Hello foodies, food porn addicts, and generic blog stalkers! I’m sorry for the blog silence for the past… six months. I do have a legitimate reason for going blog-silent. But I’m going to refrain from excuses and instead say: I’m sorry. I’ve been cooking, but I haven’t been blogging. There have been some pictures of meal prep taken over the past few months, so I have several different blog posts already written in my head (including Fry Day Part II). We’ll see how I do at getting everything onto the web for you guys.
For right now, though, I have a pretty tasty update. I’m currently in Arizona taking care of my mom, so I’m sans a lot of my regular kitchen comforts. This isn’t a huge setback as my mom is more of a Williams Sonoma addict than I am. It’s just a different kitchen with different utensils for me to adjust to.
I knew I wanted to try this particular recipe before I left Los Angeles. So when I drove out to Arizona, I brought… my tart pan.
Yes, I brought a tart pan on a road trip. For any of you who thought you knew the extent of my kitchen geekiness – did you expect this level? (Should I mention that I also brought a cheesecake pan with me?)
Now that I set the geek bar a little higher, shall we get to the recipe?
My endeavor yesterday was to make a pear tart that was originally featured in Women’s Daily. (A coworker might have shared her magazine with me at work. The tart might have been deliciously featured on the cover.)
You can get the recipe for the tart here.
I have to say, this was a relatively easy recipe to make and it turned out delicious. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I started off making the dough in a stand mixture and it came together quite easily.
I will note though that where the recipe states you should use a small spatula to spread the dough? You should use a small spatula. I started off using my bowl scraper. (Call it laziness if you want, I’ll argue I was being “green” and preventing the washing of another kitchen utensil.) That worked … absolutely not at all. But once I grabbed a small spatula (we’re talking about a 6” overall length from tip of blade to end of handle, but a slightly larger spatula should still work as well), the spreading of the dough went smoothly. Of course, brilliant baker that I am, I spread an even layer across the bottom of the tart pan. This left me pressing dough all over the place to get it up the sides. but a little bit of flour and some patience and I more or less got the dough where it was supposed to go. So what if the base of the tart was no longer nicely smooth – I was going to cover it with pear slices anyway.
I should warn you though: there was one other issue I encountered with the tart dough.
I made the mistake of trying some of the dough before spreading it. With the almond flavoring it’s pure, ecstatic, heaven in your mouth. In the picture above, do you see how the tart dough is looking a little thin around the 4 o’clock area ? Don’t try your tart dough until AFTER you’ve filled your tart pan. Otherwise, you might run out.
Next came the peeling and slicing of the pears. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I 1) always use a vegetable peeler instead of a knife to peel fruits and vegetables and 2) always manage to cut at least one knuckle while peeling. This time was no different.
Semi-peeled pears are really slippery – just a quick aside.
I attempted to hold on to the peeled half of a half-peeled pear while removing the rest of its skin. I’m not sure if my hand or the pear slipped, but I caught a knuckle. My first thought was, “Oh no, please don’t bleed on the pear. That means I’ll have to peel another one.” Thankfully, my knuckle, while sliced, agreed and didn’t bleed immediately. The other upside? I’ve apparently sliced my knuckles so much over the years that it really doesn’t hurt any more.
At least until lemon juice came in contact with it later.
Warning: the next few paragraphs contain a lot of fractions. I’d rewrite it but… it builds character.
I got the pears peeled and got ready to make slices to place in the tart. Historically when I cut pears I halve, then quarter, then cut into twelfths (each quarter is cut into thirds). On my first pear I halved, quartered, and started cutting my first quarter into thirds when I remembered that the pear slices were supposed to be 1-1/2” to 2” wide. My little twelfth of a pear was WAY too skinny. So it became a snack. The remaining uncut section of that quarter (equating to 1/6 of the pear) was thick enough as it was so I put that one straight into the outer ring of pear slices in the tart pan.
The next quarter I tried cutting in half. It worked, but it was a little on the thin side. For the pear I’d already cut, I continued using 1/8 of a pear wedges. When I moved on to the next pear though, I changed my cutting to 1/6 wedges. Once I had a half of a pear, two slices gave me three perfectly sized wedges for the tart. Trial and error and a couple of delicious mistakes.
The 1/6 wedges worked well for the outer ring, but the inner ring was problematic when they were that thick. I ended up going back to the 1/12 wedges for the inner circle and that helped them fill up the center without toppling over.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that peeled pears are slippery?
I lost at least three pear wedges to the floor (and then, sadly but logically, to the garbage disposal) while I was cutting and transferring. I recommend having back up pears in case this happens.
But my pears were arranged and my oven was preheated… it was time to place this bad boy in the oven!
Except about 10 minutes into baking I realized I forgot to sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mix over the top. Thankfully, the tart was forgiving and I sprinkled the mixture on the tart with 55 minutes left on the baking clock.
Right after I remembered the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Notice that the dough is already puffing up around the pear slices.
Then came the really simple part: wait for the tart to bake.
When the oven had 10 minutes left, I prepped the glaze on the stove. The apricot preserves I used had whole apricots in them so I didn’t get full dissolution of the jam in the lemon juice. To prevent lumps, I placed a wire mesh strainer over a bowl and ran the finished glaze through the strainer.
The tart came out of the oven looking and smelling lightly delectable.
I used a basting/pastry brush to brush the strained glaze over the top of the tart.
Then we had a little more waiting as we gave the tart an hour to cool. Finally it was time to remove it from its pan.
You know, considering this was my first fruit tart ever? It turned out looking remarkably like the magazine cover.
I also LOVE this tart.
This time of year the pears available are more crisp and flavorless than the sweet, slightly mushy, and flavorful ones you find in the fall. You’d think that would be a detractor, but the firmness of the pears holds up through the baking so they still yield when you bite into them, but they have enough firmness that they contrast slightly with the tart dough. The subtleness of the flavor of the pears also allows the almond flavoring of the dough and the cinnamon in the topping to shine through. I’m definitely interested in trying this recipe again at the peak of pear season, but if you have to make a recipe using out-of-season fruit, goodness, this is the recipe to use.
I’ve already decided that this tart will be on the menu for 2012’s Thanksgiving dinner.
One other quick note – my mom and I paired the tart with Celestial Seasonings' Antioxidant Green Tea. The tea is a personal favorite that blends green and white teas for a light,
floral taste (without reaching the strong level of Earl Grey floral) edit: citrus, it has a light citrus taste. This is what I get for writing blog posts in the middle of the night. The flavors of the tea perfectly complemented the almond, pear, apricot, and lemon notes of the tart for an experience that left my taste buds waltzing.
One of the reasons I tend to cook more than I bake is because I have a weakness for baked goods. I wanted to devour this entire tart in one sitting. I managed to restrain myself (slightly), but it would be very dangerous for my waistline if I made this on a weekly basis.