Monday, November 16, 2009

Poached Pear Tart

Wow did my apartment smell good while I was making this! They should make a candle that embodies the smell of pears poaching in a pot of wine, sugar and spices. Or I could just make this all the time...

So I offered this tart up as one of the many pies I'm selling for Thanksgiving this year, but hadn't really decided on a recipe for it yet, just knew it could be done, and that I would do it. So I experimented and came up with this pretty keen combination. I followed a recipe posted on Epicurious fairly closely, but with some modifications. First and fore most, I had created a poached pear crepe last year that had a honey mascarpone filling, so figured I'd work with that some how in the tart. I also love almond and almond flavors, so swapped out the called for pistachios and used almond meal in it's place.

This is what I came up with:

Pastry cream
  • 2/3 cup almond meal
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 8oz pkg mascarpone cheese
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons whipping cream
In medium sized saucepan, place 3 tbsp sugar, almond meal, honey mascarpone and milk and bring to boil. At first, I was concerned about whether or not the cheese would boil or melt, but it worked out just fine. In separate bowl, whisk remaining 3 tbs sugar, yolks, and cornstarch and blend. Gradually whisk 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return to milk mixture and whisk constantly over medium-high heat until mixture boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a bowl; press plastic wrap directly onto surface. Cover and chill. Stir in cream. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Poached pears
  • 1/2 bottle fruity red wine (such as Zinfandel)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sage leaf (remove after 10 minutes of boiling, or so)
  • 4 medium-size firm but ripe pears peeled, with core and stem removed
Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to simmer. Depending on the ripeness of the pears, simmer for 30 minutes up to 1 hour. Transfer pears to a separate dish and reserve poaching liquid to boil down to a syrup for serving, to reboil more pears later, or to discard. Cool pears to room temperature. (Pears can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

• 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan tart pan. Freeze crust 15 minutes.

Bake crust until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Once all ingredients are ready, smooth a layer of pastry cream into the pie shell, and top with slices of poached pears in a decorative manner. It is best to pat the pears dry before arranging on the tart. I had the better part of a pear leftover when I was done arranging my tart, but it worked out since I was able to choose only the prettiest pieces of pear to lay on my tart, and will gladly gobble up the rest of the pears, or maybe use them in a recipe in the next day or so. They really are super tasty.

It was shown in the previous recipe that they arranged their pears in a rosette-like formation, which looked very pretty, but I couldn't quite get myself to do it. I just love the fan-like look of the fruit tarts.

Anyhow, now that I've come up with a recipe, I feel better about offering to make them for people's thanksgiving dinners!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Maple Pecan Pie

It's high time for pie time!

Pies are amazing. I especially love a good pumpkin pie, but honestly, just use the Libby's recipe, so there's not much to blog about. But I do have a very special Pecan Pie recipe that I have every intention of sharing.

Inspired originally by my dear friend, Liz, who is always so willing to accommodate those with special dietary restrictions. She made a pecan pie that used no processed sugars. Knowing that most of the recipes out there for Pecan Pie are 80% corn syrup does make them high on the processed sugars list. Our friend who had this restriction did say that Maple syrup was natural, therefore he would eat it. Bingo. With a little experimentation, she whipped up a batch of pecan pie tarts using only maple syrup in place of the corn syrup. I was skeptical at first, thinking they would taste like a gallon of maple syrup with some pecans thrown in, but I was sure wrong. Delicately sweet, chewy, and super nutty, they fulfilled everything you'd ever want from a pecan pie, and were actually not as painfully sweet as their corn syrup counterparts. Nor was the flavor overwhelmingly mapley. I mean, I like maple syrup, but I do have my limits on how much of it I can take in.

It did take me a couple years to make my own version, but well worth the wait. Adapted from a recipe on Simply Recipes.

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses

  • 2 tbsp melted butter

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tsp bourbon or brandy
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans (enough to cover bottom of pie tin)
  • 1 Removable bottom tart pan lined with pastry crust
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread pecans along the bottom of the pie shell. I tend to be meticulous about it and fan them out from the center, but then am disappointed when I pour the mix over the nuts and they proceed to be displaced chaotically. Just a warning, if you happen to be a perfectionist.
Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over pecans. The pecans will rise to the surface.
Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes until the filling has set.
Cool completely.
Cutting can be messy, because I keep the pecans whole, so you have to chop through the whole nut AND crust. You can of course chop them before you put them on the pie crust.

I use a trusted pie crust recipe that is basically 1/2 cup of butter to each cup of flour, with a tsp of salt and sugar tossed in. I keep some of the butter chunks pretty big too, which makes the crust super flaky (but reliable - how ironic!).

I hope you enjoy this treat as much as I do. It definitely competes with pumpkin pie in the ranks of my favorites. But apple is so good too.... ooh, Dutch Apple. mmm. I guess I have more posts to work on.