How should I interpret these instructions to cut a pear into "petals"?
December 5, 2013 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Help me interpret a baffling description of how to cut poached pears into six "petals", leaving a core to be filled with frangipane.

I have a recipe for pear tarte tatin, which includes a description of how to cut the pears that leaves me completely baffled. It's purely cosmetic -- the recipe is still delicious if I just hack up the pears any old how -- but the puzzle-solving part of my brain is being driven crazy by not being able to visualise what the instructions mean.

The recipe calls for "6 pears, peeled and cored". These are poached, then: them upright on a board. Using a sharp knife, cut across the cored middle of each pear, stopping halfway down. Repeat twice at equal intervals around the pear. Each pear will have six equal "petals".
Place each of the pears onto a circle of puff pastry, and pipe the frangipane into the centre of each pear, filling the core. Turn the pears over, petal side down, onto the tatin dishes, pastry-side up...
For the life of me, I can't work out what the recipe wants me to do. First it wants me to core the pears but leave the "middle" intact, then it wants me to cut "across", stopping when I'm "halfway down". Can anyone manage a clearer description or, ideally, link to a picture showing what I'm aiming for?

FWIW, the recipe is from "Heston at Home", whose instructions are, usually, fantastically clear and precise. There isn't a picture of the completed recipe in the book.
posted by metaBugs to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're supposed to core the pear, then cut it kind of like you would to make a hot dog octopus.
posted by dorque at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

For your reference - hot dog octopus pictures. and yeah, I agree.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on December 5, 2013

And here's a picture of someone actually making the cuts into the hot dog for such a purpose.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2013

I read that as something like the pears on top of this cake. Which is similar to how I've seen pear tarte tatin.
posted by JackBurden at 8:14 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

First it wants me to core the pears but leave the "middle" intact, then it wants me to cut "across", stopping when I'm "halfway down". Can anyone manage a clearer description or, ideally, link to a picture showing what I'm aiming for?

First, you have to core it with a corer, not by cutting it in half and then removing the core. So the pear is whole, but with a hole in the middle. Then, stand it up on the board and slice through it vertically- like, knife is horizontal to the cutting surface and the pear is standing upright, and you make a cut which WOULD split the pear into to equal halves- but you stop cutting down about halfway through, so the pear isn't actually split in two. Then you rotate the pear and make two more cuts of the same time. From the TOP of the pear, you'd see an asterisk: *.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:18 AM on December 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

Actually, on reflection, I think I may be wrong and JackBurden may be right. Hmm.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:22 AM on December 5, 2013

I agree with showbiz_liz's first comment. After peeling and poaching the pear should be pretty soft and should look a bit like the hot dog octopus when the core is filled and then the whole thing is flipped over. If you slice the pears the way JackBurden linked to, there wouldn't be any core left to fill.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2013

If this helps, in the end after coring, cutting, filling, and flipping, the pear should look a bit like a flat volcano - the original bottom half of the pear is still intact, the original "top half" has been sliced into six "petals" that are spread out in the dish. The hollow core of the volcano is filled with frangipane.

For other commenters - you can see the recipe if you Look Inside on Amazon - it's on page 314 or you can search for "frangipane." Note that it calls for 6 individual tarte dishes - one for each pear - not one large tarte dish like other recipes. The pastry crust goes on top of the Pear Volcano, not underneath. Then after cooking, the whole thing is flipped back over, like an upside-down cake.
posted by muddgirl at 8:36 AM on December 5, 2013

The instructions do not say anything about leaving the middle intact.

I agree with showbiz_liz's interpretation, although I can't see how you would continue with the recipe. Are you meant to stand the pear up on its narrow end, which is what it is implying? Perhaps you're meant to push down on it, so the cut "petals" spread out into a circle (or, more likely, break into a weird mess)?

The instructions as written would not produce anything like JackBurden's links, although I agree that those pictures are more like what I would expect from a pear tarte tatin and I would just do something like that.
posted by bcwinters at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2013

I missed the piping of frangipane into the core. I think showbiz_liz & muddgirl are right.
posted by JackBurden at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2013

This made sense to me straight away as a) I imagined using a corer and b) I seem to have the same particular translating-visuals-into-words idiom as Heston, luckily for me. Here's advice on how to (variously) core the pear without halving it.
posted by lokta at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

metaBugs - let us know if you're still confused - I think I can get a pear or apple at lunch, and while obviously I can't poach it I can take some photos showing how you cut and flip it.
posted by muddgirl at 8:42 AM on December 5, 2013

Wow, this is embarrassingly obvious in retrospect! Thanks all, for clearing it up for me!

I think you're dead on with the suggestions of using a corer and then cutting vertically, like a hot dog octopus. I was stuck on the ideas of (a) cutting the pears in half to core them, and (b) "cut across" meaning "cut horizontally". Either one of those is enough to derail the plan, and both together made no sense at all.

Anyway, if you can see the recipe on Amazon's "Look Inside" I strongly recommend trying it. It's a long process -- make a caramel, let it cool, poach pears and make frangipane, let them cool, assemble, bake -- but there's not a lot of actual work involved, and the end result is *amazing*. Until now I've been lazy (and confused), and just made a large single tarte with sliced pears at the bottom, which worked very well.
posted by metaBugs at 9:44 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tip on coring without halving -- use a melon baller from the bottom. Works amazingly.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:58 AM on December 5, 2013

Here's a recipe which is similar and sets out clearly how to cut the pear.
posted by essexjan at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2013

The recipe is so enticing and I think the end result from baking the flower-tartes upside down and then flipping them will be too charming.
posted by muddgirl at 11:06 AM on December 5, 2013

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