Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pear Crumble Tartlets

Personally, I don't think a pear is all that great in its natural state. It's not my favourite fresh fruit - the flavour is just too darn delicate! However, poach it, bake it, nectarize it (that's not a word, is it?)....well that's another story. The flavour of pears explodes when it is concentrated or heated. Have you ever tried a pear sorbet? If you haven't, then you haven't lived! It makes a pear unrecognizable. We used to make one at a restaurant that I worked at, and as the pastry cook, I had full control of the desserts. Let's just say I kept a close eye on it. So, even though pears are not my favourite fruits to snack on, they're definitely one of my favourite fruits to bake with.

These little Pear Crumble Tartlets are like miniature deep dish pies. They are made with a rich cream cheese pastry crust and packed full of macerated, spiced pears. The inspiration for these tartlets came from a cheese platter. Yes, a cheese platter. I love cheese, and I love the taste of rich cheese and pears together. If I'm going to choose to eat a fresh pear, then it's probably because it's sitting right next to a hunk of 6-year-old white cheddar on an after-dinner cheese platter. The full-bodied flavour of cheese, loaded with bitters, salts and acidity tends to enhance a pear's flavour. So it only makes sense that a rich cream cheese pastry crust pairs perfectly with understated baked pears. Anyways, try it and you'll love it. Trust me.

Dock each chilled, unbaked tart crust with a fork and fill to the top with pear mixture, tucking in the pear pieces so that the filling fits snugly. Evenly distribute crumble topping among tarts, pressing it down gently so that it adheres. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F and bake another 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before removing from muffin pan. Gently run a knife around the edges of tarts to release them from the sides. Use the knife to slide underneath the tarts and lift them out from the pan.

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