Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gourmet: Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream

I can't resist Seckel pears when I see them.  They're just so cute.  And I'm all about cute.  I mean, tiny pears!  Okay, maybe it's just me.  But I made this beautiful tart with those tiny pears.  And it was amazingly delicious.  Very autumn.  And while the original recipe called for some $40 bottle of pear brandy called Poire William, I made do with pear juice and regular brandy.  Because I'm not going to spend that kind of money for 3 tablespoons.  I'm going to assume you won't either.  Still delicious.

Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2008

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup pear juice
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 pounds Seckel pears
3 large egg yolks
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons brandy, divided use
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 20-by 8-inch rectangle, re-flouring surface as necessary. Transfer to tart pan, gently fitting dough into pan without stretching. Trim overhang to ¾-inch, cutting off corners. Fold overhang inward to reinforce side, then trim flush with edge of pan. Reserve excess pastry for another use if desired. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, then bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool completely in pan.

Put wine and pear juice in a wide 4-quart pot and stir in sugar and vanilla bean paste (or scrapings from vanilla bean). Carefully peel Seckel pears, leaving stems intact, then cut in half.  Using the tip of a vegetable peeler or a small knife, core the pears to remove seeds. Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have about 1½ cups syrup), and reserve for pastry cream and glaze.

Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy and the butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon of brandy and the gelatin in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute. Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about ⅓ cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Remove side of tart pan. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Lay pear halves on pastry cream, arranging them in 8 rows of 2 or 3. When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Tart shell, poached Seckel pears, and pastry cream can be made 1 day ahead. The assembled tart can be kept at room temperature for 1 hour or chilled 4 hours.

Sweet Pastry Dough
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1½ to 2 tablespoons ice water

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Stir together egg yolk and 1½ tablespoons water and drizzle evenly over butter mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add remaining ½ tablespoon ice water (or more, if necessary), stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. (Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.
Gather all dough into a ball, with a pastry scraper if you have one, then flatten into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

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