Today’s cake – pear and ginger brown butter tarts

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When you read pastry recipes, there is a lot of ‘relaxing’ going on. Which is quite ironic really, because I don’t find myself relaxing – I’m usually huffing and puffing and thinking “this bloody pastry better work out”. So maybe I should take the cue from the recipe and chill a little. I read recently that Gwyneth Paltrow said we shouldn’t yell at water because we “might hurt its feelings” (really, Gwyneth?), so perhaps the pastry can sense my anxiety?

Following the pastry class I went to with Lorraine Godsmark, I decided I would try to make the pear tart with the sour cream pastry at home – that evening we only made the base pastry and not the fillings or toppings, so time to try it myself without The Master’s watchful eye.  In the class she described this pastry as “very forgiving” – and it is too – so it’s a really good one to tackle first up. It comes together nicely, doesn’t stick to the bench, lifts easily into the tin and you can bash it about a bit. Ta da!  And as Lorraine suggested, I filled my tin to the very brim.

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In terms of the pear filling – the method she gives isn’t very descriptive (no chef is ever going to give away all their secrets, are they?). For instance, the Buderim ginger comes in chunks, is it meant to be cooked with the pears then removed from the mixture (as it wouldn’t be great to bite into a whole piece), or chopped finely and left? I opted to remove the pieces after cooking. I also found that there was quite a lot of liquid after cooking so I strained the pears.  And the brown butter topping – which is so so delicious – I discovered runs as soon as it starts cooking.  I had heaped my pears into a little mound, which turned out to be not a good idea.  Make sure they are in a very flat layer, and perhaps a couple of millimetres below the top of the pastry case, so that when you pipe on the brown butter topping it can’t really go anywhere. Because it ran, my pears are sticking out a little at the top, whereas they should be completely covered.

Make the pastry and the brown butter topping the day before and the pears the day of cooking. The pastry was enough to make 1 large tart and 4 x 12cm tarts, but the pear compote quantity was just enough for 1 large tart, you’d probably need to double it to have enough for all the pastry.  This was seriously some of the best pastry I have ever had, and the brown butter topping is to die for.  Definitely worth perfecting, and will also try it with apple.

Cream Cheese Pastry (make the day before)
300g plain flour
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
170g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
130g cream cheese, cut into cubes about twice the size of the butter
30g ice water
30g apple cider vinegar

1. Place flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor, pulse for a couple of seconds to sift.
2. Add the cream cheese and pulse for 2-3 seconds
3. Add butter and pulse for further 2-3 seconds
4. Combine water and vinegar and add to mixture and pulse for a final couple of seconds.
5. Turn mixture out onto bench, and using the heel of your hand smear the dough (fresage) across the bench forming streaks of butter and cream cheese through the dough. Use a pastry cutter to bring the mixture back to you and smear another two times. It will be slightly marbled which is fine. (You can find some examples of how to fresage on youtube).
6. Press into a flat disc and allow the pastry to relax in the fridge overnight
7. Remove from fridge and roll out onto a surface 5mm thick. Fit into a flan tin and allow it to relax in the fridge for a further 2 hours

Brown butter topping (make the day before)
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
80g plain flour
185g unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle with a knife

1. Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Lower speed and mix in flour.
2. Meanwhile place butter in a small pot, add vanilla bean and heat over a medium-high heat until butter is brown and foamy. Continue until bubbles subside and colour turns dark golden and has a nutty aroma. Strain the butter through a sieve onto the egg mix whisking continuously until well combined. Refrigerate overnight

Pear and Ginger Compote (make the day of baking)
1kg pears
80g unsalted butter
40g sugar
100ml lemon juice
80g ginger in syrup
80g candied orange or marmalade

Peel, core and cut pears into 2cm cubes. Melt butter in a wide saute pan, add pears and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar and cook until pears are soft. Deglaze pan with lemon juice, add ginger and marmalade and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate until required.

Blind baking and assembly
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Remove your prepared tart tin from the fridge and prick the pastry lightly with a fork
3. Spray a sheet of foil with canola oil spray and place it in the tin. Fill to the brim with baking beans or rice and bake for 20 minutes
4. Remove from oven and remove beans and foil. Lightly beat an egg and using a pastry brush lightly brush the pastry with the egg. Put back in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes until golden
5. Remove from oven, fill with pear, then pipe a thin layer of the burnt butter topping to cover the pear, and return to the oven for 45 minutes then lower the oven the 160 degrees for 15 minutes

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3 thoughts on “Today’s cake – pear and ginger brown butter tarts

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