Pies & Tarts
My hubby’s family does pecan pie and pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving. For Christmas, my mother-in-law makes piles upon piles of her “candies,” my favorites being the peanut butter balls and the Oreo truffles. My family makes this. At both. Because it’s just that good, and we only can enjoy cranberries for so long.
A cranberry pear tart. It’s bright pink. It’s a little tart from the cranberries, but the pear mellows it out. But my favorite part is that little half a teaspoon of cardamon that’s in the fruit filling. So little spice but so much flavor. Cardamom is really an underused spice, but it really makes this tart stand out from almost all other pies and tarts that I’ve ever had. So snag the last bag of cranberries from your local grocer (and maybe an extra bag for the freezer) and give this tart a shot
Cranberry Pear Tart
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 74 p. 71 (also online here)
Ingredients for the Walnut Shortbread Crust:
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 Tbs. half-and-half
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
- 1/3 c. walnuts, toasted and finely chopped (I use the food processor)
- 3 large ripe pears, such as Anjou or Bartlett
- 2 c. fresh cranberries, picked through and rinsed
- 1 Tbs. brandy
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp. salt
Ingredients for the Crumble Topping:
- 1/3 c. plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Make the Walnut Shortbread Crust:
- Ensure a rack is in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
- In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing until mixture resembles peas. With the mixture running, slowly add egg yolk, half-and-half, and vanilla. Allow food processor to run until dough just starts to come together, 10-20 seconds. Transfer dough to bowl.
- Add walnuts to dough in bowl. With your hands, mix in walnuts. Dough will be crumbly.
- Turn out dough into a 9 1/2-in. round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press dough up first against the sides and then against the bottom to form a 1/4-in. thick crust.
- Pierce dough on the bottom of the tart pan with a fork, and then freeze for 10 minutes.
- Remove from freezer and set dough on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, until crust begins to darken and bottom is set. Transfer to a cooling rack and lower temperature to 350°F.
Make the Fruit Filling & Crumble Topping:
- Prepare the fruit: Peel pears. Quarter them, core, and cut into 1/4-in. thick slices. Coarsely chop cranberries in a food processor.
- Assemble the filling: In a medium bowl, toss pears, cranberries, and brandy. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to fruit mixture and toss until all fruit is evenly coated. Spoon fruit into pie crust, evening it out and patting it down slightly with a spoon.
- Make the Crumble Topping: In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add melted butter and vanilla. Combine with a spoon (or your fingers) until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of fruit.
- Bake for 50 minutes, until fruit is tender and the topping and edges of crust are beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set on a baking rack to cool.
Storage: Store at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap. Tart will keep 2-3 days.
A friend made this recipe a couple years ago, my first ever pecan pie. Now that I’m in charge of Thanksgiving desserts, I figured we’d gift it a whirl for myself. The pie was good – it was all gone!
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Adapted from: Betty Crocker
Ingredients for the Crust:
* 1 c. all-purpose flour
* 1/4 tsp. table salt
* 1/3 c. plus 1 Tbs. shortening
* 2-3 Tbs. cold water
Ingredients for the Pecan Filling:
* 2/3 c. sugar
* 1/3 c. butter or margarine, melted (I used 1/4 c. unsalted butter, see note below)
* 1 c. corn syrup
* 2 Tbs. bourbon (optional)
* 1/2 tsp. table salt
* 3 eggs
* 1 c. pecan halves or broken pieces
* 1 c. (or 1 6 oz. bag) semisweet chocolate chips
Note: Betty Crocker says you can decrease the butter to 1/4 a cup and the pecans to only 1/2 a cup if you wanted to make this recipe a bit healthier. Nutrition information, compliments of Betty Crocker, is based on full portions of both ingredients.
Make the Crust:
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Combine flour and salt. Then, using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until combined. The mixture will be slightly lumpy.
Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, “tossing” with a fork after each addition. The dough should be moist and will leave the sides of the bowl. If necessary, add an extra teaspoon of water.
Lightly flour the countertop. Pull dough into a ball and flatten on the prepared counter. The directions said to….. Roll the dough into a circle that is 2 inches larger than the upside-down pie plate (about 9 inches around) and then transfer to pie plate. Press dough against the bottom and sides. Leave a 1-inch overhang around the pie plate, and trim the rest off. Fold or roll the 1-inch overhang so that the dough is even with the plate….
But I had trouble rolling the dough, so instead flattened it as much as possible with my hand, and then manually fitted dough to the pie plate. It wasn’t the prettiest pie crust, but it was still nice and flaky, and was actually my favorite part!
