This spelt tarte tatin with caramelised pears, vanilla and cinnamon labneh is a pure taste of crispy, layered, puff pastry indulgence. Full of buttery richness and finished with a sweet cinnamon labneh, this is a dessert which I simply can’t get enough of. It’s also simple to make, there’s a tarte tatin in everybody that the Tatin sisters would be proud of, if only you’ll let it out!
I fucked off my lactose intolerance last week with a massive dose of butter, entwined with sugar, flour and the heat of the oven to create this beautiful dessert. Occasionally I can’t handle the burden of my virtuous lifestyle (hah!) and have to stab myself in the foot, or perhaps stomach, and cause some pain with something that will give my digestive system a kicking. Harming myself, regardless of how small the act, is one of the things in life which I cannot resist.
Dairy makes my stomach hurt, can make me nauseous and quesy and other painful symptoms which are best left to the imagination. Contrary to this fact, rich desserts make me smile, so there’s a trade-off between the pain of intolerance and the pleasure of food. I’m not into utter cessation of dairy, I just want to manage it, which is why I indulge. Along with all this comes a side serving of guilt from consuming too much dessert, but artists have to suffer, hence I make the sacrifice.
The cinnamon labneh which tops this is simple to make, whip it together and leave it to strain for a few hours or overnight. Yoghurt also has less effect on those sensitive to lactose, I find I can eat it with far fewer side effects than a dollop of evil whipped cream.
Butter, however, is irreplaceable. I’ve tried to replace it in some of my recipes, but nothing else has quite the same effect, because rich, full fat, dairy butteriness is impossible to replace. I’ve not even tried to make this spelt tarte tatin with anything other than real, full fat butter, because I felt it deserves only the best.
There’s a well known phenomenon amongst chefs which is that they love butter, or any fat. It’s commonly known that when transferring chef’s restaurant recipes to home cookbooks, the recipe testers frequently have to reduce the amount of butter or oil enormously, for fear of sparking a public health crisis upon the book’s release. Chefs know the secret, that butter makes things taste good. That’s why Jöel Robuchon makes his famous mashed potato (sorry, potato puree) with 33% butter, because it adds a fantastic richness, especially when there’s lots of it.
The Best Dessert in the World.
OK, that’s entirely subjective, but a spelt tarte tatin is one of my favourite desserts to make. It’s exciting, because it’s shrouded in a layer of mystery like it’s distant cousin, the pineapple upside cake. You have no idea what’s going on underneath that cloak of pastry until you turn it out at the end.
Contrary to that fact, I’ve always found this in incredibly easy dessert to make. Unlike a cake, you deal with how brown you want the top before you put it in the oven. You can let the sliced pears sizzle away in the caramel, bubbling and sucking up that rich sweetness and gently taking on the depth of colour you desire. When they’ve reached peak browning, you can flip them around and arrange them into a beautiful layout, before covering it all with pastry and whacking it in the oven.
At this point, the whole thing is as good as done. Just sit back and get ready for spelt tarte tatin perfection. It’s well, well worth it.
Spelt Tarte Tatin with Caramelised Pears and Sweet Cinnamon Labneh
By Gavin Wren
Uses an oven proof frying pan, cheese cloth and string.
Sweet Cinnamon Labneh:
50g maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
500g plain yoghurt
Spelt Tarte Tatin:
75g golden caster sugar
600g small pears, peeled, topped and tailed, then sliced in half.
1 vanilla pod
250g spelt rough puff pastry (or pre made puff pastry)
Pre heat your oven to gas mark 5, 375ºF, 191ºC, 171ºC fan. For more info about oven temperatures, read my free guide, here.
Place your frying pan over a medium heat, then add the butter and sugar, mixing them together in the pan until they form a gloopy caramel. Slice the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape the contents into the pan, then add the pod as well.
Place the pears in the pan, cut side up. You can re-arrange them for the final tart, so you don’t need to worry about their position.
Cook for 15 minutes or until the pears are softening and nicely golden in colour, you can move them around to check.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then arrange the pears however you want them to appear on the final tarte. Remember you are working upside down!
Roll the pastry out to 3-5mm thick, then, using a plate, cut out a circle of pastry. Lay it over the pears in the pan and tuck it in at the edges.
Place the pan in the oven for 30 minutes, by this point the pastry should be lightly browned and well puffed.
Remove from the oven, then very, very carefully invert the pan onto a plate. There will be lots of hot sugar and butter that will try to escape.
Leave to cool slightly then serve with a big dollop of the cinnamon labneh.