November 12, 2008

Seckel Pear Tart with Poire William Cream

This is a definite winner! Thank you to everybody who enjoyed the tart and said such nice things about it!

I've been seeing Seckel pears all over the Union Square Greenmarket for a while now that I was happy to see this recipe in this month's issue of Gourmet. It's a little bit of work to make this tart, but the beauty is that you can make each part separately a day ahead before assembling everything together. I found the taste of wine and Poire William a bit too overpowering (though it wasn't as strong on the second day), so I recommend lowering the amount if that's not your thing. Otherwise, the tart was absolutely divine.

Seckel Pear Tart with Poire William Cream
slightly modified from Gourmet
serves 8

Tart shell:

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons ice water

1 cup dry white wine
2 ripe Bartlett pears (I used Comice pears)
1/2 cup sugar
2 lb Seckel pears

Pastry cream:
3 large egg yolks
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons poire William (pear eau-de-vie)
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon water
teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)

Tart shell:

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips (or your preferred method) until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Stir together egg yolk and 1 1/2 Tbsp water and drizzle evenly over butter mixture. Gently stir with a fork until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add remaining 1/2 Tbsp ice water, stirring until incorporated. (Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.

Gather all dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Chill, wrapped, until firm, about 1 hour.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until a little larger than your pan. Transfer to tart pan, gently fitting dough into pan without stretching. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold overhang inward to reinforce side, then trim flush with edge of pan. Prick bottom of pan with fork and freeze for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Blind bake tart shell until golden, checking from time to time and pricking any bubbles with a knife, about 30 minutes. Alternatively, use pie weights. Cool completely.

Set sieve lined with cheesecloth over a bowl. Grate Comice/Bartlett pears (including skin) into cloth, then bunch up cloth around mixture and squeeze out as much clear juice as possible. Discard solids. If pear juice does not measure out to 1 cup, top with water. Pour into pot with wine and stir in sugar.

Carefully peel Seckel pears, leaving stems intact, then core through bottom to remove seeds. (Careful if using a small knife--I almost took off a finger!)

Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then add pears. Simmer, covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer pears to a rack set over a sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to a bowl, adding any juices from sheet pan. You should have 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups syrup; reserve for pastry cream and glaze.

Pastry Cream:
Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small heavy saucepan, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Add seeds from vanilla bean. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in poire William and butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

Stir together water and gelatin in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute.

Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Assemble tart:
Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Stand pears upright on pastry cream.

When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.

Tart shell can be baked 1 day ahead and kept (covered once cool) at room temperature.
Seckel pears can be poached 1 day ahead and chilled, loosely covered.
Pastry cream can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered.
Assembled tart can be kept at room temperature 1 hour or chilled 4 hours. (Mine was fine the following day.)


Patricia said...

I want this in my belly right nowwww!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This looks great. Seckel pears are in season again, so I will try this recipe. Thanks!

Christina said...

Thank you--I hope you enjoy!