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Posts Tagged ‘fruit’

Vanilla Spiced Caramel Pear Tart

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I have never fancied myself a baker.  Especially since moving to Colorado, recipes I thought I had mastered didn’t work so well.  After many failed attempts, I gave up.  That is, until recently, when I again took up the challenge of baking in the Rockies.  If I do say so myself, I made several awesome desserts:  Alsatian Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Friands, Dulce De Leche Cupcakes, and Apple Caramel Upside Down Cake.

So, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, and my mother-in-law and I were trading recipe ideas, I was pretty confident that I could make what I thought was a pretty complicated tart recipe at sea level.  Considering there was only one slice left after dinner, I would say my efforts were successful.

Vanilla Spiced Caramel and Pear Tart (adapted from Bon Appeitit)

1 Sheet Puff Pastry

For the Pears:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole star anise

3 whole cloves

pinch of salt

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut in half lengthwise

For the filling

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 whole star anise

6 whole cloves

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

pinch of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1 egg white, beaten


Roll out the puff pastry into a 12 inch square.  Trim the edges to make a round crust.  Transfer the pastry into a 10-inch springform pan.  Press the pastry firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Cover and freeze until firm.  The original recipe indicates this should take about an hour and a half, but I just left the crust in the freezer overnight.

Start by preparing the pears.  Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and salt.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the mixture and add the bean.  Increase the heat to medium high.  Stir until the sugar melts and turns brown.  Once the sugar is melted, add the pears, rounded side down.  Cook until the pears are almost tender, about 15 minutes.  Be sure to move the skillet around frequently to ensure even cooking.  Carefully turn the pears and cook until very tender, another 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the caramel mixture.

Next, prepare the filling.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Scrape in the vanilla bean seeds and add the bean.  Add the cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.  Increase the heat to medium, and cook until the butter is golden.  Remove the vanilla bean and the spices from the butter.  Whisk the sugar, egg, and salt in a bowl.  Slowly add the browned butter to the egg mixture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the puff pastry with the beaten egg white.  Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the crust.  There isn’t much filling, so it will be very thin. (I almost didn’t haven enough to cover the crust.)  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the skillet.  Drain the excess syrup into the skillet, and place the pears, rounded side up, in the filling.  Reserve the syrup in the skillet.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set and brown at the edges, about an hour.  Let the tart stand uncovered until warm.  Before serving, reduce the syrup and discard the spices.  Serve the tart with the syrup.  I also served mine with some vanilla whipped cream.


Star Anise Versus Star Fruit

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

What do you mean these things are not the same?  You might think this is a laughable subject.  Clearly, star anise and star fruit are not the same thing.  Alas, a few months ago, I went to the grocery store in search of star anise, per my recipe, but I was looking in the produce department for star fruit.

I’m not sure how I was so convinced that star anise would be in the produce department as star fruit would be.  Thinking about it logically, anise seed would be in the spice aisle, but for some reason, I kept thinking star fruit, which I was first introduced to as a teenager and did not like.  While searching for star anise, I was exasperated that I could not find anything in the produce section.  As I eventually thought that I might be looking in the wrong place (I didn’t have cell service, so I couldn’t check my iPhone for what I should be looking for or substitutes)  I was equally exasperated when I couldn’t find anything in the spice aisle.

What was I doing wrong?  Well, note to self:  make sure you know what your ingredients are before you head to the supermarket.  So, allow me to explain the difference between these star shaped ingredients.

According to Larousse Gastronomique, star anise is the reddish-brown eight-pointed star shaped fruit of an evergreen shrub native to China, commonly used as a spice.  It is used in the West for making liqueurs and in pastry.  In Asian preparations, however, it is an ingredient of five-spice powder and used as a seasoning for meat.

Star fruit, or carambola, on the other hand, is a golden star shaped fruit native to the West Indies and Indonesia.  The flesh of this fruit is acidic, and has been described as a combination of apple, pear and citrus.

As I said, I have no reasonable explanation for how I confused these two ingredients.  So, I’m offering this post only as a cautionary tale:  make sure you know what your ingredients are.  Otherwise, you might end up wandering a South Florida Publix looking for an ingredient, while your increasingly worried family calls repeatedly without you answering.  For an explanation as to why I was looking for star anise:  stay tuned for a pear tart that received rave reviews at Thanksgiving.


Chocolate, Almond and Raspberry Tart

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Now that we’re halfway through February, I think it’s time to get started on one of my New Year’s resolutions:  to post some more recipes this year!  The following post is long overdue.  This was our Christmas dessert, and it was a big hit!

Chocolate, Almond, and Raspberry Tart (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

Picture 0482 cups ground chocolate wafer cookies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 oz almond paste

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 half pint containers of raspberries

2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

2 teaspoons kirsch

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl and stir until everything starts to stick together.

Press the crumb mixture into a tart pan, covering the bottom and sides of the pan in an even layer.  Bake the crust until it begins to crisp, about 20 minutes.  (Due to the amount of butter in the crust and the structure of a tart pan, I would recommend placing the tart pan over a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  I didn’t do this, and I almost had a major kitchen disaster on Christmas!)

Cool the crust completely on a rack.  Once it is cool, press the almond paste into an even layer over the crust.

Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to simmer.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the almond layer.  Chill the tart until the chocolate is set, about 4 hours.

Arrange the raspberries over the chocolate layer.  Mix the jam and the kirsch in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Brush the glaze over the raspberries.

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I served this with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  One of my finer baking efforts!