You people are so nice! As you may know, blogging is a relatively new thing for me, and I was intent on getting a little library of recipes out here before I really began to promote it. Then poof! this weekend, I see comments. And such lovely comments, might I add. Although this little blog has been public since the beginning, I never thought in a million years it would begin to show up on searches already. But if you like it, hey: I’m happy, and I’ll do my best to make you happy. So a big thank you to this weekend’s comment-posters; I made something for you.
And here it is! I have a bizarre obsession with pears, mostly because in my opinion, you can get perfectly ripe pears maybe 1 week out of the year. Doesn’t it seem like that? They’re soooo touchy, and you really have to find them between that time when they’re tasteless and rock-hard and when they’re bruised and overripe and grainy. I have done the home-ripening via paper bag, with mixed results. So when fall hits, I start checking the pears at the market. And those poor cashiers must hate me after they get my explicit instructions to be gentle and refrain from manhandling my delicate little fruits once I’ve picked them out.
If you read my September post regarding my sponge cake experiment (I’m new to the “basic foundation cake” game), you may have seen the recipe I used was from a cookbook I had never seen. Rather, Nigella Lawson posted it on her website and I happened upon it there.
After how easy that sponge came together (I have had past, ahem, difficulties) and how lovely it tasted, I sought out the original source for more ideas. The book: Nick Malgieri’s Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking.
I was not dissapointed. This is one of those books you could easily bake your way through from start to finish. Everything looks delicious, none of the recipes seems too complicated to tackle; in short, it’s a fabulous resource book for anyone who likes baking but doesn’t want to get fussy about it. This pear and walnut tart is a perfect example of simple, elegant baking. Looks fancy, right? Maybe like it would be too much work? It’s not, I promise you.
Since the pear season is too short as it is, I won’t bore you with the play-by-play. A few notes on this, and I’ll send you on your way.
- The pears: poach these the day before and leave them to relax in their poaching liquid overnight. It makes the actual tart-making go much faster as you’re not waiting for your pears to cool completely the same day you’re making the tart.
- The tart pastry: excellent. I’ve made quite a few sweet tart doughs, and this is my favorite so far. it’s easy to make, easy to roll out, and had the most beautiful color ever. Mr. Malgieri notes that ” because of this dough’s ability to bake through so efficiently, it never needs to be partially prebaked.” I encourage you to make this tart dough to use for other tarts, not just this one. I will be including it in its own post in the near future, because it’s a great “go-to.”
- The walnut filling: do not do what I and forget to scatter the remaining walnut pieces on top of the walnut filling pre-pear layer. i had to scatter post-pear and it was painstaking. But completely my fault.
- The shelf life: And this holds true for any fruit-topped tart, i think, but this is MUCH better served the day you make it. I would always make this the same day you intend to eat it, because the pears have the tendency to ooze their juices out slowly onto the rest of it. Delicious? yes. Pretty? less so, and the tart itself takes on an overall softness.
Go forth and bake.
Taken from Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking by Nick Malgieri. And bear with me: both the tart pastry and the tart recipe itself are in this post.
Pear + Walnut Tart
for the sweet pastry dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
- 2 large eggs
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until the butter is finely mixed into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully (seriously, the times i have cut myself…) remove the blade. Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. I prefer using it right away; if you refrigerate, make sure you really give it a chance to come back to roomish temperature before trying to roll it out.
On to the pear + walnut tart, in sections.
for the poached pears:
- Ice water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 5-6 ripe Bartlett pears (I say 5-6 because if you mess up one of the pear halves, you have some stand-ins to work with. or just eat later as a reward for not messing any up)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean (please don’t think you can work around this by using vanilla extract. get the bean!)
- 1 2-3 inch cinnamon stick
for the walnut filling:
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces, finely chopped
for the apricot glaze:
- 3/4 cup apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons water
- confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Time to poach the pears. Half-fill a 4 quart pan with ice water and add the lemon juice. Peel, halve, and use a melon-ball scoop to core and stem the pears, adding each half to the ice water. Skim out ice and pour away all the water except what’s needed to cover the pears by 1 inch. Add the sugar, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick and stir gently. Cut a piece of parchment the same diameter as the pan and cut six to eight 1-inch holes in it. Press the paper down on top of the pears to fully submerge. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a full boil. Cover, remove from heat, and allow the pears to sit in the hot liquid until completely cooled. This takes really forever, and it’s why I suggest doing this step the day before. Once the pears are cool, use a slotted spoon to lift them gently into a plastic container. Pour enough poaching liquid over the pears to cover them, add in the vanilla bean, cover and refrigerate until needed.
Okay: on to the tart part. Preheat oven to 350˚F and set a rack on the lowest level of the oven.
Walnut filling time! Combine the walnut pieces, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in your food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Use a spatula to scrape any mixture stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the butter, egg, and yolk and pulse until smooth. Mix the flour and baking powder together, add to the walnut mixture and pulse again until absorbed. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and pulse 2-3 more times. Pour into the prepared tart crust and smooth the top. Evenly scatter the chopped walnuts on top.
Drain the pear halves on paper towels and arrange them on the filling, wider sides close to the edge, ends pointing toward the center. Do a dry run on a plate if you feel nervous about getting them spaced correctly. Bake until the edge of the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Home stretch: glaze! Stir together the preserves and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over low heat. Strain into a bowl. Dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar and wait until it melts into the pears, which only takes a minute or two. Blot the pears with a paper towel (no rough stuff, gentle). Pour small spoonfuls of warm glaze over each pear. Unmold your tart and slide onto a platter.