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Saturday, December 29, 2012



If the appearance of this tart leaves you a bit intimidated, don't worry. This tart is so easy to make, and it is difficult to screw up. Come on, give it a try!

When I first saw the image of this tart in a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, I thought it looked delicious. There was no way my tart would look that good, but maybe it would taste alright. I jumped in with both feet and made the tart. And by golly, short of the industrial fluorescent lighting designed for a garage in our kitchen and an Iphone for a camera, I think it doesn't look half bad in comparison to the cookbook.

For a complete tutorial with even more pictures, click here.

The recipe for this wonderful tart was found in a Williams-Sonoma book entitled 'Simple Classics Cookbook' from Chuck Williams' personal recipes. Thank you, Chuck!

For the crust:
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of cake flour (I used 'Soft-as-Silk' brand)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes, refrigerated
2 or 3 tablespoons of ice cold water

For the poaching bath:
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups of cold water

Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup of apricot preserves
1 cup walnut pieces
Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

3 Bosc pears - ripe, but not too overripe, or too firm
(You may also use Comice pears)

This recipe was found in a wonderful cookbook for which I paid a mere quarter at a yard sale! There have been many yard sale signs that tempted me to keep driving, keep looking, surely I was getting close to the location. Usually, after driving five miles, you find yourself in the middle of Podunk, where someone threw an impromptu yard sale sign up and tossed clothes out on the grass. You know, one of those 'why bother' sales. The kind of sale where nothing is priced, which always makes me think the seller will determine the price of an item with a perceived idea of your income based on your appearance. Always dress like a slob for such occasions.

This yard sale was different. I actually drove. And drove. And kept driving. Mind you, this
was early in the morning, before a work day. When I finally arrived at the address that
even my GPS didn't recognize, it was well worth the drive. It was a massive sale, one of the finest
collections a bargain hunter could hope for. Or a hoarder's worst nightmare.

Immediately, I hurried to the book section (though at this point, my hurrying was due more to the fact that I should be on my way to work...) to find several large boxes full of books.
The seller said the books were one dollar each, but if I took a few, she would make me a deal.

I selected an armload of books and approached the makeshift checkout. Three women exchanged
glances as if they didn't know what to charge. "Two fifty." I calmly pulled out two dollars, trying to
quell my inner excitement, searching for a third dollar in the bottomless pit of a purse I
carry. Either I was taking too long, or the other customers felt sorry for me, as several
people offered the remaining fifty cents of my balance. Embarrassed, I said that I had more
money, but I was trying to find a dollar that did not have banana stickers all over it.

(Long story, maybe next time. Keep your eye out for a banana-related Instructable, perhaps?)

The books were loaded into the car, I drove off, and let out a squeal of delight. With the car
windows up. Not only did I make it to work on time, but I was filled with glee over my newfangled
treasures! Books are wonderful. But cookbooks are divine!

For this recipe, it would be quite handy to have a pan made especially for making tarts. This pan has tiny scallops along the edges, and a removable bottom, which makes removing the tart a breeze. Just don't forget about this tidbit when you're removing it from the oven. If you have a pizza paddle, here is your chance to put it to good use. Not absolutely necessary, but nice to have.

You can squish the juice from a lemon with your hands, but again, this is rather handy. You don't have to purchase anything fancy, either. As long as you manage to squeeze out enough lemon juice (make certain there are no seeds
in your juice) then Earth will continue to spin.

You might be able to find something around your home to utilize, but a rolling pin is pretty handy. They don't have to be expensive, either.

Yes, our grandmothers before us used their fingers, and nobody died, yeah, yeah. I'm a gadget girl, and these things are cool. Besides, a pastry blender isn't warm-blooded, and won't add oils and other questionable things to your dough.

Having the prep steps ready to go when you are is a big help.
It saves time later, and makes the process so much easier.

Measure one cup of walnuts and set aside. Chop to a finer
degree if you desire.

Cut the 1/2 cup of butter into slices and return to the refrigerator. To keep from overworking the dough for your tart crust later, I would suggest cutting the butter into smaller cubes than shown in my picture.

Prepare a glass of ice water. You will be using this water to prepare the tart crust, which you will need to keep nice and cold. Measure one and one half cups of sugar for the poaching bath, and set aside another one Tablespoon for the dough.

Measure one cup of all-purpose flour. Measure one half cup of cake flour.

Grab a salt shaker.

Grab a jar of apricot preserves. You can eyeball a quarter of a cup, no
need to measure. I do not advise using grape jelly. Don't even think about
it, not even in the name of thrifty.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine one cup of all-purpose flour,
1/2 cup cake flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 Tablespoon of sugar.
Whisk or stir until well blended. Remove the butter from the refrigerator that we diced up in step #3, and bring the ice water near your cooking area.

Using a pastry blender (or your fingers), cut the butter into the flour
mixture until it reaches a crumbly oatmeal-like texture. Don't overmix!
Switch to using a fork, and slowly add 2-3 Tablespoons of ice water to
the mix in order to cause the dough to stick together.

