Pear and Pomegranate Tart

5 Nov

The first fancy French pastry that I attempted to make at home was a fruit tart.  The kitchen in our apartment at the time was tiny and walled off from the rest of the living space.  Armed with The Joy of Cooking, a newly acquired fluted tart pan and a French rolling-pin I disappeared into the kitchen.  Mixing, flouring, rolling, whisking. Periodically I would holler out to Martin, who was sitting in the living room,  that everything was going well, that it was coming together beautifully.  With every step that I completed successfully my confidence grew.  I was doing this!  It was going to be the best fruit tart ever created!  I baked the crust, filled it with the pastry cream and topped it with fruit.  I yelled for Martin to come in and see this jewel of a pastry that I created. I picked up the tart pan to move it to the dining room table and I lost control of the pastry.  It flew up into the air, pausing directly in front of my face for a split second before crashing to the floor.  Pastry cream every where, the crust shattered.  Martin rounded the corner into the kitchen and stepped on a blueberry.  I burst into tears.

Fruit tarts and I had a rocky start.  But we figured it out.  I suggest moving the empty tart to the plate you intend to serve it on before filling and garnishing.  Another tip is to secure the tart shell to the platter with a dab of pastry cream on the plate.  This will stop it from sliding around – a lesson learnt after a blueberry tart went skidding off a serving platter onto the ground.  That tart remained mostly intact and was subject to the 5 second rule, it was delicious.

The crust and the filling for this tart are two of the most classic pastry techniques out there.  Don’t let that scare you.  Once you are comfortable with these you can make any kind of cream-based tart you can imagine.  Both recipes are incredibly versatile, taking on different flavors easily.

Pâte Sucrée – The Pie and Pastry Bible – Rose Levy Beranbaum

8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 350°.  In a food processor combine the butter and sugar.  Pulse until combined and the sugar disappears into the butter.  Add the flour and salt, pulse until the butter is about the size of peas.  In a separate bowl combine the heavy cream and the egg yolk, whisk.  Add to the flour mixture and pulse until just incorporated.  The dough will be very crumbly.  Dump on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap well.  Using your hands bring the dough together into a flat round.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge.  Sandwich the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll the dough out using a rolling-pin.  The dough will be crumbly.  Using your fingers, press the dough into the tart pan.  I find that using the back of a measuring cup dusted with flour helps to flatten the dough, creating an even base.   Place the tart pan on a sheet pan to make it easier to move the whole thing around.    Poke holes in the dough using a fork to prevent air pockets from forming.  Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and the crust shrinks away from the tart pan.  Keep an eye on it.  Poke any air bubble with a fork and rotate if the tart seems to be browning more on one side than another.  Let cool completely.

Vanilla Pastry Cream – Crème Pâtissière – Rose Levy Barenbaum – The Pie and Pastry Bible

2 eggs

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups half & half

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise.  Or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter

In a small bowl combine eggs, cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the half & half.  Whisk until combined and the cornstarch has dissolved.

In a saucepan combine half & half, sugar and salt.  Scrape the contents of the vanilla bean into the mixture and add the pod.  Over medium heat bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the hot cream to the egg mixture.  Whisk to combine.  You have successfully tempered the mixture!  (Meaning: you have increased the temperature of the egg mixture which will help to prevent the eggs from scrambling when added to the pot of hot cream).  Add the egg mixture to the saucepan and turn the heat back up.  Whisk constantly and thoroughly.  Make sure you get every edge, the bottom and corners of the pot.  Continue until the mixture thickens.  It won’t take long.  When the mixture has reached the texture of pudding, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.  Now is also the time to add the vanilla extract if you are using in place of the vanilla bean.

Scrape into a bowl and cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap, pressing in directly onto the surface of the custard.  Let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until cold – 1 hr.

Fruit:

2 pears sliced thinly

1 small pomegranate, seeds removed.

Juice from 1 lemon

Cut pears in half, remove core and slice thinly.  Fill a large bowl with cold water, add lemon juice.  Add pear slices.  Let soak 15 minutes.  Remove and dry on paper towel. This will help prevent the pear slices from browning.

Carefully spread the pastry cream into the tart shell.  Arrange pear slices on the tart.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Enjoy!

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