Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Poached Pear Tart

Poached Pear Tart Jennifer Sommer asked for the recipe for this tart after seeing it on Facebook, so I am providing it here. The recipe is from Pies and Tarts in the Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library; the italicized annotations are my own.

2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) dry red wine (I used a Malbec for a box we bought for our holiday party)
3/4 cup (6 oz/185 g) sugar
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches (5 cm)
3 whole cloves (we didn't have any whole cloves, so I used a generous shake of some Penzey's mulling spice)
5 firm but ripe pears (We had been given some Royal Riviera pears from Harry and David as a Christmas gift, and they were already getting notably soft. So I wanted to to make the pear tart to use the pears before we left for a week. But by the time I made the tart, they were getting very soft.)

rich tart pastry for a 9-inch (23-cm) tart shell (I'm not going to give the full recipe here, but it's a tart pastry with a lot of butter and a little sugar; it's much easier to press this into the pan than to roll it out.)
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) apricot glaze, warm (the cookbook gives two recipes for apricot glaze; one involves heating apricot jam and forcing it through a sieve to remove the solids; the other involves whomping the heck out of the jam in a food processor. I took the food processor option, because I was concerned about time.)
1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) heavy (double) cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon nonfat dry milk (milk powder) (I wasn't willing to buy a box of dry milk for just one teaspoon, so I left it out. It might have stabilized the whipped cream, but it was fine without.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence) or 2 tablespoons pear brandy (I used the double-strength vanilla extract, but unlike Lori's usual practice, I didn't double the amount)

To cook the pears, combine the red wine, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. (I used a broad sauté pan.) Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Peel, halve and core the pears. (This was tricky because the pears were so soft. I ended up breaking up one pear half while peeling it.) Place them in the simmering liquid, adding a little water if necessary to cover them completely with liquid. Poach gently until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. (I had to rotate them once or twice, because when I put them in flat side down, the tops of the round sides weren't getting well-covered by the poaching liquid, and weren't getting as colorful.) Remove from the heat and let the pears cool in the liquid for at least 2 hours, or for up to several days in the refrigerator. (I didn't have refrigerator space, so I left them in the poaching liquid for about 3 hours. Even so, I saw variations in color in my pears that I didn't see in the cookbook's picture.)

Preheat an oven to 425° (225°C). Press the pastry into a 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan. Bake the crust fully, until browned and crisp. Cool completely before filling. (I had a bit more pastry than I felt I really needed. In retrospect, it might have been better to have reserved some for decorations as shown in the book. I had a very scary moment while I was baking the crust: when I removed the aluminum foil I was using to shape the crust, a fair hunk of pastry came with it. I smooshed it back into the crust as best I could and consoled myself that whipped cream covers a world of errors.)

Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and pat them dry. (This was far more delicate a process than that sentence implies, because the pears had started very tender and gotten even more tender from the poaching. I set several paper towels on a large plate and carefully transferred the pears to that plate with a pair of plastic forks. Then I put more paper towels on top of the pears and delicately pressed them down to soak up as much moisture as possible.) Brush a thin coating of the warm apricot glaze over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. In a bowl combine the cream, sugar, and dry milk and beat until stiff. Flavor with the vanilla or pear brandy. (I have no idea what is different between "flavor with vanilla" and "add the vanilla before beating the cream"; I did the latter.) Spread the whipped cream in an even layer in the tart shell. Arrange the pear halves on the cream, cut side down and small end toward the center. (This was a very delicate job, because I didn't want to smoosh the pears or the whipped cream. The two plastic forks were almost the right tool for the job; I wish the forks had been a bit larger.) Place 1 or 2 halves in the middle of the tart to cover the center. Carefully brush the pear halves with the remaining apricot glaze and serve as soon as possible. (We put it in the refrigerator for two hours or more before serving.)

When I read the recipe thoroughly before making it, I thought it would be hard to slice without pressing the pears into the whipped cream. But the pears were so tender that the knife glided right through them without any resistance. They had the mouthfeel of applesauce.
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