Generally, I'm not a fan of pears. Although I like their flavor, I find them mealy and mushy. Except for Asian pears, which are fabulous with hunks of fresh Parmesan, I never buy pears. Until I saw this dessert for tartlettes with mascarpone cream and poached pears.
The recipe called for mini pears, which I was drawn to because they're so darn cute. But I imagined in my head that they would be a bit more firm than a regular pear. Plus when they're poached they soften up anyways so the mealy-ness would get a bit masked by the sweet syrup. And boy was I right! These pears were fabulous, and in my opinion made the entire dessert.
I'd never poached pears before and was blown away by the flavor and texture. Plus, there's nothing like using a fresh vanilla bean and white wine in your desserts.
They still tend to float a bit, so in order to keep them fully submerged, cover your pears with a piece or 2 of parchment paper, with a hole cut out the center to allow steam to escape.
I also made a flaky and tender tart pastry using a unique method I learned from David Lebovitz using melted butter. The resulting crust was almost like a pie crust, but a bit flakier in texture. I only wish there was more of it- it was a relatively thin crust. And next time I'll add pie weights or beans when blind baking the pastry to prevent it from puffing up so much.
The filling for this dessert was super heavy on the mascarpone. I love me some mascarpone so you'd think I'd enjoy it more than I did, but to be honest I didn't love it. I felt it was too dense and too mascarponey. I think I would have preferred some type of pastry cream, or a whipped mascarpone filling instead. The boy didn't complain though, in fact he quite liked it, so maybe it's just me. Perhaps when the recipe is made in tartlettes, as originally called for, the ratio of dough to filling would have been better. Ahhh well, you never really know how you'll like something until you give it a try.
The original recipe for the entire dessert came from Lulu's Sweet Secrets. While her almond crust sounded absolutely delicious, I didn't plan enough in advance to make the crust the day before. So it's going on my to-do list for a future dessert tart. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!
Hot tip for cooking with wine: buy these little bottles of Sutter Home wine. They're cheap, and the perfect size for most recipes. This recipe for poached pears used exactly 1 mini bottle.
Poached pears in white wine, from Lulu's Sweet Secrets and tips from David Lebovitz
Adapted from the book Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater
4 small pears (Seckel pears or another hard varietiy)
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup / 200g sugar
A vanilla pod
1 tbsp honey
heaping 3/4 cup (200 ml) white wine (Lulu recommends Sauternes wine, or other sweet wine, but I just used this Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc and felt the pears were sweet enough)
1 2/3 cups water (400 mL)
- Wipe the pears and cut each one in half lengthwise (no need to peel them as you can either leave it on [as I did] or easily slip the skin off once they're cooked). Put into a deep saucepan with the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, wine, and water. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Flip pears cut side up and cover with 1 - 2 sheets of parchment paper, making sure a hole is cut out the center for steam to escape.
- Let the pears cook gently until they are completely tender to the point of a knife. This will take a good forty-five minutes, maybe longer. Don’t even think about undercooking then.
- Remove the pears to a plate and increase the heat to high. Boil down the liquid until your desired consistency. I probably boiled it for another 5 - 10+ minutes until it was syrupy (but still liquid).
Small cracks in the dough are normal so I wouldn’t use this for a thin, custardy filling, although it works well filled with chocolate ganache and I would imagine it would be lovely filled with fresh berries resting on a base of pastry cream.
Do be careful with the hot bowl of butter. Not only will the butter spatter a bit when you add the flour, but it’s uncommon to have a very hot bowl on the counter and easy to simply give in the urge to grab it with your bare hands.
90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 g (5oz, or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour
- Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).
- In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.
- Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.
- When done, remove the bowl from oven (and be careful, since the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom (or 14" x 4" tart pan like mine) and spread it a bit with a spatula.
- Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. (I suggest using pie weights for this step, as my crust got quite the bulge on it that cracked when I pressed it down after it had cooled.)
- Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them. It is best to pinch off a small amount of the reserved dough, roll it gently between your fingers to soften it, then wedge it into the cracks, smoothing it gently with your pinky.
- Let the shell cool before filling.
2 gelatin sheets (1/2 TBSP [4 g] powdered gelatin)
¼ cup (60) ml heavy cream
just under ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 cups (400 g) mascarpone
- Place the gelatin sheets or powdered gelatin in a small bowl of very cold water. Allow to soften for 10 minutes. If using gelatin sheets, drain them, squeezing hard to remove all excess liquid.
- In a saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and incorporate the drained gelatin. Allow to cool completely.
- Using a wooden or rubber spatula, first mix the mascarpone by itself in a bowl until smooth. Continue to mix and little by little, pour in the cold mixture above. Fill the cooled baked tarts shell with mascarpone cream. Freeze for 20 minutes until the cream is firm.
- Finishing the tart by placing the pear on top of the cream and spooning some of the addition syrup over the tart