Baking with Pears

I had some beautiful red pears in my produce delivery. I put them in a paper bag for a few days and they were ready to eat. This had given me time to research what to do with them. These pears would be good for eating but I wanted to bake. The goal was to make the Pear Tatin recipe from my Essential Pepin cookbook.  I do find that I make alterations to the recipes that I have used. This one however I did not. Oops, yes I did. I did not have apple cider, but no worries, the Tarte Tatin recipe used water and lemon juice for the same purpose.

This was baked/cooked in a ten inch cast iron skillet as instructed. The first batch of caramel was burned so I started over. I sliced the pears instead of using pear halves. And I doubled the dough as there was no way I was going to get a ten inch circle from the original amounts using only ½ cup flour. Here is the result:

In future I would revert to brown sugar and butter and not make a caramel. I would slice the pears the same. I would then use a short crust tart pastry on top and bake in the oven until done. Or make it an upside down cake and use cake batter. Or use Pepin’s Meme’s Apple Tart dough and top with pears.

I had two pears remaining. I found a copy from a diet book for a Peach Flat Cake. I can use pears! Here are my ingredients, slightly modified from the recipe page.

  • Two pears, sliced; I did not bother to peel them.
  • ½ stick butter
  • ¼ cup dry milk powder
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons,  approximately, almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

This called for a round cake pan but did not indicate size. I selected an 8 inch pan and am very glad I did. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray the pan with cooking spray.

In mixer bowl, beat the butter the dry milk, sugar and almonds until creamy. Add the eggs and beat for a few minutes to aerate the batter. Add the flour and baking soda until well blended. Pour the batter into the pan and place the pear slices on top in a circle. Or as my grandson said, “looks like fireworks!” Bake for 20 minutes until golden. I added a few more minutes.

The description of this recipe says the dough “rises slightly as it bakes to embrace the fruit”. Well it did, very slightly. Hubby and I enjoyed this. It did not have the texture of cake. It was more like clafoutis or dense custard. It was much less sweet than the Tatin above and prettier too.

Custard Tarts!

I had a baking weekend! Two types of bread and custard tarts. I have been fascinated by custard tarts ever since being a devotee of As Time Goes By on PBS. Lionel’s favorite was custard tarts. These pastry treats are not easily found in my grocery bakery. Nor are they a staple in many of my cookbooks. What type of custard is to be used? My two French cookbooks had several types: patisserie, baked, Chantilly, anglaise. I had recently made a pumpkin pie which is essentially a custard pie. Should I pre-bake the tart shells or could I bake the custard and the pastry at the same time? So I got out several cookbooks. I looked at the custard/pastry cream recipes. I had to choose what to do. So here’s what I did.

The Art of French Cooking suggested pastry cream for tarts. These recipes are a bit fussy. French Feasts instructions are not always clearly written. So that left (not really, I have over 50 cookbooks) Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. And his pastry cream recipe was simple and not fussy at all. The only change I made was to add the zest of one orange.

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs or 4 egg yolks (I used two eggs)
  • 2 cups cream, half-and=half, or whole milk (I used light cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest from one orange (my addition)
  • orange marmalade for glaze (my addition)
  • 4 tart shells; I used a refrigerated pie shell and cut it into four to line four individual tart pans. Pre-bake these.

Do you notice a theme of “2s”?

My successful blind baked tart shells. I used parchment filled with beans to hold the shells in place and to prevent shrinkage.

In a saucepan combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl mix the eggs with the cream. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients over medium heat for about ten minutes whisking constantly to prevent lumps. This will thicken. The test for readiness is when the mixture coats a spoon and when you draw a line through the coating the line will hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in butter and extract and zest. The butter will melt. Let this cool to room temperature before filling the shells.

I filled the four tart shells and had a cup of pastry cream leftover. I think this amount of cream would fill a 9 inch pie, or 2 more individual tarts. I then melted a small amount of orange marmalade to spoon onto each tart for added orange flavor and to make them pretty. I then grated a very small amount of dark chocolate on top. Chocolate curls would have also been nice. I put these in the fridge to set for about an hour. I then popped them, carefully, out of the tart pan and placed them on a platter to serve.

They kind of look like poached eggs!
The first day we each had half. The next day we each ate a whole one.

And here are pictures of the breads. These were not so successful. Eaten when first baked but then left alone. They seemed underbaked and either overproofed or underproofed. I think I will buy fresh yeast before trying bread again.

Apple “cup-pies”

 

I have made mini apple pies in a cup cake pan. The recipe is http://www.livewellbakeoften.com/mini-apple-pies/. I found this by googling apple pies looking for tarts.  The only adaptation I made is to brush the tops with water and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar. I also used 3 cups of chopped apples instead of 2 1/2. I used Macoun apples. If I make these again, and it is likely I will, I would reduce the sugar by half and increase the amount of apples to 4 cups.

  • 2 9-inch pie crusts (I used store bought because I haven’t gotten around to making my own.)
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar (in the future I would use 1/8 cup)
  • 2 Tab flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Cut the pie crust into 12 circles about 3 1/2 inches. I used my Pyrex custard cups as the cutter. Press these circles of dough into your regular sized muffin pan. Use the leftover dough to make strips for the lattice tops. I found that four strips are needed for each mini pie.

Mix apples and other ingredients all together and spoon even amounts into the dough cups. Fashion the lattice to each. I then brushed the tops with water and sprinkled with a tiny bit of cinnamon sugar. Bake in 425 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes or so and then carefully remove to a cooling rack.

 

IMG_2052
“good bake”