Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

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 How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?- Satchel Paige

I spent this past week celebrating the birthdays of my mother, myself and my grand daughter. We have 3 generations born within 5 days of one another in the month of June.

I really don’t like acknowledging my birthday any more, having just entered a pre-milestone year. I plan to hang on to this decade with all of my might.

You know we cannot stop getting older in years but we can always stay young in our hearts and minds. I plan to be the hippest, most active lady at the nursing home, when I get old. Attitude is everything!

I do plan on making the most of my life. My bucket list is constantly refilling with new places to see, things to learn, people to meet, and new experiences to try. Life is for living and enjoying each day as if it were our last.

One of the things that I have tried over the past 3 years was to become a better baker. I have tried a number of recipes while writing this blog that featured cakes, tarts and even pies. This pear and caramel tart is one of my favourites, so far.

 

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When I was in Seattle last year I was lucky to stay at a hotel that was across the street from Tom Douglas’ famous Dahlia Bakery. The cookies and pastries were so decadent and delicious at the bakery I had to buy the cookbook so I could bake them out at home.

The cookbook offers 125 of the best loved recipes from the bakery complete with loads of helpful baking hints. The book offers wonderful instructions on making a Dahlia style breakfast of English muffins and breakfast sandwiches, or granola, or egg strata. There are chapters on baking doughnuts, on pastries, on a variety of cookies, making tomato soup and gourmet grilled cheese, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches,and preserving jam and jellies. For a bakery cookbook it has a nice variety of recipes, each complete with photos and step by step instructions.

If you are really adventurous the book also includes instructions on how to make your puff pastry and caramel sauce from scratch. For my tarts I used frozen puff pastry and a good quality store bought caramel sauce. The tarts were wonderful with the warm pears and almond cream. I added a dollop of ice cream to offset the sweet caramel drizzle. They were so decadent.

 

pear-tart-after-the-pour

Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

3 small to medium pears, ripe but firm

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

Six 4 1/2 inch squares of store bought frozen puff pastry, very cold or frozen

3 tbsp. almond paste

2 tbsp. sugar

1 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into ½ inch dice

1 large egg yolk

Caramel sauce for drizzling

Whipped cream or Ice cream for garnish

Directions:

To poach the pears, peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. Trim out the stem and blossom end and remove the core using a melon baller or paring knife. Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and pears. To keep the pears submerged while they poach, put a piece of parchment or wax paper on the surface and weigh it with a plate or small lid. Place the saucepan over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. As soon as the pears are tender, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Allow pears to cool in the liquid.

Place the puff pastry squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and set in freezer. Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the puff pastry package, depending on the brand 375-400 degrees F.

To make the almond cream, mix the almond paste and sugar  using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. The mixture will look crumbly. Beat in the butter, bit by bit. Add the egg yolk and mix until creamy and smooth, set aside.

Remove the baking sheet of pastry squares from the freezer. Place about 2 teaspoons of almond cream in the centre of each square and spread gently using a small spatula.

Remove the pears from the liquid. Dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Slice each half into ¼ inch lengthwise slices. Lift the pear half with a spatula and place it on the almond cream on each pastry square. Gently fan the slices, leaving a ½ inch border of pastry around the pears.

Bake until the tarts are puffed and evenly golden brown, approximately 50-55 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven. Serve one tart per plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream or ice cream. Serve warm.

pear-tart-with-ice-cream

Recipe adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook-Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelly Lance.

I bought my copy here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Dahlia-Bakery-Cookbook-Sweetness-Seattle/dp/B00BXU9R50/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403050153&sr=8-2&keywords=the+dahlia+bakery+cookbook

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Oat Muffins With Cranberries and Pears

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I have a confession to make.

I am hooked on Downton Abbey. There is something about the intrigue that happens upstairs among the aristocratic family members, as well as downstairs among the servants. Last week a set my PVR to tape the show and it shut down half way through the episode. I tried searching the guide to see if I could get another chance to see it on time shifting, without any luck.

I am always entertained by period films like Downton because they take us back to a time in history when life was simple and predictable. Not that I would be comfortable living in an era where there was such a class distinction. I also would hate to be treated as a second class citizen because I am a woman.

So what is it that we find so interesting about these films?

I think for me, it is the beautiful estates, the wonderful costumes and the great acting. The series does a wonderful job of representing what life might have been like as we entered the 20th century. The characters are well-developed over the series to the point that you choose your favourites and watch faithfully to see what will happen to them next.

