Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pear Tart with Walnuts

Yay! More dessert! This is a pretty basic tart so we have lots of variations available on this one. As some of you know, given a choice between cake and pie, I used to choose pie every single time. Now, it's more of an: I can have a slice of pie if I'm willing to forgo dinner. That just doesn't fly with me. Enter: The Tart. It's like a pie, only it has a thinner crust and only one of them. Hence, not nearly as many carbs. I can live with that. This is coming out of Simple French Cooking.

1 c. All purpose flour
1/2 c. cake or pastry flour (also known as soft flour)
1 Tbls + 1 1/2 c. Sugar
1/4 Tsp Salt (kosher, of course)
1/2 c. Unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled, cut into small cubes
2-3 Tbls. Ice water
3 c. Cold water, or as needed
3 ripe but firm pears (preferably Comice or Bosc. Bartlett pears don't have enough flavor to stand up to the rest of the ingredients), Peeled, halved, cored and tossed in a bowl with the juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. Apricot Preserves, forced through a sieve
1 c. Walnut pieces

Whipped Cream:
1 c. Heavy Cream
2 Tbls. Sour cream (Yes, I know it's weird. Trust me.)
1 Tbls. Confectioners Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
1 Tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

4 Mint Sprigs

How to:
1) For starters, set a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Then turn the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Mix the 2 kinds of flour in a mixing bowl along with the salt and 1 Tbls. of sugar. Using a pastry blender or pastry knife, cut the butter in to the dry mixture until it looks a little like oatmeal.

3) Start tossing the mixture with a fork (No, I don't want you to make a mess.) and add the ice water until the mixture barely holds together. Don't over-do it. We don't want it to be like a regular dough ball of it won't be flaky enough.

4) Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a round. Roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap, wax paper, or parchment paper. We want the round to be about 12 inches across if you're using a 9-inch pan or 13-14 inches across if you're using an 11 inch pan like I did.

5) Peel off the top layer of wrap from the pastry shell and use a rolling pin to invert it over the tart pan. Make sure your tart pan has a removable bottom. It will make removing the tart easier by an order of magnitude. Remove the second layer of wrap from the pastry and fit the pastry snugly into the pan. The edge of the pan should easily cut off any pastry shell that sticks over the top to give you nice clean edges all the way around. Stick it in the fridge to chill while we work on the next few steps.

6) Now we have fun and kill two birds with one stone. Use a deep frying pan and put it over medium heat. Add the cold water and 1 1/2 c. sugar to the pan and stir them until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil to finish dissolving the sugar.

7) Once it's boiling, add the pears and lemon juice. Return the whole thing to a simmer and add water until it just covers the pears. We're poaching them. They should float just enough to not touch the bottom of the pan.

8) Bring the heat down to medium-low. We want to maintain the simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn the pears over about half way through. They should be almost tender when they're done. Transfer them to a cooling rack over a baking pan and let them cool. DON'T THROW AWAY THE LIQUID! Sorry about that. That liquid is prime pear flavored candy starter. That's our second bird. We'll get back to it later. For now, store it in a container (or two) and stick it in the fridge.

9) Pull the tart crust out of the fridge and spread most of the apricot preserves over the bottom of the pastry shell.

10) Slice each poached pear half crosswise into thin slices but maintain the integrity and shape of the pear. Transfer all six halves into the tart pan and arrange them radially with the stem ends facing the center.

11) Brush the pears with the remaining apricot preserves. Fill the spaces between the pears with walnuts.

12) Bake the tart until that crust turns a beautiful gold. It should be about an hour maybe 1 1/4 hours. Pull it out and move the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool there until it's just warm. Remove the outer ring form the pan and slide off the base. Top it and garnish. I usually add nutmeg or cinnamon to the top along with the whipped cream and mint. Tart makes 10 servings from an 11 inch pan.

Whipped Cream:
1) Pull out your stand mixer and combine the cream and sour cream. Beat it with the whisk or paddle attachment until it starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar at that point along with the vanilla extract and continue to beat it until you get to soft peaks. Easy, simple, and nice, full flavor that beats the stuffing out of any bottled whipped cream you care to name. Cover the whipped cream and refrigerate.

Pear Candy:
Remember that poaching liquid from the pears? Well, I'm still ironing out the kinks on this one, but it gives you some good sweets regardless. I've made two batches, the first was too gummy and didn't hold it's form but had a great pear flavor. The second held form better but the pear is significantly less potent. If you give it a shot, let me know. There's got to be a way to get the best of both tries. I'll let you know the next time I try it.

1) Well pull it out of the fridge and add about 1 c. of sugar. Butter the sides of a saucepan. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a saucepan and pour the liquid in.

2)Heat it over medium high and stir frequently. We need to bring it to a boil . Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to medium and then heat it to the soft-crack stage (~290). It's going to take awhile so be patient and keep an eye on the thermometer.

3) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in whatever food coloring you want very quickly and pour the mixture into a pan that has been covered with foil and thoroughly buttered.

4) Let it cool until a film has formed over the top of the mixture and then use a broad spatula to press a line into the cooling candy. Continue inscribing lines 1/2 inch apart but do not break the film or you'll have to start over.

5) keep going over the lines until the candy has separated and holds it's shape. Once it's completely cool, store it on parchment paper. You should have 1/2 inch squares of candy. Lots of it. But it's goooooood.

So there we go. You can substitute and fruit you like on the tart. If you're using berries I wouldn't poach them, just coat them in sugar first or maybe preserves. Something to seal in the juices at any rate. Any fruit you poach like apples or peaches, make sure you keep the liquid for candy making later. There's no reason to throw out that beautiful liquid.

Tart pan
Stand Mixer
Pastry knife
Large saute pan
Aluminum Foil
Rolling pin
Parchment paper/plastic wrap
Cooling rack

Health Info:
2 Starch servings
1 Fruit serving
1 Fat serving

Candy: (serving size: 5 pieces)
1 Starch serving

::Malloreth out::


At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Aneska said...

That turned out very prettily :)

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Malloreth said...

Thank you.

It tasted better than it looked. I want to try an apple and a strawberry/kiwi as well. Maybe mango somewhere down the line.


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