Sunday, 7 July 2013

Puff-Pastry Pear-fect!

Crostata di Sfoglia con Pere, Mandorle, Tamarindo, Arancia e Zenzero
Pear Tart with Tamarind, Orange, Almonds & Ginger

Puff-pastry... everybody loves it and it is one of the few things, where I am thankful that the food industry and big money-grabbing manufacturers have done at least this great service to mankind :-) Yes, this is one convenience product that I buy regularly- and I have to tell you this one thing too... I have never actually met anyone who has ever made puff-pastry themselves! 

For sure it is do-able and for sure, some people do actually go to the trouble of rolling out a layer of dough, adding butter, folding, repeating, folding, repeating... pardon the expression... but gimme a break already! Unless you are a pastry chef by profession- just buy the dough and chill-out! 

I bought some beautiful, adorable, tiny and delicious little sugar-pears at the market yesterday- they are in season now and just as pretty as a picture, in yellow, green and blush... I just had to have them! And so I grabbed a couple of handfuls, popped them into a bag, paid and went on my merry way... except that I have to tell you a couple of things...

One: they DO bruise rather easily! By the time I got them home, about half of them had little dark bruises- these are caused by the stalks rubbing and poking against the pears... so handle with care!

And Two: they ARE going to be a little fiddly to peel! So be prepared- and stop complaining already... somebody else already made your pastry for you after all! Start at the top, and work your way down, using the stalk to get a better grip. You will find it gets easier once you have cut away the first strip of peel. 

Next- you will need to cut them in half and remove the core and the tough strip of stem that runs through the middle- so don't even think about complaining- just get the smallest, sharpest knife you have and start. It seems tedious but it will soon be over :-)

The tamarind I used to make this was in fact those small candies you can get at Asian supermarkets. They have a stone in the middle 90% of the time, so the way to use them for cooking is to slice into one part-ways, until the stone is visible and then to cut around it. I cut the tamarind into small pieces- mostly it will dissolve away when cooking and the sugar will sweeten the pears... it's a good thing as the tamarind in itself is slightly tart and tangy... but then that is also a good thing!

So I was almost ready for action. I turned on the oven to full power to pre-warm and got a frying pan nice and hot and ready for the pears. I sautéed them for 4-5 minutes in a little clarified butter, with the tamarind (I used just 4-5 candies to make this 4-portion tart), a little grated ginger, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of coriander. I didn't add any sugar as the pears themselves were very sweet. After 1-2 minutes, I added a tiny splash of orange juice and water to deglaze the pan, but by the time the 5 minutes were up, this had boiled down to a nice light syrup. Done. I set the pears to one side and rinsed the pan out, ready to prepare the pie-base... and yes, you guessed it- I did it in the pan again!

I cut a circle, the size of the base of the pan and laid this inside, then added 3 layers of additional 1" wide strips around the outer edge. I then placed the pear halves carefully into the center of the pastry, within the edge and popped the pan onto the heat for 2-3 minutes to get the pastry going, before popping it into the hot oven (350°) for 5-6 minutes.

After that time, the pastry had already begun to puff-up nicely, but out it came, and on went a light drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of splintered almonds.. then back in it went for a minute or so, in which time I grated a little orange zest, ready to go on next. Out it came again, nicely, lightly glazed and golden and on went the orange zest. It immediately become moistened by the honey and started to infuse its flavor into the tart- so delicious! I popped it back in for just 1 minute under the broiler and then out it came- pretty as a picture and tasty as can be!

Oh... and doesn't that puff-pastry edge just look divine? ;-)

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