Posted on October 11, 2013
Everyone spends all of autumn talking about apples, but right now, pears and I are having a moment. Earlier this week I made caramelized pears. Amazing. With gelato. More amazing. I had a few of those caramelized pears left over and thought I might try using them instead of apples in a simple tart.
I’ve made Deb’s apple mosaic tart before (with apples), and its lovely, easy and tasty, so I started with that. I cut the puff pastry, sugar and butter for baking down by about a quarter since I had eaten quite a few of the pears I had made earlier and didn’t think I’d have enough to make a full sheet.
Even still I wound up with a little extra space in the middle of the tart, but this was no problem. When I first made baked brie, I figured out how to use puff pastry to make leaves and rosettes. I made a few rosettes from the trimmings of the puff pastry, set them in the extra space, and gave them a brushing of the drippings I got when I caramelized the pears.
If its possible, I think this turned out better than the original recipe. I often find that raw apples in tarts and pies don’t cook all the way through. The apples are tougher than the crust and will fall off because they are too solid, or when you take a bite you’ll come a way with most of the filling and leave behind empty crust. Here, since the pears have already been softened in the oven, the structure comes from the puff pastry. Every bite is soft and perfect. This tart tasted the way I always imagine tarts will taste when I look at the beautiful pictures in recipe books.
A few tips:
I think it’s a good idea to check on your tart a few times while it’s baking. Puff pastry can be unforgiving when it burns, and mine started to brown a little sooner than I wanted, at about 20 minutes or so. The upside of having the pears pre-cooked was that it didn’t harm the tart at all to take it out a few minutes earlier than called for by the original recipe.
To make rosettes, stretch out a thin slice of puff pastry so its about the size of your palm and has a slight arc. Starting with the lower corner of the arc, pinch one end together, then roll inward, lightly pinching and pressing the inner edge to the bottom of the flower. Set lightly on the puff pastry and brush with pear drippings or an egg white, so that they won’t burn. You could also use a butter knife to cut out little almond shapes. Press lightly down the middle with the knife edge to make the leaf vein, pinch gently along that seam, and voilà, leaves! Maybe I’ll make baked brie soon and take pictures to give a better example
This tart can be made in the afternoon and set aside to be enjoyed after dinner, but honestly, it will never taste quite as magical as it does fresh out of the oven. Afternoon dessert is underrated.
Fresh sliced pears are also a great idea, and now I’m wondering how apples would do with the caramelization process that went into these pears. If anyone tries, let me know.
Posted on October 7, 2013
Last Sunday we had friends over for dinner and they showed up on our doorstep with baklava and a few ripe Chinese pears. After dinner we served the baklava with a ice cream, raspberries, and slices of pear. They’ve been on my mind ever since.
This weekend was unseasonably warm and, when sorting through recipes, poaching pears with red wine seemed better suited for colder weather. Caramelizing them in the oven, on the other hand, would go well with ice cream, which was more appealing given the balmy temperatures outside. Smitten Kitchen’s take on them, with lemon and vanilla, seemed like just the thing so I picked up four of the Barlett pears that have just started to appear at the market.
Deb’s recipe calls for basting the pears a few times as they cook, and every time I opened the oven door to attend to them the sweet smell of pears and vanilla grew a little richer and the pear drippings in the bottom of the pan looked a little more golden. They were ready just as the sun was going down, and the warm pear tasted about as golden as the light streaming in through our apartment windows.
A few tips:
I love a little coconut here and there, so the only modification I made to this recipe was to add about an tablespoon of finely chopped shredded coconut to the sugar and vanilla bean mixture.
To get as much juice as possible when using a fresh lemon, squeeze the lemon well (watch out for pips), then press the back of a spoon against the inside flesh. Deb doesn’t mention it in the recipe, but her photos show that she tossed the spent lemon rind in the pan with the pears. I did, too, and though I’m not sure if it helped, it sure didn’t hurt, so go ahead.
Use the same spoon to core the pears if you don’t have a corer or a melon baller.
There are dozens of ways you can use the finished pears, but fresh out of the oven, I drizzled them with the golden pan juices and served with a scoop gelato. To not overpower the flavor of the pears, I chose a simple roasted almond gelato and thought it worked very well.