Their curvaceous booty is reminiscent of a group of elderly matrons chilling on a sun kissed beach. As we know to our cost, appearances can be deceptive for this is not a remake of “Les Baigneuses” but a group of indolent young male pears who have left it too late. Green William has gone too far this time. Not only has he turned yellow but he also appears to be rotten to the core. These are the chaps who are left until last when teams are being picked, which is quite apposite for a pear as it’s at the moment of picking that it all starts to go downhill for Poire William. Having established their gender, the shape of these pears is more reminiscent of a certain William Bunter of Greyfriars School than the leaner Just William character, although both of them would have been found wanting in a team sport and I needed to mould these supine pears, grown soft through dolce far niente, into a cohesive group of bronzed flesh who would be remembered, by all that sunk their teeth into them, as Team Tatin. Getting their clothes off was no easy matter as they were clearly embarrassed by the fragility of their once firm flesh. Pears and humans have this frailty in common: we turn our back on exercise and activity for what seems like a couple of seconds and before one can say “who shrunk my trousers” we’re as soft and fleshy as a pear’s booty.
Slipping gently into sanity, I should mention that when a pear reaches this state of collapse it’s not worth coring with an apple corer. I’ve found that option to make life more difficult, leaving one with a handful of soft mush, so I peel them whole, halve them from the top down and scoop out the “pourriture” with a melon baller. This leaves the pear quarters in reasonable shape to get sticky and golden in a tin lined copper bath of sugar and butter. I used 50 gms of demerara and 50 gms of unsalted butter, which was half the amount suggested in the recipe…believe me, it’s enough. There is a time in cooking when even -featured handsomeness must be replaced by asymmetrical fabulousness….”beau laid”..which does not translate as well laid, as my plans never are. The confection that is born of this plan and pan is solely concerned with the enjoyment of flavour and texture. The pear quarters should cook slowly in the butter and sugar for a good 25 minutes and then the heat should be turned up for a further 15 minutes. It’s important that the pale and flabby slobs, that entered this copper gym, will pass out of it as bronzed pear gods prepared to be laid beneath a tart pastry, so short, as to make their eyes water.
This pastry is as easy as it is short, both in creation and consumption. 140 gms of all purpose flour (not unbleached) and 105 gms of unsalted butter are processed together with a teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of iced water. Pulse the ingredients until they start to come together but do not let them form a ball. Put the pastry onto to some grease proof paper, flatten it into a disk and put in the fridge for at least an hour. This is a classic Pâte Brisée and there is nothing better in the world to show off Team Tatin at their best. Once the deeply coloured pears have been tipped into your chosen cooking utensil ( mine is a trusty old tatin tin ) cover them with a blanket of pastry, tuck them in and put them in a hot oven for 35 t0 40 minutes.
The final moment of tarte tatin creation offers no hiding place. So many times have I been fooled by the simplicity of the instruction “place a large flat plate over the tin and quickly invert”. So few words for such a multiplicity of possible fuck ups. On occasion I have coated the kitchen, myself and the cat in a fast hardening layer of toffee, or looked at a still pristine white plate and then into the black depths of the pan to see sticky pears and pastry firmly welded onto lumps of charred sugar or just dropped the plate onto the tiled floor to create a fruit and toffee mosaic that will take the weekend to clear. Sometimes it’s perfect and they are good times. This time it was not perfect but it probably tasted better than any I have made before.