Ah, pears. So fragrant, so delicious, so damn hard to find. Yes, I know, pears are everywhere. I see them too but where are the good ones? Huh? The ones that are heavy for their size, which you can smell 20 feet away, the ones where you bite into them and juice runs down your arm? Not so easy to find, are they? It’s a common dilemma with fruit these days. The farmer’s market is a sure bet but like peaches, you have to hit them just right. It’s certainly possible but it’s a roll of dice. Blink and you missed them. Grocery stores, unless you are very very lucky, are nearly always a miss. They arrive unripe and they stay that way. I am beyond tired of flavorless, hard, mealy pears. Be they Barlett, Anjou, Bosc, Comice or the adorable Forelle, chances are good they’re mediocre. The best possible solution is grown your own but few have that option. So I’ve come up with a better idea. Find someone with a tree. Which is exactly what I did. I highly recommend this option.
One morning not long ago I fought off the swarming bees, always a good sign, and picked a bags worth from a friends tree. The fruit was small and somewhat flawed with spots and misshapen bits but they were tasty and had to be dealt with immediately. I got down to business and made one of the most delicious things – the easiest pear tart I know.
Simple, rich, tender and packed with lovely little pears; its a breeze to make. The dough reminds me of a Gateau Breton, that fabulous French butter cake that I devour whenever it’s around but with the added delight of juicy fruit. What’s not to love? As a bonus it uses my favorite, if infrequently used, rectangular tart pan. I love this pan. It makes the prettiest slices, with an equal mix of crust and fruit but you can certainly use a standard round pan. Though if I may say, if you’ve ever wanted a reason to buy this pan, this is it. Run. Christmas is coming.
Simple is an understatement. A soft, cookie-like dough is pressed into the pan. No pesky rolling and fitting pastry into odd corners and shapes. You just smoosh that dough in the pan and press in the pears. A sprinkle of sugar and into the oven it goes. Nothing to it. If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can make this. And this is so much better than a boring old cookie, in my humble opinion.
Pears and ginger are an outstanding combination so I’ve updated the recipe with both ground and candied ginger. It takes a good tart and makes it sublime. My tree pears were also rather small and fit in the pan perfectly so if you can find Forelle or Seckel pears, those will work wonderfully. If you have regular large pears, cut them into quarters if the halves are too big. Whatever pears you use, just get them in the pan and give them a nice push into the dough. Easy.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SIMPLY WONDERFUL. This is so easy there is no reason not to turn around and make it right this minute. Go. If you have wonderful pears, the tart will be equally wonderful. If you have mediocre pears, it will still be quite nice. The butter and ginger studded dough will cover a multitude of fruit sins.
Six years ago: Squash & Onion Tart
Five years ago: Roasted Beets w/Whipped Goat Cheese
Four years ago: Concord Grape Pie & Purple Cow Pie Shakes
Three years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
Two years ago: Muhammara – the best sauce you’ve never heard of
Last year: Seeded Crackers
SIMPLE PEAR TART – adapted from this recipe
makes one tart, serves 8
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan, room temperature (1 stick)
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons minced candied ginger
3 small ripe but firm small Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored (if you can find the small Forelle pears, those are perfect)
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar for topping
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
- Lightly butter a 14” rectangular tart pan or 9” round tart pan, place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and salt; set aside.
- In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and ½ cup sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Lower speed to medium, add the egg, and beat until incorporated.
- Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until blended. The dough will be very soft.
- Add the candied ginger and mix until just incorporated.
- Push the dough into the pan with floured fingers to form an even level.
- Arrange the pear halves evenly, cut side down, alternating the stem ends to fit tightly but also to look pretty.
- Sprinkle with the remaining 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar (tip – if your bag candied ginger has some sugar settled into the bottom, use that.)
- Bake until the crust is golden brown and is just starting to firm up, about 45-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Though it softens up as it sits, the tart is quite delicious for several days.