Tender spiced pastry crust meets creamy pudding and fresh pears drizzled with a buttery sauce. But the real showstopper is the homemade caramelized pastry cream. One taste and you'll be swooning.
For pastry cream: Line a 15×10-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In an extra-large skillet heat granulated sugar over medium-high until sugar starts to melt. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir unmelted sugar into melted sugar. When all sugar is melted and amber colored, pour into prepared baking pan; let cool. Break caramelized sugar into pieces. Set aside some pieces for garnish.
Place remaining caramelized sugar into a food processor. Process until fine. (You should have about 1 cup.) In a medium saucepan combine the milk and half the caramelized sugar. Cook over medium just until edges are bubbly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together egg yolks, remaining caramelized sugar, cornstarch, and 1/2 tsp. salt until combined. Gradually stir about half the hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return all to saucepan. Cook and stir over medium until very thick and bubbly. You may need to whisk as it thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in the 1/4 cup butter and the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Let cool 30 minutes. Chill 2 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl stir together flour, powdered sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Using a pastry blender, cut in 1 cup butter until pieces are pea-size. Drizzle with molasses and toss gently with a fork. Knead gently until dough holds together. Divide into eight equal pieces.
Pat each dough portion into a 4-inch tart pan with or without removable bottom. Prick pastry all over with fork. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake 17 to 20 minutes or until golden. Let cool; gently remove from pans.
Increase oven to 400°F. Arrange pear halves cut sides down in a 2-qt. rectangular baking dish. In a small saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the brown sugar, and remaining 3 Tbsp. butter. Stir over medium until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Pour over pears in baking dish. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes or until tender, basting with liquid twice. Let cool slightly. Remove and slice pears, reserving liquid.
To assemble: Divide pastry cream evenly among crusts. Arrange pears over cream and drizzle with some of the cooking liquid. Top each with pomegranate seeds and reserved shards of caramelized sugar. Makes 8.