over the 24 hours.
After this time, stir crème fraiche well. Refrigerate for at least six hours before serving. Covered tightly and stored in fridge, crème fraiche will last for up to two weeks.
To make a slightly sweetened version, stir in one tablespoonful of icing sugar, if desired.

Step 2: Ginger pastry

150g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 small free-range egg
250g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp ground ginger
pinch salt
extra flour, for rolling pastry

To make pastry, place butter, sugar, vanilla and egg in the bowl of a mixer and beat to just combine, but do not cream mixture.
Add flour, ginger and salt and gently mix just until mixture comes together. Turn out onto a board and lightly knead to bring together into dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll out.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured board to form a circle 35cm in diameter (or to a size big enough to slightly overlap the pan being used); the pastry should be 5mm thick.
Prick pastry all over with a fork and set aside to rest in a cool place until required (or chill, if it's a very hot day).

Step 3: Pears, caramel, assembling and cooking

6 large, firm pears: peeled, quartered and cored
juice of 1 lemon
50g butter, softened
1 Tbsp cold water
200g white sugar

Preheat oven to 200°C.
Toss pear quarters in lemon juice to stop them browning while you prepare the caramel.
Smear butter over the base of a 30cm Tarte Tatin dish (or 30cm frying pan with an oven-proof handle). Add measured water and sugar.
Place dish over a medium-hot element for approximately 10 minutes, shaking regularly until sugar has melted and turned golden brown. Arrange pears, rounded-side down, in the caramel and cook over a medium heat for another 10 minutes, shaking occasionally.
Lay pastry circle loosely over pears, tucking the pastry inside the dish, around the edges of the pears.
Note: the loose fit allows for shrinkage during cooking.
Transfer dish to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the pasty is golden brown. Turn the dish once during cooking if you know your oven cooks unevenly.
Remove dish from oven, allow to stand for five minutes before inverting tarte onto a serving plate so that the fruit is on the surface. Serve warm with homemade crème fraiche.