Set the pie crust aside (nope, don’t bake yet!)
Make the Filling:
In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar, corn syrup, bourbon, salt and eggs until combined.
With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.
Cover edge of pie with a 2-3 inch strop of foil to prevent burning. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until pie is set. Remove the foil after about 30 minutes of baking.
Let the pie cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until chilled, before serving.
Nutrition Information (based on 8 servings):
- Calories: 630
- Fat: 35g (14 g. saturated fat)
- Carbs: 76g (3 g. fiber)
- Protein: 6 g.
My tarte tatin wasn’t as pretty as the photo in the magazine, but it was quite tasty. Almost the whole dish was gone, and I had one request for the recipe.
Since I had burnt caramel earlier that morning, I was nervous about caramelizing the pears. I probably didn’t actually get to the caramel state with the sugar and water. After baking, it was a bit watery, but I poured off the excess so that it didn’t get soggy (the dessert had to sit out several hours before I would serve it) and still ended up with a great dish!
Pear Tarte Tatin with Almond Pastry
Fine Cooking No. 23, reprinted in Big Buy
Ingredients for the Pastry:
- 1 c. cake flour
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 tsp. table salt
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup lightly packed ground almonds
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 3 Tbs. heavy cream
Ingredients for the Caramelized Pears
- 3 lbs. pears (about 6 large), peeled, halved, and cored
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger tossed with 1 tsp. sugar (I used dried ginger)
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
Make the Pastry:
In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, salt, and sugar. Pulse briefly until the mixture has pea-size lumps and the rest looks like cornmeal. Add the almonds and pulse for just another second. Mound the mixture on a work surface, make a well, and pour the egg yolk and cream into the center. Continue mixing the ingredients until you have a “shaggy dough” (mine was quite thick and sticky, and reminded me of the dough used in scones). Knead the dough just until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Caramelize pears: Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss them with the ginger-sugar mixture (1 Tbs. ginger and 1 tsp. sugar). Heat a 9-inch cast-iron pan with an ovenproof handle over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and water swirl the pan to combine. Watch the sugar syrup carefully as it bubbles. When it turns light brown, add the butter and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until the caramel is an even, deep brown. (Mine never browned, as I said above, but it did get to a candy-like state when it cooled. I ended up reheating it and using it anyway, even though I knew it wasn’t caramel.) Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool slightly. Carefully arrange the pear slices in the caramel in a single concentric layer. Top with additional pear slices, continuing the circular pattern until the pears reach the top of the pan. (Pear slices will shrink as they cook.) Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the pears on the bottom layer are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough.
Make Tarte Tatin: Heat oven to 450. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 10 1/2-inch round. Either pick the dough up with your hands or roll the dough onto the rolling pin to move it to pan. Drape sough over the pan of pears to cover. Fold the extra dough onto itself to form rough border. Press the crust down onto the pears to compress them slightly.
Lower oven temperature to 400F. Bake the tarte until the pastry is crisp and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert the tarte onto a serving plate with a rim to catch the caramel. Pour any caramel that stays in the pan over the tarte. (Again, my “caramel” was much more watery that caramel, so I poured off excess caramel so that the pastry crust didn’t get too soggy before serving.)
This summer, I found a fantastic recipe (and photo) for a chocolate ganache, by Kraft Foods. It’s as easy as a dessert can get, and tastes absolutely decadent. It takes about 15 minutes to make (no oven!), and then chills for a couple hours. I’ve included the original recipe below, a Raspberry Chocolate Ganache, as well as my variations at the bottom.
- 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 c. whipping cream
- 6 Tbs. seedless raspberry jam, divided
- 1 Oreo pie crust, premade or homemade
- 2 c. fresh raspberries
- 1 Tbs. water
Make the Chocolate Ganache: Put chocolate and whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue microwaving for 30 seconds until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from microwave and whisk together to combine. Whisk in 2 Tbs. of the raspberry jam. Pour into prepared crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Top the Ganache: Arrange berries on top of ganache. In a small bowl, microwave remaining 4 Tbs. jam and 1 Tbs. water for 30 seconds. Stir until combined. Drizzle over raspberries.
Store in the fridge until serving.
My (Tested) Variations:
- Blackberry / blueberry jam with fresh blueberries on top
- Kahlua Chocolate Ganache: A couple tablespoons of Kahlua baked into the ganache instead of the jam. Instead of fruit on top, a Kahlua whipped cream. (I’d also like to try this with Bailey’s.)