Whenever I walk into a bakery and see the glistening beauty of a French fruit tart I always think of my mom. Our birthday tradition when I was growing up was to serve breakfast in bed to the person who has having the birthday. We would all pile into the bed an enjoy breakfast together before rushing off to school and work. It was a special breakfast and it always included pastries from the local french bakery. While my dad and I always went for the cheese snails or almond croissants my mom’s favorite was the pastry cream filled fruit tart. Never mind that it was better suited for dessert and, if we are being honest, quite messy to eat in bed. It was her favorite and so it always made an appearance in the box of birthday breakfast pastries. While I still love almond croissants and cheese snails, I have to admit that as I have gotten older I finally understand the allure of the fruit tart. There is something about a crisp buttery crust, the smooth sweet pastry cream, and the freshness of the fruit that is absolute perfection. And now, of course, I make my own.
Since the abundance of fresh berries for topping a tart is somewhat limited this time of year I like to make fruit tarts with poached pears instead. Cinnamon pastry cream topped with cranberry poached pears, it is the perfect winter dessert. Elegant enough for a glass of bubbly to ring in the new year but still rustic enough to not feel too decadent and over the top. (Although I will admit I like over the top elegant desserts like this one for fancy occasions). Versions of this tart will be making their appearance throughout the winter for sure.
1 flaky tart crust (see below)
1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
4 bosc pears, peeled
1 ½ cups (12 oz) ice wine or dessert wine (I used late harevest yarden gertztraminer)
3 oz fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 3 inch cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, scraped with pod
1 recipe cinnamon pastry cream (see below)
Combine the wine, sugar, water, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the pears and cranberries and gently simmer until the pears are soft, approximately 20 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a boil or the cranberries will pop. Let the pears cool in the poaching liquid.(Can be made two days ahead, cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Roll the tart crust into an 11 inch circle between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper. Remove one sheet of the parchment and use the other sheet to transfer the dough into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. If it breaks slightly just patch it with the extra dough hanging over the sides. Line the crust with foil and top with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the weights and bake for 5-10 more minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and spread a thin layer of beaten egg over the entire crust. Return it to the oven and bake for one more minute to set the egg. Let the crust cool completely.
Fill the baked crust with the pastry cream. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid. Slice each pear in half, remove the seeds, then thinly slice them. Arrange the pear slices on top of the pastry cream, and use the cranberries for garnish. Brush a small amount of the poaching liquid on top of the pears to make them shiny. Serve within a few hours to keep the crust crisp.
1 (13.5 oz) can Thai style coconut milk
5 tablespoons (2.5 oz) water
pinch salt (increase to 1/4 teaspoon if using unsalted margarine)
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup (3.75 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup (2 oz) margarine
1 teaspoons vanilla
Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and set aside.
Place the coconut milk, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and eggs until smooth. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens.
Remove from heat and pour through the strainer into the bowl. Let cool for 10 minutes and then incorporate the margarine, one tablespoon at a time, whisking gently just until smooth .
Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, let it cool completely in the refrigerator. (Can be made up to five days ahead. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container)
1 ¼ cups flour (5.6 oz)
¼ teaspoon salt (1.5 g)*
2 tablespoons (1 oz) sugar
10 tablespoons (5 oz) earth balance buttery sticks, cut into one inch pieces and well chilled.
1 egg yolk (.7 oz)
up to 2 tablespoons (1 oz) ice water water
*if making this recipe with unsalted margarine instead of the buttery sticks increase the salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processer fit with a metal blade and pulse to combine.
Add the buttery sticks and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (There should be pieces of margarine the size of peas and some slightly large pieces as well). Add the egg yolk and process until the egg yolk is combined and the dough just starts to come together.
Transfer the dough to a bowl. If you can press it into a smooth ball do not add any water. If the dough is still crumbly add the water 1/2 tablespoon at a time until it you can press it into a smooth ball.
Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disk one inch thick. Wrap well and refrigerate for one hour. (If you are in a real hurry you can freeze it for 15 minutes.) The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to five days or frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.
When you are ready to use the dough remove it from the refrigerator and transfer it to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Top with an additional sheet of parchment and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Peel off the top piece of parchment place the pie pan upside down over the circle of dough and invert the pan and parchment with dough. Peel off parchment and settle the dough into the pan. (If it cracks a bit just use your fingers to press the dough back together. You can also use extra dough to patch holes if necessary.) Trim the edges and bake and fill according to the recipe instructions for the pie you are making.