Tag Archives: pears

Pear and Almond Tart

Today is something of a fond farewell to autumn, for I’m off on holiday today, and when I get back, we should be in the early days of winter. Or put another way, I’ll be spending a couple of weeks in South Africa enjoying late spring in a particularly attractive part of the world. All in all, I’m pretty thrilled about that! Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, wine, beaches…what a perfect November!

Anyway, before that, a little autumnal treat from this side of the globe. I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been really into pears this year. I’ve made pear jam, I’ve made pear crumble, I’ve made pear liqueur (again) and I used pears in a four-tiered birthday cake. I’ve made pear paste for cheese, and thrown them in salads with blue cheese and walnuts. All in all, a complete pear affair, but I think this little tart has really topped it all. It is one of those classic combinations of sweet, fragrant almond frangipane with pears, the lot glazed in apricot jam and looking oh-so-tempting as an after dinner treat. And the great thing is that it looks fancy but – shhhhhhhh – it’s really rather easy!

pearalmondtart

This tart looks fairly complex, but it actually a complete doddle to make. You really only need some decent sweet shortcrust pastry (use my recipe, use your own, or even just cheat and buy it – I get that some people have lives and need to do other things alongside impressing friends). The filling is just a case of mixing everything until smooth, and the only “tricky bit” is arranging the pear slices on top.

Now, in fairness, arranging those pear slices was a little trickier than I first thought. The trick is to cut the pear with a very sharp knife to get good, clean slices, then push everything so that it slides out into that fan shape. Then slide the knife under the pear fan, and carefully transfer onto the tart. It took me a couple of attempts to get it right, but nothing that you would not get the hang of very easily.

I have made a couple of little tweaks which depart slightly from the “classic” pear and almond tart, but I think that they really work. First, I spread a thin layer of pear and vanilla jam on the base. Thin, not great big spoonfuls of the stuff. It helps to add a little extra fruitness and sweetness at the bottom of the tart. I also mixed the jam with a couple of spoons of quince liqueur to add a little extra aromatic touch. If you’ve never tried it, I cannot tell you how good it is. Incredibly easy to make at home, and after a few weeks or months of resting, the result is a clear, golden liqueur that has a delicious apple-and-honey flavour. Second, I happened to have a bit of that pear liqueur left, so I added it to the apricot jam I used to glaze the tart, adding just an extra hint of fresh pear and spice to finish it off. A perfect little slice of autumn!

To make Pear and Almond Tart:

For the pastry

• 180g plain flour
• 65g unsalted butter, cold
• 65g icing sugar
• 2 egg yolks
• cold water

For the almond frangipane

• 100g ground almonds
• 50g caster sugar
• 70g unsalted butter
• 1 egg
• 1 egg white
• almond extract

For the pears

• almond frangipane (above)
• 2 tablespoons pear or apricot jam
• 3-4 ripe pears (depending on size)
• lemon juice

For the glaze

• 4 tablespoons apricot jam, sieved
• 1 tablespoon pear liqueur or brandy

1. Make the pastry – mix the flour and icing sugar, then work in the cold butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and cold water (a tablespoon at a time) until the mixture comes together. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out and use to line a 20 cm (8 inch) loose-bottomed flan dish. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and put a flat metal tray in the oven. This will help ensure the base cooks properly later on.

3. Make the filling – beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar, almonds, egg and egg white, plus a few drops of almond extract. Watch out – the almond flavour stuff can be strong, so err on the side of caution!

4. Remove the tart shell from the fridge. Spread with the jam, then add the filling and smooth.

5. Prepare the pears – peel, core and cut in half. Rub each with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. Place each pear on a board, cut side down, and slice. Push from the thin end so that the pieces fan out. Slide a knife underneath, then transfer to the tart. Brush each with a little lemon juice so that the cut sides of pear do not discolour. Repeat until you have a giant pear star on your tart.

6. Bake the tart for 50-60 minutes until the filling has a good colour. It if looks like it is browning too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil and turn the temperature down a little.

