Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Pair of Pears to Answer Your Prayers

Torta di Sfoglia di Pera "Santa Maria", Uva Secca & Mandorle
"Santa Maria" Pear Tart with Almonds & Raisins

Time for another of my Sunday Morning sweet-treats... because if I deserve it- YOU deserve it ;-) Yesterday I was out of town, so I didn't have a chance to go shop at my beloved Frankfurt market hall. The only things I managed to pick up were a whole selection of herbs, some excellent Sicilian eggplants... and these lovely little green and blush peaches called "Santa Maria". I thought to myself, "what a pretty name" and took a carton with me. They just looked like regular peaches and it is the season after all. 

I wasn't familiar with the variety, but I was at an out-of-town store and there was precious little else that caught my eye... "so I thought, just take them with you- you know what pears taste like!", which is true. But the thing is... these did actually taste a little different! And if I had known that yesterday... I would have taken 2 cartons with me instead!

The "Santa maria" pears are very firm and juicy- a flavor much more like a Japanese "Nashi" pear than a regular green or Williams Christ pear. They are sweet and very crunchy and hold up their shape well during cooking or baking which is excellent.

To make this simple but pretty tart I used a half roll of puff-pastry, 2 pears, a handful of almonds and a handful of raisins. But believe it or not, that will make a lovely small pastry that is just big enough to share- or to eat all up on your own if you are as hungry as me!

I started off by cutting-out a circle dough, large enough to line my little pastry form and then cut one long, straight strip, also making use of the serrated-edged roller- just because it looks a little prettier! Obviously, in any other circumstances a knife is all that you need- but today I felt like using my little tool :-)

I used the circle of dough to line the baking dish of course, folding it into place so that it would fit inside, which gave it a nice home-made touch!

For the filling, I peeled the pears and then cut them into quarters and removed the core with a diagonal cut, then cut each quarter into thin slices. I then added the raisins and almonds- a handful of each, a good sprinkle of cinnamon, a light sprinkle of ground coriander seed, a tablespoon of sugar, a shot glass of Marsala (optional) and a pinch of salt. I stirred this together well and began to fill the pastry-lined baking dish along the outer edge only, leaving the middle clear...

Of course, what I then did was to fold the ends of the straight strip of pastry together and drop it into place in the middle of the pie, then fill in the centre with the remaining pear, almond and raisin mix. Yes it is a little fiddly, no it isn't absolutely necessary... but yes again, it does look pretty! haha! So you can either go to the trouble of doing so or not- the flavor will be just as wonderful either way!

I baked it in a pre-heated oven at 350!F for around 15 minutes, until the pastry was nice and puffed-up but still a little plain around the outer edge... and then I noticed the the additional inside strip of pastry was baking as a slower rate, as it was obviously at a somewhat lower height than the outer edges... doh! 

But fear and fret not- if this happens to you, just do the same thing I did and cover the outer edge of the pastry with foil, put a circle of foil over the centre of the pie, and continue baking with upper heat only in the oven, to give the pastry a chance to catch-up with the rest... which it soon does within the space of 4-5 minutes or so- no big deal! 

After that, I removed the foil, gave the pie a little drizzle of honey and popped it back in to brown evenly under the broiler. And I started a pot of coffee brewing... because it was now ready to come out, cool-off and be enjoyed... as I know you will too! The pear still retains a little bite even after 20-25 minutes of baking, but becomes soft and juicy along with the raisins, with that hint of Marsala and the crunch of the almond slices. Yeah- you have gotta love it! Trust me- you will!

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