Monday, January 14, 2008

Cooking Class Treats

Even though my students and I discuss menus beforehand, I very much enjoy making a little something myself prior to a cooking class- as a surprise. Sometimes it's pretty simple, like a nice dip to go with chopped raw veggies, and sometimes it might be a little more elegant, perhaps a dessert to finish off the lesson on a sweet note. The element of surprise seems to be very much appreciated and I'm always very flattered when I end up writing the recipe for them to take home afterwards.
Last Friday I opted for a both simple and elegant dessert in the form of a delicately sweet pear tart. I came up with the recipe the night before and got busy on it early the next morning, hoping for the best and allowing myself some time for any little mishaps or full- blown kitchen disasters. I'm happy to report that the tart came out very much to my liking (and to my student's who ended up going home with a a few generous slices).
I made the tart using the "king of pears", the flavorful and very aromatic Doyenne du Comice- my absolute favorite. The custard was made with crème fraîche and spiked with a touch of rum for a little bit of a kick. Serve the tart cold to really enjoy its classic, clean flavor.

Here's the recipe:

Simple Yet Elegant Pear Tart
Serves 8

For the pastry: (enough for a 28cm tart pan)
*300g flour

*pinch of salt

*150g cold butter, cut into small squares

*1 egg yolk, whisked

*3-4 tbsps ice water

*2 tbsps bread crumbs

Put the flour, salt and butter in the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of the ice water and pulse again. Add the other two tablespoons of water, one by one, pulsing after each addition. The dough should come together after the third tablespoon has been added, but if that's not the case, add a little more water. Remove the dough from the bowl and gather it into a fat disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least thirty minutes. Take it out of the fridge about five minutes before using it. Prepare a 28cm tart pan and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle with a circumference of about 32cm and a thickness of about 3mm. Transfer the pastry to the prepared tart pan and refrigerate it again for thirty minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C and blind- bake the crust for 12 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for a further three minutes. Sprinkle the crust with the breadcrumbs and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

For the filing:

*550g Doyenne du Comice pears, about 2 large pears

crème fraîche
*2 eggs, whisked

*1 tsp ground cinnamon
*2 tbsps rum

*100g unrefined brown sugar

Preheat oven to 220C. Peel and core the pears and cut them in half. Cut each half into slices, not too thick and not too thin. Arrange the slices on the crust in a wheel pattern. Bake the pears in the crust for 10 minutes. Make the custard by beating the
crème fraîche together with the eggs, the cinnamon, the rum and the sugar. Pour the custard over the pears, cover the pan loosely with tin foil and and bake it for a further 40 minutes. Remove the foil and allow the tart to bake 10 more minutes. Let the tart cool completely on a rack before serving. Best served chilled.


Patricia Scarpin said...

Paola, your tart looks superb! I love baking with pears.

The Cooking Ninja said...

This a simple and delicious tart. I love pear tarts. :)

Petra said...

Sounds delicious and really tasteful.
My mom made something alike for my birthday. A boeren-jongens (you know, Dutch raisins drained in rum)version on this recipe:
maybe in stead of whipped cream on top you can use creme fraiche...even more healthy ;)

Beatriz's suitcase contents said...

Paola, what a beautiful tart! And you made it when? before your class? I am amazed! I am not a baker, and whenever I try baking (with some success) it takes me forever... I might get the courage to try this recipe, but I have a couple questions... what is to bake blind???? and where do I find WEIGHTS for tarts? See? I told you I am not a baker ;-)

Gloria said...

This looks wonderful Paola,I love pears too. xxxx Te mando mucho cariño... Gloria

Mara said...

Mmm, this tart sounds really yummy :) I like the addition of rum, it must give it a kick ;)

Paola said...

Hi Patricia,
Thank you! I also can't seem to get ennough of pears!

Hi CN,
Thanks for stopping by! Haven't seen you here in a while!

Dag Petra,
I should try boeren-jongens sometime. Can you believe I've yet to try this?! Thanks for reading my blog!

Hi Beatriz,
Don't worry my dear! No one is born a baker. It takes some practice and a willingness to fail! ;) Believe me, I've had my share of failures! Blind baking means that you first bake the crust on its own with the help of pie weights so that it keeps its shape. They sometimes sell pie weights at kitchen supply stores but you can easily replace them with dried beans. Place the beans on a crumpled piece of baking paper big enough to cover the whole crust. Have a look here:

Hola Gloria,
Gracias muchacha.:)

Hi Mara,
Thanks! I just love rum in my baking!


Beatriz's suitcase contents said...

Gracias, I might try it sooner than later. Your posts are delicious!
I'll be posting some cooking of my own, come by tomorrow afternoon and check it out!

Sandy said...

Your tart looks simply amazing. The crust looks perfect, Paola. This is one I will be printing off to try.