7. Once the tart is cooked, remove from the oven and make the glaze by mixing the apricot jam with the brandy/pear liqueur. Brush over the warm tart and leave to cool.

Worth making? This looks fancy, but is actually fairly easy to make, and tastes great. I made it for a party, and it was the first tart to go completely, with people coming back for seconds, so I dare say that this is a pretty good recipe!

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Perada

I recently made a batch of pear jelly and I’ve been amazed how popular it has been. I was also incredibly excited when I saw that it had even inspired people to make it and do their own posts, like on Things {We} Make. I love to look at blogs and use them as a source of inspiration, and it’s great to think that people may be looking at what I get up to for the same reason.

When I saw their version of pear jelly, I did get a little bold and hinted to them that I had another pear recipe in the offing. Well, finally, here it is – perada!

So first of all, a bit of context. What is perada?

If you’ve got a soft spot for Spanish food, then you’re probably familiar with membrillo, the rich red quince paste that is famously paired with manchego cheese. Perada is something similar, although less familiar (at least to me). I came across this idea a while ago and it was mentally filed away in the “to try at some point” part of my brain.

Well, since I made the pear jelly, I received yet another bag of windfall pears. A slightly different variety, which my limited garden knowledge had identified as Williams. While it would be interesting to have pear jelly made with different varieties of pear so that I can then express a preference when called upon to do so, there is also an overwhelming need to be practical. With the best will in the world, there is a limit to just how much jam and jelly a household can consume over a year, so I did two things. Firstly, I left some of the pears wrapped in newspaper to ripen for a week (a tip from Lynn at Queen of the Castle – thanks!). Second, I dug out the old recipe and use the rest to make – surprise! – a batch of perada.

The interesting thing is that there does not seem to be too much on this item on the beloved web. A couple of sources refer to it as being Iberian in origin. Beyond that, there is not much to find, so it is clearly playing second fiddle to the more famous membrillo. So let’s see if we can do a little to change that, shall we?

The method is quite easy – you boil the pears, peel them while warm, then mash them up and pass through a sieve. I have to admit, I was pretty dubious that this would work, and feared all manner of stringy bits and pips in the resulting puree, but it worked like an absolute dream. So if you’re tempted to get into all the fuss of de-coring the pears, you don’t have to.

As with my pear jelly, the colour was a bit of a surprise. The pear puree came out as a pale yellow colour, and I was expecting something similar from the resulting perada. But no. As you can see below, once the sugar was added and the whole lot allowed to boil up, it turned a rich amber colour.

Now, you may remember that on previous occasions I seemed to rant a little against the use of pectin. Well, it’s not that I’m actually against it – it is just that I tend to use high-pectin fruits, or I just add lemons, which also add a nice tang. However, with this recipe, I wanted to keep the cooking time to a minimum so as to benefit from maximum fruity pear flavour. I was also keen to have perada that would set in funky moulds I was using, and that could be sliced easily into delicate slivers to perch atop pieces of cheese.

With the perada mixture made, it was time to store it. I filled one normal ramekin, four miniature moulds to adorn a cheeseboard, and I also filled three miniature jam pots to store for Christmas. To say that I was surprised at how little I got out of the process was something of an understatement! But highly predictable given that you need to let the mixture cook, and cook, and cook until it reduces down.

To make my miniature portions of perada, I got a little bit cunning, and as you can see from the picture below, they look like a proper old-fashioned jelly or blancmange. Well, there is a little trick to this. I used a silicone cupcake mould, then turned it inside-out. This results in a little ring of dimples at the top of the perada, which I think looks rather cute.

You can also see that once it has been sliced, the true colour is apparent – more of an amber colour than red, which I think does look rather jaunty indeed on a piece of cheese.

Lacking any manchego in the house, I paired it with a very mature Cornish cheddar, and was frankly delighted with the combination. The perada is sweet, but the cheese was very strong and tangy, and the two together was just a little piece of joy. Given that both pears and cheddar are very typically British, it is a combination that sounds odd but does work.

