Sunday, October 11, 2009

Caramel-Pear Tart with a Graham Shortbread Crust

I went to Caprial's Desserts to look up the recipe for this tart that I made, and I discovered that I hadn't written any notes on it! Whenever I make something, I always (or so I thought) write on the recipe any modifications I made, what I thought, if I'd make it again, etc. I used to hate the idea of defacing a book in such a way but now I love it. I love flipping through a cookbook and seeing all the writing on the recipes. So with this one, I will have to try and just dredge it up from my less than stellar memory!

I made this pie for Canada Day back in July. Ever since I got this cookbook I've wanted to make this pie - pears poached in 5 cups of wine, caramel filling with pear brandy, and a graham shortbread crust. Sounded irresistible. The result was good but it tasted more like a fairly regular apple pie, and less like the amazing thing I had hoped for. I think what ruined it for me was the nutmeg in the caramel filling - only 1/2 teaspoon but it killed the delicate flavours of everything else. I bet this pie would be much closer to my high expectations without it. The caramel filling did not taste like pear brandy! Sob. Well maybe a little bit but not distinctly (damn nutmeg). The crust turned out kind of soft, but I think that's partly due to the fact that I didn't have time to let it cool completely before taking it to dinner.

I've made another pear pie from this same cookbook, and what I can conclude is that pear pies taste like apple pies, they just sound fancier. Oh and the recipe says to reserve the poaching liquid for another use - what could you possibly use it for?

Hope all the Canadians have a good Thanksgiving!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pear Pie
Pecan Tassies
Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping
Coconut Cream Pie

Caramel-Pear Tart with a Graham Shortbread Crust
Adapted from Caprial's Desserts

The recipe recommends a 9 or 10 inch tart shell, and I used an 8" one. I had caramel filling and LOTS of pears leftover. I think I used about 3 1/2 or 4 pears, but they were quite huge. You can bake the extra caramel and pears together in ramekins.

Poached Pears
5 cups white wine
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 (1 inch thick) slice of fresh ginger
5 or 6 firm pears, peeled, halved and cored (Ashley note: I think this is 5 or 6 small pears, and probably about 3 or 4 large ones.)

Graham Shortbread Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup graham flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, diced

Caramel Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup pear brandy
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I'd definitely omit this next time.)

Poach the pears:
Combine everything but the pears in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, add the pears, lower the heat to medium, and poach until fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the pears in the liquid and refrigerate until ready to use. (For the best flavour, refrigerate them in the liquid overnight, if possible.)

Make the crust:
Preheat a standard oven to 375F.

Place everything but the butter in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the butter and process until the dough forms a ball on top of the blade. Remove the dough from the food processor; if it's too soft to work with, refrigerate until it's easier to handle. Press the dough into a well-greased 10" tart pan. (The easiest way to do this is to first press it into the sides of the pan, then finish with the bottom of the pan.) Bake just until set but not brown, about 10 minutes; let cool completely.

Lower the oven temperature to 350F.

Make the caramel filling:
Meanwhile, to prepare the caramel filling, place the sugar in a large saute pan with sides or a heavy saucepan. Gently moisten the sugar with the water, being careful not to splash the water and sugar onto the sides of the pan. Cook the sugar mixture over high heat, without stirring, until you see any part of it turning brown, then swirl the pan to even out the colour. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Carefully add the cream to the hot sugar, taking care to pour it in slowly because it will bubble up very violently. Add the brandy and cook, again without stirring, until the caramelized sugar has liquefied again and the mixture is very smooth and a deep golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Let cool until tepid, then whisk in the egg and nutmeg.

To assemble:
Cut the poached pears into 1/4 inch thick slices, reserving the poach liquid for another use. Arrange the pear slices in concentric circles in the cooled tart shell, pour the caramel filling into the shell, and bake until the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Serve warm.


VeggieGirl said...

Ahh, so sorry about the nutmeg overkill :( But hey, I'm still awestruck by the mere SIGHT of that tart - so stunning!!

And yeah, pears and apples DO seem to have a similar flavor/texture, so no worries that the pie/tart turned out "apple-y" :)

Anh said...

caramel tart? And pear? I think this is just perfect.

Helene said...

That's a lot of wine. Wine is not cheap around here. Looking at the ingredients I thought that this would be an amazing dessert. Sorry to hear that it was not what you had expected.

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

This sounds and looks great! My last attempt at a pear dessert in August was a disaster. It may just be time to redeem myself.

Alisa - frugal foodie said...

Oh my, that looks simply unreal. I love the caramelization look, always inviting.

Lu said...

That looks so delicious. Mmmmmm, sweet yummy pears baked in a tart. Yours looks great!

TasteMyPlate said...

Oh my my!! Love pears, love pies, love pear pies! Does it really taste so similar to apple pies? There must be a way to taste the delicate pear flavour....if I try I will let you know :)
The pie looks amazing though!

Johanna said...

that tart looks gorgeous - I don't write on the recipe but I think I should as I have little scraps of notes about sometimes - mostly I try to put them on computer

Kevin said...

Pears and caramel!? This sounds so amazingly good!

Grace said...

pears don't thrill me, but with that unique crust and awesome caramel filling, i may have a change of heart. happy thanksgiving to you!

Pam said...

Pear pies usually taste like apple pies to me too. This does look very beautiful.

the ungourmet said...

Too bad it wasn't as great as you'd hoped. I also think pears taste like apples in pie.

It is a really pretty tart!

Colleen said...

This looks delicious AND beautiful! And a shortbread crust? Sold!

Maria said...

Gorgeous tart!

Anonymous said...

yummy! this weeekend guees what I'll cook? ...a pear tart!:)

Anonymous said...

Slurp:)! it seems delicious!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

my word, that looks wicked - in the best possible way, of course.

What a lovely Autumn dish - looking forward to using some pears now!

Clare & Gary said...

Definitely going to try this one when my parents come at Dad loves pear tart, and I'll leave the nutmeg out ;-)

kimberleyblue said...

It sounds super amazing, I agree (and it looks stunning too...) - but yeah, I often find pears taste like apples in baked desserts.

Hannah said...

This sounds like everything wonderful about autumnal desserts, all in one dish. I love it!

The London Foodie said...


Lovely blog, and delicious recipe, can't wait to go through some of your other posting, just discovered your blog!

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Rose&Thorn said...

Just a quick question, what is graham flour? and what will I use as a substitute?

eatme_delicious said...

Rose & Thorn: It's a type of whole wheat flour. You can just use all purpose flour instead, or you could try regular whole wheat flour.

Mansi said...

Caramel and pear do make a lovely combination! I love how your tart shell came out:)

btw, I'd like to invite you to send in some goodies for sweet celebration contest on my blog if u can!

Wintercoat said...

The reason you think pear pies taste like apple pies is all that spice! Cut cinnamon down to max 1/4 tsp., nutmeg to one light grating, if any, and you'll find the true flavor of pears comes through! (Goes for apples, too!)

Ingrid said...

LOL, sorry the nutmeg ruined things for you! :( I love it.

You did a glorious job on arranging your pear slices.

Happy Friday!

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