Tuesday, June 12
I am often convinced that I should have been Donna Hay. As much as I love my family, my friends and my cat, surely I was destined to be born ten years earlier; to create her wonderful recipes and cookbooks and run her painfully tasteful general store. Baking, and shooting in remote, beautiful location. Eating macarons and surrounding myself with pretty things.
But if there's one other woman whose life I want to live, if only for a day, it would be Maeve O'Meara. Now there's a dream job-- not only traveling to the most beautiful parts of the world, but eating her way through them, meeting the finest chefs, and taking home their recipes.
I recently came across the cookbook companion to her French Food Safari. It's a wonderful collection of recipes--both savoury and sweet-- that are simple, delicious and contain basic, easily attainable ingredients.
I don't think I can go past anything pear related when I'm on the hunt for a Autumn or Winter desert recipe. And despite not really feeling like going to the effort of making pastry, this is such a simple recipe as it requires no blind baking, but still creates a beautifully golden, crumbly pastry.
Recipe from Pierrick Boyer as featured in 'French Food Safari'
For shortcrust pastry:
250 gms plain flour, sifted
200 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
For poached pears:
400 gms white sugar
500 mls water
5 cardamom pods
2 star anise
4 firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored and quartered
40 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
40 gms caster sugar
40 gms almond meal
1 small egg
2 tbsps cream
For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on a low speed until incorporated. Add the egg yolks, increase the speed a little, and mix until a nice dough forms. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for one hour.
Next, poach the pears. Combine the sugar, water and spices in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat, add pears, and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, until pears are just tender. Remove the pears from the syrup to cool. I then continued to simmer the liquid for a further ten minutes until slightly thick and syrupy.
Now that the pastry has rested, lightly butter a round, 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Roll the pastry out until about 3-4mm thick on a lightly floured surface, or between two sheets of baking paper. Gently lift the pastry into the prepared tin, and press into the base and sides, trimming off any excess.
Preheat the oven to 170C.
To make the frangipane, place the butter and sugar in a small bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the almond meal, the egg, and then the cream.
Spoon the frangipane into the uncooked tart shell and arrange the pearsover the top. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until both pastry and fragipane are golden brown. Allow the tart to cool in the tin before trying to remove it, and then lightly brush the top of the tart with the spicy syrup to make the tart beautiful and glossy.
This tart will be fine to serve the following day, but after that, the moisture from the pears begins to soften both the frangipane and the pastry, so it really is best eaten as soon as possible.
I imagine this would be just as wonderful with apples, or apricots or peaches. Fragipane tarts are a classic dessert for good reason-- they're just so delicious, and simple. It's taken me a while to rediscover pears-- one of my favourite fruits-- this season, but I know this will spark my annual obsession. And who can ever have enough pear in their lives?
Recommending baking soundtrack: Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.