Once you have gone to all the effort of making perada, you might wonder what to do with it all. The natural home for it is as part of a cheeseboard, but there is of course a natural limit to just how much cheese you can eat. But perada is adaptable – cut into pieces and coat in sugar to make little pâtes de fruits, or use chunks of it in cakes or pastries.

Alternatively, be sure to do as I did, and put some perada into little jam jars – this allows you to store it and use it from time to time, enjoying the fruits of your labour over the winter months.

To make perada:

• 8 pears (leave the skin on)
• 300g white sugar
• 130ml water
• juice of 1/2 lemon
• 4 strips lemon peel, optional (*)
• 3 tablespoons liquid pectin, optional(**)

Rinse the pears, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer on a gentle heat until soft. They are ready when a sharp knife can be easily inserted (20-30 minutes).

Drain the pears. Once cool enough to handle, peel the pears and discard the skin.

Put the pears into a sieve above a bowl, and use the back of a spoon to push them through. You will end up with a bowl of pear puree and all the stringy bits and pips in the sieve.

Measure the pear puree, and add 3/4 by volume of sugar to the mixture (i.e. for every 1 cup of pear puree, add 3/4 cup sugar).

Put the pear puree, sugar, water, lemon juice and lemon peel strips into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cook for a minute (stirring as needed) and then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the liquid pectin (if using) and then cook for around an hour until the mixture is thick and leaves little “trails” on the bottom of the pan that take a second or two to cover over. Worry less about the cooking time, and more about when the perada reaches the right thickenss. You can also test it by dropping a small amount onto a very cold plate – if it goes firm after a minutes, the perada is ready.

Remove the lemon peel. Pour the cooked perada into moulds or sterile jam jars(***).

(*) Adding the lemon peel gives the perada a slight lemon aroma. Optional, but a nice touch.

(**) You can use the perada as a paste, or add the pectin to ensure that it sets firmly and can be cut. The pectin is essential if you want to make all these fancy shapes or cut into pieces.

(***) If using moulds, use a tiny amount of neutral oil to rub the inside so that the perada slips out. And I really mean a tiny amount – it should look invisible.

Worth making? This is an interesting but very simple recipe. It takes a little time to make, but it a good idea for when you’re mooching around the house at the weekend. Well worth trying.

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What to do with windfall pears?

Last Saturday, I peeked out the window, and the lady downstairs said I could have a bag of windfall pears – if I wanted them.

There were about five on the garden table, with an open offer to get as many off the tree as I wanted and could reach. A few minutes later, we’re up a ladder, whacking the fruit off the tree using a grass edger with great comedic effect, and I managed to walk away with two kilos of fruit.

So…I had a pile of pears, but it turned out they were…rock hard. Given these were windfalls, I wasn’t sure that these would be great in a pie or make great jam. Then it struck me – I would adapt my recipe for quince jelly but using these pears.

I shredded the lot and boiled them up with some water. The result was a pale green-yellow mush. Strained overnight, I ended up with a few litres of murky pear water. But then I boiled it up with sugar, and something strange happened. Like with the quince, the colour changed and became a deep amber colour. I have no idea where this colour came from, but it looks pretty. The picture was taken with the sun shining through the glass, and as you can see, the colour is pretty amazing.

All in all, I felt rather pleased with myself. It really does not get much more local than fruit from a tree outside your back window.

This is a jelly with quite a loose set, but it tastes lovely. There is a pear flavour (of course) and is quite aromatic, so perfect to have on toast, scones, crumpets, muffins or to glaze tarts. If you are after a firm jelly, just add some pectin when you add the sugar (follow instructions on the bottle/packet!).

To make pear jelly:

• hard pears (I used 2kg)
• water (I used 2 litres)
• lemons

• granulated white sugar

Wash the pears. Remove the stalks but leave on the skin. Grate coarsely.

