Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pear Tarte Tatin with Almond Pastry

How many people across the food blogging world are trying to work through Julia Child's first Volume 1 cookbook after watching the Julia and Julie movie? I am still seriously thinking about cooking and baking her recipes from cover-to-cover, only changing how I blog about the recipes. I would love to mix videos and pictures with the write-ups but blogging is like everything else...anyone can do the simple surface basics but to make a project special, research and learning is involved. I have no idea how to do a video focused on being a visual for following Julia's steps or changing food pictures for my blog. I want the entries to be a visual to show how to follow each recipe. Trying new recipes and growing in skill and technique is such a mental high to treasure and look back on with pride. Desire has a huge play in this too. Julia has always been my hero and I have wanted to cook through her cookbook for years now but the challenge has always felt daunting. I have no idea why the moment is now different but it is.

I also have to justify to myself for taking the hours combined over the last 6 years, the sorting, and the filing of all the categories of recipes collected that were, to me, the best sounding recipes I felt I could not live without at that moment. I have thousands and thousands of recipes. My father told me if I tried, I could never cook and bake from every cookbook and cooking magazine I already have. I know he is right BUT I feel a challenge coming on, a personal one that proves a point to myself...who I know is very stubborn. I have started going through my own collection of recipes as of several days ago. The idea is to work through my own recipes and tie these recipes to Julia's when making complete dinners throughout the week. Also, I have to justify all the cooking magazine subscriptions. These magazines are my splurge to myself but become overwhelming when life gets busy. How do I justify 10 new magazines and I have only had the time to look at one for the month...looking at one means looking at the photos and recipes but not reading the magazine from cover-to-cover.

Finding the time to get my yard projects, such as all the weeding and burning of brush, completing my list of seeds to be planted during what months in the winter in my newly wired and plumbed greenhouse, and the ever growing list of projects to improve the home all need to be fit into the short amount of hours left after coming home from work. Finding balance for quality is the key I am looking for and I still have not figured out how to accomplish balance so physical or emotional burnout is not waiting at the corner.

A new recipe of choice comes from my recent favorite magazine: Fine Cooking; Big Buy. Big Buy is all about buying a large quantity and knowing how to use all of that particular item without waste. I go to Costco and see a bundle of asparagus and in the cart the bundle goes. Thin stalks looking fresh and ready for dinner...if I am feeding 20. I'm not so the magazine gives ideas on versatility of recipes for any particular ingredient. Right now, I still have pears left over from my canning expedition. I found a recipe to try using my cast iron skillet ~ a new technique for me ~ called:
Pear Tarte Tatin with Almond Pastry.

For the Pastry:
4 1/4 oz. (1 cup) cake flour
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
1/2 t. table salt
1 t. granulated sugar
1 1/4 oz. ( 1/3 cup lightly packed) ground almonds
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 T. heavy cream

For the Caramelized Pears
3 lbs. pears (about 6 large), peeled, halved, and cored
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger tossed with 1 t. sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter

Make the Pastry:
In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, salt, and sugar. Pulse briefly until the mixture has pea-size lumps and the rest looks like cornmeal. Add the almonds and pulse for just another second. Mound the mixture on a work surface, make a well, and pour the egg yolk and cream into the center. Continue mixing the ingredients until you have a shaggy dough. Knead the dough just until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Caramelize the pears:
Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss them with the ginger-sugar mixture. Heat a 9-inch cast-iron or other heavy-based pan with an ovenproof handle over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and water swirl the pan to combine. Watch the sugar syrup carefully as it bubbles. When it turns light brown, add the butter and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until the caramel is an even, deep brown. Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool slightly. Carefully arrange the pear slices in the caramel in a single concentric layer. Top with additional pear slices, continuing the circular pattern until the pears reach the top of the pan. (They'll shrink as they cook.) Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the pears on the bottom layer are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 10 1/2-inch round and drape it over the pan of pears to cover. (If the dough is still cool, you can pick it up with your hands; otherwise, gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin to move it to the pan.) Fold the excess dough onto itself to form rough border. Press the crust down onto the pears to compress them slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake the tarte until the pastry is crisp and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert the tarte onto a serving plate with a rim to catch the caramel. Pour any caramel that stays in the pan over the tarte.
I found the pear tarte to be absolutely delicious, easy to make and bake, and gorgeous for presentation. The cast iron skillet was a breeze and easy to use. Yummy dessert that included a feel-good for trying a new technique for me.

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