The weather upturn this week has been – knock on wood – a welcome relief to a winter that stopped and started and stretched on. In the beginning, I greet the snow with a kid-like joy, but in the middle…that’s the sweet spot where I certainly don’t want to go play outside, but I’m not usually not sad to be snowed-in, either. Except the snowing in always seems to come at the worst time, when you have plans months in the making with dear friends. What to do but turn a bad day better with baked goods?
This tart is sure to make any day better, any time of year – light enough for a summer dessert but warm enough to drive away any kind of snow storm, it really is a versatile piece. (She says, like it’s a jacket or scarf.) It’s beautiful enough to be fancy, rustic enough to look homemade and light enough to not weigh you down. (You always want two pieces anyway, right? Me too.)
I used Japanese pears (aka, apple pears), you could use either or a mixture of both fruits. You can glaze it with any kind of preserves you like. You can use your grandmother’s famous pie dough, though I have to tell you, this one is hand down the best I’ve found. It’s delicious right out of the oven, so hot you toss it from hand to hand as your fingers sizzle. It’s amazing cold, out of the refrigerator, standing with the door open in anticipation and then continuing to stand as you eat it right out of the bag. Room temperature, still delightful, as you finish the rest of your baking and go back for ‘just a half piece.’ If you reheat it, make sure you do so in the oven – the texture of the crisp crust as it cracks like ice next to the velvety fruit is the best part. You don’t want to lose it.
Pie dough (adapted gratefully from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
- 1 1/2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat – you need more liquid, but it still worked well)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 10 tablespoons butter, frozen
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (I used 0% plain and again, huge fan – but mine was closer to the 3/4 cup. Start lower – you can always add in.)
Tart (adapted from this Food 52 recipe)
- 1 recipe pie dough (or puff pastry)
- 3-4 apples or pears (I used Japanese pears, which are like a hybrid)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 T milk or yogurt
- 3 T pear preserves
- Option 1: cut butter into 1/2 inch dice, and add ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until dough just comes together.
- Option two: mix flour salt, sugar and yogurt in a bowl. Grate in frozen butter with a cheese grater. Mix until just combined.
- Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- If your dough is refrigerated more than the time above, let it rest at room temp 15-20 minutes.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees and put a pizza stone or sheet pan in the oven to warm up.
- Melt your butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, 3-4 minutes, until it starts to turns brown (it will spit and sputter and smell amazing.) Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper in about a 10-inch square.
- Take your dough and roll out to a 12-ish inch circle. (The ends fold over, it’s supposed to look rustic.) Roll dough onto your rolling pin and transfer to your parchment.
- If you want to be very pretty, slice your pears thinly from opposite side, working your way towards the core. If you don’t care (and I didn’t), core your pears and thinly slice.
- Place your pears in a circular fashion on the tart, leaving a 2-inch border for the crust. Brush your pears with the brown butter mixture. Fold the outer dough in, all the way around. This doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s ok if it looks goofy – this is homemade, not a Fench bakery after all. The less time you spedn futzing, the more time you have to eat.
- Whisk milk and egg together and brush over the dough border.
- Slide your tart (using the parchment) onto your hot pan. Bake until golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes.
- Warm up the preserves and brush onto the cooked pears. Serve warm.