Issue 8. It's the one I'm having a love affair with at the moment. And yes, you guessed right, it's a Donna Hay Magazine- the autumn issue, number 8.
So far I have baked this, this and this from issue 8 and it’s not stopping there. Somehow Miss Hay has managed to compile all of my favourite cold weather recipes into this one issue. There’s a lot more where that came from and there’s still a gaggle of recipes I have book marked and there’s still a whole month of winter left. You still haven’t seen all of issue 8.
And obviously you haven’t seen the last of Donna Hay. If I could paint a picture of how I want my dream kitchen to look like, well it would look like a Donna Hay Magazine- clean and crisp, modern with a few vintage twists. I absolutely love her taste, and not to mention the eye candy in every issue, it’s food porn at its grandest. And I actually hate calling it food porn, because it sounds rather vulgar, but unfortunately it is probably the most apt way of describing it.
Anyway, enough of the love struck fanatical prose about Miss Hay. I don’t know how I went through the whole season of autumn without making anything using pears. Luckily I found these beautiful beurre bosc pears at Aboutlife, still at their peak. I usually start looking for pears as soon as autumn rolls in, however this season it seems as if my attention was directed elsewhere. So here I am to rectify this gross neglect.
Beurre Bosc pears are characterised by their unique rich yellow russeted skin, its creamy firm and juicy flesh, which makes it ideal for desserts, especially poaching. This tart starts off, with pears that are poached in a vanilla syrup and then arranged over pastry filled with almond frangipane.
The tart is decadent without being too much, if you know what I mean. The almond filling is spongy and light but provides that little bit of richness while the vanilla-soaked pears provides the sugar rush. It’s a great combination of flavours and textures.
Making the tart is quite therapeutic too. Poaching the pears perfumes the air with a beautiful fragrance of vanilla and making the pastry, as in, massaging and rolling out the dough can be quite a soothing exercise. As long as you aren’t making these tarts in a hurry, the whole process, although somewhat lengthy can be satisfying in the end. Especially when the reward at the end is biting into one of the tarts.
I never knew pastry making to be so relaxing; tart making for me usually ends in a big fluster where I am all wound up at the end, barely enjoying the finished result. I have never had much finesse with pastry, but this time because, I left the tarts rather unfinished-rustic, so to speak, I wasn’t so hung up about them looking so pretty like I normally do. I never seem to make pretty tart cases anyway and I thought there was no reason to force it now. So the guise of these un-pretty tarts is, rustic. And that works for me. But if you are a pastry virtuoso, then by all means, pretty the tart up.
The tarts come out of the oven golden and aromatic. You can bake them slightly longer and brush the tops with the extra vanilla syrup to get more caramelised pears, or you can just leave them as is. I made both and preferred the more caramelised version, but really it's up to you. If you ever try these tarts, try to use beurre bosc pears, as they are perfect for this type of cooking.
Rustic Vanilla Pear and Almond Tarts
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine (Issue 8)
FOR THE PASTRY
145g unsalted butted, chilled an cubed
2 cups plain all-purpose flour
¼ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp ice water
FOR THE PEARS
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
¼ cup maple syrup
3 beurre bosc pears, halved and cored
FOR THE FILLING
75g unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 cup almond meal
2 tbsp plain all-purpose flour
1½ tbsp Bailey’s Irish Crème
TO MAKE THE PASTRY
Place the butter, flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a soft dough.
Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
POACHING THE PEARS
Place the water, sugar, vanilla bean or extract and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the pears and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove from the saucepan and allow to cool on a chopping board.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out pastry between two sheets of parchment paper to 3mm thick and line 6 tart tins.
Allow for some dough to overhang on the edges.
Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pie weights.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove the weights and paper and bake for another 10 minutes or until just light brown.
Remove pastry shells from the oven and set aside to cool.
TO MAKE THE ALMOND FILLING
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and creamy.
Beat in the egg and then fold in the almond meal, flour and Bailey’s.
Spread the filling over the pastry making sure you cover the base completely.
Slice the poached pears and arrange them over the almond filling.
Bake the tart for 50 minutes.
(Alternatively you can brush the tarts with the left over syrup and bake them a little longer or until the pears are slightly caramelised.)
Serve at room temperature with a thick dollop of cream.