Once upon a time, there was a baker who actually didn’t like pears. Seriously, he didn’t. “They’re too mealy and dull,” he protested, “Apples are sweeter and so much more flavorful.” The delightful little pear he eschewed (yes, there is such a word) with total ignorance of all its brilliant potential.
As time went by, however, the baker noticed that there was an extra ‘something special’ about the humble pear that went far beyond your standard apple. Pears introduced a nice, mellow, and yes, vaguely apple-like flavor that was simply hard to pass by – whether they’re eaten plain, tossed in a crisp salad, baked in a homey pie or tart, or folded into an autumn crumble with tart cranberries. The baker was suddenly smitten, and wondered, “Oh pear… where have you been all my life?” Well – okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT melodramatic, but you get the picture. Humor me for a little while. (He even tried slices of pear on a burger once, if you can believe that – an autumn turkey burger, I believe it was.)
The baker tried various recipes highlighting this fabulous fruit – many to great success. Imagine his ultimate surprise when one day, he opened his cherished Baked Explorations cookbook and his eyes fell upon a gorgeous photo of a most delectable-looking pear tart – the Whiskey Pear Tart, to be exact. He vowed to one day make this recipe – notwithstanding the fact that he wasn’t a huge fan of whiskey. Sadly, the recipe was pushed aside and again, the pear relegated to the back regions of the baker’s mind while more decadent, rich, and usually chocolate-centric creations came proudly to the forefront.
Along came Baked Sunday Mornings, and with this advent, the pear tiptoed back to the baker the week of September 17th and said, “Ahem… remember me???” “Why, YES!!!”, replied the baker. “I’ve been forgotten for too long, darn it” said the pear, “and it’s time for me to come out and PARTY!!!! Lay some of that whiskey on me, baby!”
And so the baker joyfully took the pear out for a night of boozy fun by making the Whiskey Pear Tart, thanks to the guidance of the baker’s mentors, Matt and Renato. The baker first stripped off the pear’s speckled, light green skin and plunged it into a boiling-hot bath of ‘joyful’ pinot grigio, orange juice, and orange zest (toss in a good dose of sugar – a good exfoliant). After this comforting poaching, the pear finally stepped out, nice and tender, for its evening on the town. A little more sugar, fragrant vanilla extract, tingly, vibrant lemon juice and – who else? – smoky, sexy Knob Creek whiskey fast became his partying companions for the night. These luscious ingredients enjoyed an overnight party-fest together, chillin’ in the fridge the whole while. No longer did the pear need to clamor for the baker’s attention, it HAD it, after this glorious overnight whiskey bath.
Giddy and grateful, the thoroughly boozed-up pear hoped to ward off the inevitable hangover with a nice, toasty sleep… so it bedded down in a soft, creamy bed of almond cream (once again, spiked with a whisper of whiskey – hair of the dog that bites ya, you know), cradled in a buttery crust. The pear nestled cozy warm in this bed for almost 40 minutes before it was blanketed in a sticky-sweet pear, whiskey glaze (compliments of its partying companions, once again). The pear finally had its rightful place in the sun, and became part of a tasty tart in the bargain (I’ll leave that for you, dear reader, to interpret however you would like!). The baker, of course, was beyond thrilled with the success of Baked’s Whiskey Pear Tart, and felt a touch redeemed after his frustrations with the Brookster last week (see prior post)!
With one bite, it goes without saying… the pear and the baker lived happily, and lushly, ever after.
*Fairy tale aside, here are a few thoughts I had, and wanted to share, while making this delicious treat..
I had a difficult time finding the 15-ounce jarred peaches (preferably natural or organic) that Matt suggests in this recipe. I opted instead to poach my own pears. Look for good, almost ripe but still somewhat firm pears, and while you want a good wine to poach them in, it doesn’t need to be overly expensive. Believe it or not, I used the “$3-Buck-Chuck” (Charles Shaw) Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s, and it worked beautifully. You will have lots of poaching liquid when you’re done – possibly about 3-4 cups worth. When making the syrup/whiskey glaze for the tart at the end, combine about 1.5-2 cups of the poaching liquid with the marinating juices, not all of your poaching liquid – otherwise, well… you’re going to be waiting a good long while for that to reduce down to 3/4 cup.
When rolling out the chilled dough, here’s a tip to prevent cracks along the edges (I use this all the time when rolling out pie crusts and tart crusts): Take your ball of dough and gently make indentations with your knuckles along the edges of the ball. This will allow the rolling pin to make its first point of contact/pressure with the dough in the center, pressing outward, rather than on the somewhat fragile and more-chilled edges. You should see less cracks this way. If your dough still cracks, gently bring the edges together with your fingers and try pressing your knuckles in again and rolling. Be patient and gentle when rolling dough. You’re the ‘master’ of this situation, not the dough.
The whiskey syrup/glaze you will make at the end? Divine. It’s pretty concentrated and sweet, and it will make more than you need to glaze your tart, but if you enjoy the taste, I would suggest you save it in a glass container in your fridge and use it to drizzle on pound cake, waffles, or pancakes. Repurpose – reuse. It’s all delightful!
As suggested in the recipe, serve this promptly, or within the day you make it. Sadly, tarts like this have a limited life, and they do tend to get soggy overnight. Call a few friends over, pour some whiskey shots, and feast on this tart, Trust me, after a hard week at work, they may just thank you a thousandfold for it.
Now… go treat yourself – and those humble pears – and make this recipe. It’s amazing: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/09/17/in-the-oven-whiskey-pear-tart