Monday, December 12, 2011

Pear & Custard Tart

Custard. Shortbread. Pears. This stuff is begging to be made into a tart.




So I complied! Over Thanksgiving weekend, my family hosted a tapas-style dinner party, and I wanted to create a dessert. While I usually tend to a go a bit chocolate overboard, a fruit tart seemed like the perfect pairing to paella and tortilla espanola.

I browsed a million recipes, followed none of them exactly, and came up with this. A pretty standard custard with a generous dose of cinnamon and nutmeg was just what those pears were asking for. And in a buttery shortbread crust, what could go wrong?



Pear & Custard Tart

Makes two 9" tarts

Shortbread Crust (adapted from Ina Garten's shortbread hearts)

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2-3 fresh pears, peeled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll into 2 flat disks. Wrap them in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out (or press, if need be) dough into tart pans to 1/4 inch thickness (you may have a little extra - you can roll these out into cut-out cookies!). Pre-bake (more to come later) in 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. Set aside.

Arrange peeled pear slices in a pretty (or just functional) design in your crusts.

Custard Filling

3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or any combination of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, etc.)
2 cups heavy cream

Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and spices until combined in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Pour cream into egg mixture while hot, whisking constantly.

Divide custard into the two tart crusts, pouring over pear slices. Top with another sprinkle of cinnamon on each tart.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes - the custard should be set but still have a jiggly center. Cover with aluminum foil after 10 minutes to prevent crust from over-browning.

Cool on wire racks and then place in refrigerator until ready to serve. I'd strongly recommend a slice with fresh whipped cream and a glass of red (Spanish) wine. And it wouldn't hurt to get someone to make a huge pan of delicious paella to eat beforehand.

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