Perhaps I would not want to have lived at that time, but it is fun to imagine how others did.

These rich dark oat muffins are reminiscent of something that might have been enjoyed with a cup of tea and some homemade jam at Downton Abbey.

Oat Muffins With Cranberries and Pears

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups (330 ml) rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) Plain yogurt (not low-fat or fat-free)
½ cup (125 ml) fancy molasses
½ cup (125 ml) packed light brown sugar
½ cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
½ cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder
½ tsp. (2 ml) baking soda
½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground nutmeg
2/3 cup (160 ml) peeled and diced pears
1/3 cup (80 ml) dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375˚ F (190˚ C) and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
Stir the oats and yogurt together in a large bowl. Stir in the molasses, brown sugar, melted butter, and egg.
In a separate bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the flour mixture into the oat mixture until blended, then stir in the pears and cranberries and sprinkle with a few oats. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins spring back when gently pressed. Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing to cool completely. The muffins will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Back to Baking by Anna Olsen

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Pear and Almond Tart


Every so often I need to take a few moments to remember what I am most grateful for in my life. It is a way of putting things in perspective when things are not so perfect. When life gets crazy and stressful, I like to close my eyes and think of simple pleasures that make me happy.

Here is a list of 10 simple things that make me smile as I think of them:

  1. Great coffee when I wake up on a Sunday morning
  2. Picnics by the beach
  3. Dark chocolate and a glass of port
  4. Strawberries
  5. Sunny days with the sunroof open
  6. Fresh heirloom tomatoes
  7. My 15 month old grandson when he drops everything to do a little dance along with the music on Sesame Street
  8. Fuzzy slippers
  9. Reading a great cookbook
  10. French Pastries

What does your simple pleasure list look like?

I have been a fan of Donna Hay’s magazines and cookbooks for decades, so being able to share this recipe is a pleasure. The cake is dense and full of rich almond flavour which is complimented well by the honey glazed pears. I like to serve it with a dollop of whipped cream.

Pear and Almond Tart

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

6 tbsp. butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
3 small pears, peeled, cored and halved
¼ cup honey, for brushing

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined.

Add the eggs, vanilla, almond meal, flour, baking powder and lemon rind and process until just combined. Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 9 inch round loose bottom fluted tart pan. Press the pear halves into the tart mixture, cut side down and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Brush the pears with honey and allow tart to cool in the pan. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Serve alone or with whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine

Winter Fruit

Often we think about the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that we can access during the summer and fall but what about winter? I thought it would be nice to feature fruits that we can easily access in winter and some nice ways to enjoy them. When I think of winter recipes I think of warm satisfying treats that stick to your bones and keep out that winter cold.

I live in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Although Southern Ontario experiences the four seasons similarly to New England; Toronto sits in a little pocket on the north end of Lake Ontario and is often protected from the raging winter storms. We experience less snowfall than our neighbours but we still experience the winter chill in January and February. We also lose the availability of our wonderful local produce and survive on imported fruits from California and South America. We can buy most types of fruits all year long at the St. Lawrence Market or at the upscale markets of downtown.

I love to go walking in Yorkville on a snowy Saturday morning, visiting the markets to find that perfect little treat that will make my day special or that will complete that interesting recipe or inspire that wonderful photograph.

This winter I decided to try out a few recipes that focus on winter fruits. I wanted to try a new pear recipe that I could serve as a dessert at a casual dinner party. I have poached pears in wine and brandy before but this recipe was lighter on the wine and still rendered the same warm results.

The rich, brown Manuka honey adds a strong, rich flavour and shine to the pears providing warmth that melts away the winter blues and makes you smile.

 

Honey Glazed Pears

4                Bosc Pears peeled and halved (not cored)

½ c             Manuka Honey (or 1 cup clover honey)

2 tbsp.       Sherry or Brandy

2 tbsp.       Butter

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

Melt butter in a large frying pan and add honey, sherry and zest of orange and lemon.

Bring to a boil.

Add pears and reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 15 minutes until tender.

Serve warm with or without ice cream.

 Please note-if you cannot find Manuka honey substitute 1 cup of regular clover honey

 

 

 

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand. The honey is produced by bees gathering nectar from the flowers of the Manuka tree.