Before embarking on my clean-eating endeavor, I was determined to make use of the pie dough I’d squirreled away in the freezer. Fortunately, the opportunity nearly fell into my lap at the last minute: a friend’s barbecue, the day before the program. I woke up, went to a doctors appointment, ran errands, and still had time to pull this tart, freshly baked, from the oven come noon.
Credit must be given, however — I did get some help. The grocer at my local market, spying the ingredients in my basket, asked if I’d be making pie. “Yes!” I enthused, at which point he figuratively took me by the hand and led me back to the produce aisle. “Bosch pears are much better for baking,” he intoned, waving his arm towards a display of fruit that I’d somehow overlooked. He picked out three perfectly ripe specimens for me and sent me on my way. Armed with my grocer’s blessing, I abandoned fussy recipes and let the fruit shine.
Salted caramel pear tart
There were a few things I omitted writing up this recipe, since, in hindsight, I’m not sure that they contributed to the final product. Namely, I had first conceived of this as a “rustic” almond and pear tart (using almond extract and actual almonds). After tasting the finished tart, however, it’s clear that those bold salted caramel notes need no nut accompaniment.
- 1 pie crust (I used the foolproof recipe by Cook’s Illustrated here), blind-baked
- 3 medium-sized Bosch pears, preferably very ripe
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 scant teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon slivered almonds (preferably toasted)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel, core and cut the pears. I cut each one into quarters lengthwise for purposes of vanity, but I imagine cubes would do just as fine (and potentially even make for a more even filling).
- Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add sugars and cook on medium heat until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. At this point, you can take it off the heat or continue cooking for deeper caramelization. Taste the sauce and use your palate and preferences to guide you.
- Add the pears and salt. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure to coat the pears in the caramel sauce. The pears may release some liquid. Be careful not to overcook the pears; you want them to have picked up some of the caramel sauce, but to still be firm to the touch.
- Lift the pears from the caramel sauce (using a fork, tongs or chopsticks) and arrange them in the pie crust. Bake for 5-10 minutes while you finish the caramel sauce in the pan.
- Add the extract to the caramel sauce and warm, adjusting the temperature to make sure it doesn’t burn. When it reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and immediately pour over tart. (Mine got a little thicker than desired — I’d recommend getting it to a nice, syrup-y density, knowing that it’ll firm up further when cool.) Optional: add lemon zest for some brightness.
- Remove the tart from the oven and pour the sauce over the pears. Optional: Top with almonds. Enjoy warm (and ideally with a scoop of vanilla ice cream).