On the plane to Minnesota for Thanksgiving, I took my “double holiday issue” of Cooking Light to read. That was a mistake because it just made me hungry. Also, I would like to start celebrating Hanukkah. That menu looks AWESOME.
Anyway, one of the recipes I flagged immediately was for a Roasted Pear Creme Brulee Tart. What’s not to like? Pears? Check. Creme brulee? Check. Tarts? Check. I’m sold.
It turned out to be a little futzier than I had anticipated, but overall not a ridiculous project. And you get to torch it, so what could be bad?
There are a few recipes within the recipe (a pre-baked tart shell, chilled pastry cream, and roasted pears) that must be made before assembly with several periods of cooling interspersed. Start early, or maybe the day before. Just make sure you serve it all as it doesn’t save well.
First up, we need a pre-baked tart shell. I left the extra bits on the top of my crust, which probably wasn’t the best idea. Oh well. Make yours pretty and trim the edges. Ok? Ok. Whir the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor, then add the butter and pulse until coarse. Drip in ice water until the dough comes together, wrap in plastic and chill. Roll into a 10-inch circle and lay in a greased tart pan. Dock with a fork and bake until golden brown.
While that bakes, then cools, we will need to whip up a pastry cream. Flour, sugar, salt, and milk are heated on the stove, then added to a beaten egg to temper it before cooking it more. Make sure you have a vanilla bean on hand so you don’t have to be like me and use vanilla extract. Whoops. When done, spread the pastry cream on a baking sheet and cover the surface with plastic wrap to chill.
When both the tart shell and the filling are chilled, pour the pastry cream into the shell and smooth the top. This whole thing needs to chill and set for quite a while.
Meanwhile, we can roast, cool, and slice the pears. The recipe calls for 2 medium pears, but I had 3 small ones. Peel them and cut them in half, then remove the core (I use a melon baller which works great). Toss the halved pears with the lemon juice and spices, then place them, cut side down, in a greased baking dish.
About 45 minutes in the oven should do it, then let the pears cool. Slice them more thinly than I did for better presentation, and pat the slices dry with paper towels. When the pastry cream has set, fan the pears on the top.
I apologize for this photo. My countertops are “almond,” or whatever this awful off-white color is called. It makes all my pictures look like they’re off, but it’s just an ugly counter. Sorry!
Toss the whole thing back in the fridge for half an hour (say, over dinner) to set.
Immediately before serving, slice into 8 wedges and sprinkle with sugar. I sprinkled it with sugar first, but then the caramelized layer cracked and squished all the slices. By cutting it first, you should have cracks in the topping so you can serve the slices better. Learn from my mistake (and tell me if it works!).
So you’ve got your sliced, sugared tart ready to go. Bring it to the table so your guests can see the show! Get out your kitchen torch and fire it up!
(Major props go to my mother-in-law who made me stop and get my camera so I could post action shots. She even took this sequence of photos from the tripod!)
(And a shout out to my mom for the cake plate. Thanks, Mom! Isn’t this ruffly-edged one cute, too?)
The recipe calls for a 1/2 inch border near the crust. I didn’t do the best job of avoiding it, so the edges of my crust got a bit toasty, but tasted fine. Also, I didn’t get any sliced shots because it looked terrible after the caramel cracked. It still tasted good!
While the whole process takes a while with the chilling and cooling of various parts of the tart, there isn’t an extravagant amount of hands-on time. You can make the tart the day before and just torch it right before serving, too. The dramatic presentation is just fun!
Roasted Pear Creme Brulee Tart
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009
Makes 8 servings
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons ice water
cooking spray or butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I used 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 medium pears
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1.) Preheat oven to 450F.
2.) Tart shell: Combine sugar, salt, and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add chilled butter and pulse 10 times or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons of ice water with the food processor running, just until the dough comes together. Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, flatten dough into a disk, and wrap. Place in freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with butter or cooking spray. When dough is chilled, roll into a 10-inch circle and press into tart pan. Dock dough with a fork and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned at 450F. Let cool on a wire rack.
3.) Pastry cream: Whisk together brown sugar, flour, and salt, in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Add vanilla bean or extract. Heat on medium-high about 5 minutes until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Crack egg into a large bowl and beat lightly. Temper the egg by gradually adding the hot milk mixture to the egg, then returning it to the pan. Cook 2 more minutes, stirring constantly, or until the mixture reaches 185F and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the pastry cream onto a baking sheet, spread evenly, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 20 minutes. Fill cooled tart shell with chilled pastry cream and smooth out the surface. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours until set.
4.) Topping: Peel, half, and core pears. Toss pears with lemon juice and spices. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and place pears cut side down in prepared dish. Bake in a 450F oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool completely. Once cooled, cut into thin, even slices. Place slices on a paper towel to drain and pat dry. Arrange in a fan over the surface of the chilled pastry cream. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
5.) Immediately before serving, slice the tart and sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar (leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter) over the pears. Use a kitchen torch about 2 inches from the surface to caramelize the sugars — about 3 minutes. Serve.