I get a bit overwhelmed with summer’s bounty and burn out on fruit desserts by the time the really hot, dog days of summer hit, which (happily) coincidentally, is when summer fruit start fading out as well. But unlike luscious summer berries, the heat sticks around for a while here in Central Texas so I had to endure all these beautiful pictures, stories, and blog posts on fall fruit desserts while it was still stifling outside. But no more!
It’s feeling downright fallish in Austin - temperatures are dropping down to the 40’s in the early mornings with beautiful, sunny days in the 80’s. This weather has me in the mood to start breaking out seasonal fruit recipes again so last week, when it was absolutely glorious outside (despite historically high ragweed levels wrecking havoc with my allergies), I took a break from the office to walk over to the Triangle Farmer’s Market to pick up some pears.
After having to make a few icky canned pear desserts at LCB and drawing the caramelized pear tart for my final exam, I was pretty much done with pears last year before the season even started in Texas. So glad I’ve recovered this year from my pear phobia because vanilla roasted pears are really lovely. Vanilla and sugar combine to aid in the caramelization process while butter enhances the nutty, rich flavor of the roasted fruit. The addition of lemon juice brings just a hint of brightness. The smell of these roasted pears alone will make you dance around your oven with anticipation and hopefully, will permeate your whole house. If only someone could make a home scent that smells half as good, you’d have fall in a bottle.
Vanilla Roasted Pear Tarts
I didn’t notice initially that Deb at Smitten Kitchen adapted her recipe from Sally Schneider, whose idea for chocolate cakelettes with bacon fat I adapted to Thomas Keller’s bouchon recipe. I’m now an official admirer of Ms. Schneider and will be checking out her other recipes on The Atlantic’s website. Deb served the vanilla roasted pears solo but noted the recipe could be used many ways, which, of course, got my wheels turning. You might have noticed from the plethora of previous posts on tarts, I’m a big fan of anything that fills a tart shell so baking up vanilla roasted pear tarts seemed like just the thing. I decided to make two tarts using a different method for each. For the first version, I par-baked the shell and then filled it with the uncooked vanilla pear mixture and finished baking off the shell while roasting the pears. For the second version, I spooned already roasted pears into a fully cooked tart shell. The first version looked more elegant with the pear slices fanned out in a circular fashion but didn’t allow for turning the pears as they roasted and the par-baked crust soaked up some of the roasting juices. I preferred the taste of the second version despite it’s more humble appearance. I’ll take flavor over fancy any day. (Which is not to say that the first version wasn’t flavorful but it packed less of a punch to me, so if subtle and fancy is your thing, I think you’ll like the first version.)
I really like Suzanne Goin’s pâte sucrée recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The recipe makes enough dough for two 10” tarts.
1/4 c heavy cream
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 3/4 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/4 c plus 3 T granulated sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1. Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter on medium speed until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough.
3. Transfer the dough to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into 1-inch-thick discs. You can wrap one disk to freeze and use later, if desired.
4. If the dough is too soft, put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little. If the dough is manageable, place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, and roll it out into a 1-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice clean edge, or work your way around the edge pinching off any excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour.
Vanilla Roasted Pears
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted the original recipe from Sally Schneider. The recipe makes enough filling for one 10” tart.
1/4 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds slightly-under-ripe, fragrant, medium sized pears, peeled if desired, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise (I used Orient pears but any variety will work)
2 T lemon juice
2 T water
2 T unsalted butter, melted
For the first version of the pear tart:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom of the pâte sucrée with a fork and line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Fill the lined tart shell with beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully lift out the paper and beans.
2. While the tart shell is baking, place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.
3. Place the sliced pears in a large bowl, add water and lemon juice, then sprinkle with the sugar. Turn and stir the pear slices in the bowl to ensure they are well coated.
4. Arrange the pear slices in the par-baked tart shell by starting at the outside edge and working inward towards the center, overlapping the slices in a circular fan shaped manner. Brush melted butter over the top of the pear slices.
5. Return the filled tart to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the pears are tender (a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance) and caramelized and the crust is an even golden brown. If the crust begins to brown too much, cover with foil. Remove the tart from the oven and set aside on a rack to cool slightly.
6. Serve while still warm.
For the second version of the pear tart:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.
2. Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit. Pour the water into the dish. Brush the pears with melted butter.
3. The tart shell can be baked at the same time that the pears are roasted but will require less time. Prick the bottom of the pâte sucrée with a fork and line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Fill the lined tart shell with beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully lift out the paper and beans. Return the tart to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.
4. Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing occasionally with the pan juices. Stir and turn the pear mixture and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, about 25 to 30 minutes longer (if the pears are small, test for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes of cooking; a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance).
5. Allow the roasted pears to cool a bit and then spoon the cooked mixture into the fully baked tart shell and serve while still warm.