Monday, December 24, 2007

sunday supper: battle pastry, pt 2

If there was any part of me that felt like a cheat for using frozen puff pastry in the entree, I think I counteracted with dessert -- a Rustic Pear Tart. This free-form tart is pretty simple to make, yet if you have the patience to lay the pear slices out prettily can look super fancy and complicated. Mine fell somewhere in between I suppose.

The hidden gem in this tart is the layer of pulverized almonds hiding under the pears. It's certainly not a necessary element for a simple pear tart, but the subtly rich touch of almonds works beautifully against the sweetness of the pears. It's also the easiest part of the recipe, simply throw some almonds, flour, and sugar into a food processor, pulse until it becomes a fine sand, and set aside until you assemble your tart.

The real pain in the ass is, as always, the crust. It's just a simple all-butter shortcrust pastry, but I always have a bit of an issue with shortcrust pastry. It always seems like the classic half fat to flour ratio is too high, the resulting dough feels so soft that I worry it will simply melt when I bake it. I pretty much always end up adding much more flour than the recipe calls for, at least when I am rolling out the crust. After all, this stuff will stick to everything if you don't flour it liberally, and I even use a Roulpat!

In the end the crust came out fine - flaky, buttery, a little on the rich side, but that's to be expected if you choose to do all butter instead of half butter-half shortening. But I do think I have a ways to go in mastering shortcrust pastry, which is pretty lame considering that it is supposed to be the easiest pastry to make. As for the pears, the ones I had were less ripe than I would have liked, but I'm so into pears lately, they may overtake apples as my favorite dessert fruit. Recipe after the jump:


Almond Filling:
1 tbsp almonds
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp sugar

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks
1/4 cup cold water

Pear Filling:
3 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup water

Start by making the almond filling. Combine the almonds, flour, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Empty into a bowl and set aside. For the crust, combine the flour and sugar in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add water little by little and pulse to combine. You may not need all of the water depending on the moisture in the air, just add enough for the dough to begin to come together. Remove dough, shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has chilled well, roll into a round crust, about 1/8 inch thick, on a well-floured board. You may need a fair amount of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the pin and the board. Transfer the rolled out crust onto a baking sheet and return to the refrigerator while you prep the pears. Peel, core, and slice pears thinly. Toss the pears with the lemon juice and sugar and set aside. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and sprinkle the almond filling evenly over the center of the crust, leaving about a 2 inch border all around. Lay pear slices over the almond filling, overlapping in a pinwheel pattern.

In a small saucepan, combine apricot preserves with water and heat until warm and syrupy. (You could also do this in a microwave, heating on high for about 1 minute). With a pastry brush, brush the apricot syrup over the pears.

Bake tart in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

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