Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

pear-tart-from-above

 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.

 

Pear-tart-the-pour

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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Apple Tarts

One of the things that I love about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Local farmers’ markets are regularly held throughout the city allowing local farmers and producers to sell their organic and unique products. I try to support the local farmers by going to the markets at least once a week to sample their daily offerings.

For someone who lives in a climate that has 4 distinct seasons, it is a real treat to taste the ripe berries of summer. It is a great summer outing to take the family to a pick your own farm, teaching young children about how food is grown and letting them taste it fresh from the vine. It is also fun to visit a local cheese maker or vineyard to taste the fruits of their labour. We are so lucky that Ontario is rich with amazing food producers and hosts world-class wine regions. I dedicate this post to Ontario’s local farmers, vineyards and food producers.

I came across the Earth to Table cookbook at my local bookstore last winter. It inspired me to want to feature more recipes made with local foods.This recipe for apple tarts is quite simple, yet it creates wonderful french style pastries that are both delicate and delicious.

Apple Tarts

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients

1 package frozen all-butter puff pastry
½ cup Frangipane, made with almonds
3 large Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, thinly sliced
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut puff pastry into 8 circles. Place circles on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, score another circle inside each. (Just score the circle-do not cut through the dough.)

Spread 1 tbsp. frangipane in the middle of each circle, filling the score mark. Arrange apple slices on top of frangipane, making circular layers until apples are about 1 ½ inches high.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Dot the top of each tart with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Frangipane

Makes 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup ground hazelnuts, almonds or other flavourful nut
¼ cup icing sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Directions

Using an electric mixer, mix butter, hazelnuts, icing sugar, flour and eggs until smooth.

(Frangipane can be made ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Recipes from Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann

 

 

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart

My favourite vegetables are tomatoes. I know technically tomatoes are a fruit but in the culinary world they are referred to as vegetables. When the fresh heirloom tomatoes start to show up in the markets during the summer I am in heaven. I love tasting all of the colourful varieties in various shapes and sizes. When you bite into a freshly picked tomato you taste a burst of flavour that makes you smile from the inside out.

Just add a little salt and pepper, a touch of good olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze and you have heaven on a plate.

This Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart has a great mix of flavours from the herbed ricotta and goat cheese layered with fresh tomatoes and baked on a light fluffy, puffed pastry crust. It would make a wonderful appetizer or a great lunch tart served with a green salad.

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart

Tomatoe-tarts-on-a-pizza-board

Ingredients

½ lb. (225 G) ready rolled puff pastry, thawed (1/2 package)
3 tbsp. roasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. large leaf basil, chopped
5 oz. (150 g) ricotta cheese, drained
4 oz. (100 g) crumbly goat cheese
4-6 assorted seasonal or heirloom tomatoes, sliced (look for a variety of colours and sizes)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the pastry into 2 pieces and lay on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Turn the edges over by 1/3 inch to make a rough border. Scatter the crust with pine nuts and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Put the ricotta in a small bowl, mix in the herbs and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spoon the mixture onto the pastries. Crumble the goat cheese over the ricotta mixture. Lay the tomatoes over the cheese mixture arranging the colours around for variety. Sprinkle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and the cheese golden. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Food and Travel Magazine

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