Put the pears into a large saucepan and add the water (1 litre for every kilo of fruit). Bring to the boil, and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the pears are tender. Mash the fruit to extract maximum flavour. If it seems a little too solid, add more water – we want the texture of soft applesauce.

Pour the mixture into a sterile tea towel or muslin cloth(*). Tie the edges together, and – being careful – use a string to attach the cloth to an upturned chair. Place a large bowl under the cloth, and leave overnight for the juice to drip through. Don’t squeeze the cloth, otherwise you end up with cloudy jelly (tastes the same, but looks less pretty), and in this recipe, you won’t be going short of juice.

Next day, measure the juice – for every 600ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Add everything to a large heavy-based pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the setting point(**) is reached.

Finally, pour the hot jelly into sterile jam jars(***), seal, label and hide it somewhere to enjoy later.

(*) To sterilse the cloth, put into a sieve, and pour over boiling water.

(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on a very cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jelly wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.

(***) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.

Worth making? I would not make this recipe with perfect ripe, juicy pears. But with windfalls…there is not a lot you can do, and this is a great option. OK, it happens over two days, but it actually needs very little attention and the results are worth it.

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Maple-Glazed Pear Tart

Today’s post is a very simple but delicious dessert I whipped up recently while staying with friends in Brussels. And boy, do I mean simple.

For regular readers, this might look rather similar to something I posted last year using some luscious crimson Victoria plums. And you would be right! But this time, I replaced the plums with pears, and glazed it with maple syrup rather than honey. I went for maple syrup for no other reason than it was to hand, in a one-litre bottle. Yup, people really do buy it in those quantities, even in Europe.

So just how simple is this? Well, think about it element by element.

The pastry? Rich butter puff pastry…but we got that from a shop, and it was handily already rolled out into a thin disc. Result!

The filling? Ripe pears, just peeled, sliced and artfully arranged on the pastry.

And to finish? A mixture of butter, maple syrup and mixed spice(*), melted together and brushed over the tart. Then it was a light sprinkling with sugar, bake, and that’s it. All in all, this took about 15 minutes to make.

That would be, 15 minutes to make not including time for me to stab my hand with a sharp knife while chatting. I had just finished slicing the pears and arranging them on the tart, and then I genuinely have no idea how this happened. All I know is that it was quick, painful and dramatic. There was a shocked gasp from the next room. Are you alright? I was indeed alright, but the sympathy soon evaporated as the others realised that the tart was quite unaffected by all this, and I was dispatched to a kitchen stool with a glass of wine, instructing someone else to finish the tart. Lesson learned!

To serve, I would not produce this straight from the oven. Rather, either enjoy it while just warm, or at room temperature, with a generous dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Simple, but delicious and just a little bit classy.

(*) We used a Belgian spice mixture called speculaaskruiden (spek-oo-lass-krow-den) in Dutch or épices à spéculoos in French. It’s a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. However, mixed spice or even Christmas Lebkuchengewürz can be used instead.

To make maple-glazed pear tart:

• 1 packet ready-rolled puff pastry (all butter) (approx. 200g)
• 5-6 ripe pears
• 25g butter
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
• pinch of mixed spice
• 1 tablespoon caster sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Place the pastry on a baking sheet. Use your fingers to crimp the edges.

Peel the pears. Cut into quarters, remove the seeds and core, plus any stalk fibres, then cut into slices. Arrange the slices in an overlapping and artistic pattern on the pastry, pushing them slightly into the pastry.

To make the glaze, put the butter, maple syrup and mixed spice in a saucepan. Heat until just melted, then brush it over the pears. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

Bake the tart for around 20 minutes until the pastry is golden at the edges and the pears are just browning (you might need longer, depending on your oven).

Worth making? This is one of the quickest, simplest desserts you can make, and it’s easy to do with things in the cupboard, fridge and the fruit bowl. It’s also easy to change depending on what you’ve got to hand.

 

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