Are you still clamoring for last minute ideas for Thanksgiving dessert?  Or have you changed your mind 100 times like I have?  Well look no further…I have the PERFECT dessert for you!  When this Vanilla-Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart showed up in the pages of this month’s Bon Appétit magazine, it was love at first sight.  It sounded seriously amazing and the title and ingredient list certainly did not disappoint.

A beautiful and easy (taking about 1hr of prep time and an hour in the oven) rustic tart, this is one that uses the always handy frozen puff pastry dough from your grocery store. It can be prepared in full a day ahead of serving, then warmed when you’re ready to serve (trust me, it definitely works). The pears are softened in a vanilla-spice infused caramel sauce and these sigh-inducing flavors are repeated in the batter that lines the bottom of the pastry dough.  Drizzled with caramel-pear syrup and served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and you’ve got yourself a killer Thanksgiving dessert that will win over any mother-in-law.

Need some other ideas for Thanksgiving dessert?


Vanilla-Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart
source: Bon Appetit, November 2010

For the Crust:

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed, or one 14- to 16-ounce package all-butter puff pastry (1 to 2 sheets, depending on brand), thawed

For the Pears:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 medium firm but ripe Anjou pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, beaten to blend

To make the crust:
Roll out pastry to 12-inch square and trim off corners, forming slightly rounded crust. (If using all-butter puff pastry, roll out to 12-inch round.) Transfer pastry to 10-inch-diameter springform pan, pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and 1 to 1 1/2 inches up sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep frozen.

To make the pears:
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add sugar and next 4 ingredients. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring until sugar melts and turns brown (color of peanut butter), about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add pears, rounded side down. Cook until pears are almost tender, turning and moving skillet around occasionally to ensure even cooking, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on ripeness of pears. Carefully turn pears over; continue to cook until pears are very tender, about 10 minutes longer. Remove skillet from heat; cool pears in skillet with spices (pears will release juice while cooling).

To make the filling:
Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Add cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Increase heat to medium; cook until butter is golden (watch to avoid burning), 3 to 4 minutes. Remove vanilla bean and spices from butter; discard. Whisk sugar, egg, and coarse salt in medium bowl. Whisk in flour. Gradually whisk browned butter into egg mixture. DO AHEAD: Pears and filling can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover separately; let stand at room temperature. Whisk filling before using.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Brush frozen crust with beaten egg white. Pour filling into crust; spread evenly over bottom of crust (filling will be very thin). Using slotted spatula, remove pears from skillet, allowing excess syrup to drain back into skillet; reserve syrup. Arrange pears, rounded side up, atop filling (about 9 around edge and 3 in center of pan).

Bake tart until crust is deep golden and filling is set and brown at edges, about 1 hour. Run small knife around sides of pan to loosen tart. Release pan sides. Transfer tart to platter. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature to cool slightly until just warm.

Just before serving, boil syrup in skillet until reduced to generous 1/3 cup, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard spices. Drizzle syrup over pears. Serve tart slightly warm.