 Form a ball of the dough, flatten into a flat disc, and press between wax paper or other wrap that will allow you to roll the dough into a round sheet the size of your tart pan. If you do not have oversize waxed paper, you can easily lay two long sheets together at the edges, fold both pieces together in a small fold, then fold a few more times, and press the folds. Unfold the two pieces to form a large sheet. Now do this again, and you will have a top and bottom rolling sheet. Draw a circle a little larger than the size of your tart pan on the waxed paper to use as a rolling guide.

Remember to roll the dough large enough so there will be an edge to the crust. Roll it out to the correct size, don't try to stretch it out once it is in the pan. Hold your tart pan over the dough to check for accurate roll size.

Remove the top piece of waxed paper, and carefully place the dough (with another sheet of paper still stuck to the other side of the crust) into the tart pan. Carefully remove the second sheet of paper. Press the dough into the edges of the pan and ensure a nice, even spread. Once your dough is safely inside the pan, pop it back into the refrigerator.
Try to make the crust thickness as consistent as possible, but don't over-work the dough in doing so. My finger pressing marks are quite visible, but not for long.
Place a fresh lemon on a hard surface. Using the flat and palm of your hand, press down and roll the lemon back and forth. Don't squeeze it to death, just press firmly, as if giving a massage. A firm one.

Cut the lemon in half, then either squeeze it, or use a reamer to get as much juice out of the lemon as you can. It helps to do this over a strainer and into a bowl to keep out the seeds.

Set this lemon bath aside.

Select three Bosc pears for this tart, making certain they are not too under or over ripe. Give 'em a squeeze. They should not be squishy, nor hard.

Peel each pear, removing the stem. Cut each pear in half, then examine the insides of them. The seed spot will need to be cut out, and the little vein where the stem was, as well. You can use a knife or your fingernail, but you'll be able to feel the hard vein. Take this out, or your guests may be picking it out of their teeth.

The seed spot is easy to remove. Simply place the tip of a small knife at the top of the spot (which resembles a cute little Snowy Owl face to me) push the tip in at an angle, and draw around the seeds in a circle while cutting.

As you work, drop each pear half into the lemon juice bath we prepared in Step 6, and mix well.

In a large saucepan, place three cups of cold water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Make sure the pan is deep enough to dunk the pears into the sweet bath. This step is merely to soften the pears a bit, especially if they are very firm. The time required to bathe, or poach them, is determined by their texture. Adjust according to your pears.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the
pear halves and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, turning the pears
once, until they are tender. You don't want them to be mushy. Poke them
with a fork, a knife, an ice pick, you get the idea.

Gently transfer the pears to a rack to allow them to drip and cool. Place a paper towel or other material beneath to catch the drips, or you will send out a mass invitation to sweet ants, which we will be discussing later. While the pears are cooling, let's roll out the dough. Next step, please?

As the pears have now cooled and dripped somewhat dry, your tart crust should be ready, it is time to assemble the tart. Remove the tart crust from the refrigerator. Spread most of the apricot preserves from step 3 into the bottom of the crust. Slicing each pear half into about a dozen slices, carefully slide the blade of a knife under the sliced pear half, keeping the slices all together. Set the pear half into the crust, with the small end of the pears facing the middle of the pan. Gently press with the knife or your fingers to spread the slices out nice and neat in a fanned-out pattern, extending from almost the edge of the tart to the center. Place another sliced half across from that one, and so forth, so each pear has a matching half on the other side of the pan. Adjust as necessary to ensure a nice, uniform spacing for the walnuts. Add the walnuts between the pear slices, spreading them neatly. Brush the remaining preserves on top of the pears. Don't fret if you accidentally used all the preserves in the crust. Not a big deal. Sprinkle the pears with cinnamon, or nutmeg to be festive if you desire.

Though the original recipe calls for baking this tart at 400° for over an hour, let's change the rules a bit. I say we reduce the temperature by at least twenty-five degrees or more. The first fifteen minutes at 400° left the edges of my first tart a bit darker than I preferred, even with one of those cheap crust protectors. Adjust to suit your tastes. For those wondering, in order to type that neat little degree symbol, hold down the ALT button on your keyboard while typing the number 4344. Cool, huh?) Turn on the oven light, or use a flashlight, anything, just to get a peek into the oven to see that beautiful golden tart! Be patient!

You may slice the tart as you please, but I found that by slicing to allow half walnuts and half pears on each slice, this recipe easily serves twelve modest portions. With a tiny dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, (or skip this step if you are being mindful of saturated fat), or a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon, you will have your guests eating out of your hands. Best to use saucers. Helpful hint - by the next day, the crust may not have that wonderful, flaky, delicate crispness about it. Simply place a slice into a toaster oven for just a few minutes, and it will crisp right back up.

By the way, if you are bringing this tart to a picnic where creepy crawly things like ants might find your treat, place the tart on a dish with a pedestal, or leg, such as a cake plate. Now place the cake plate onto a saucer or plate with water in it. The ants can't get to the plate unless they dive in and swim to the pedestal, which I have yet to ever witness. I hope you will enjoy this tart. Thanks for reading!

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