Monday, November 17, 2008

Cast Iron Skillet Pear Tart

Last week at my writers’ group, a couple of my writing buddies who are faithful followers of my blog (God bless them!) mentioned that I don’t have very many dessert recipes.

Well that is true, mostly because I don’t make dessert very often. When I’m having a dinner party and someone asks, “What can I bring?” I always say dessert because I know that left to my own devices, it probably won’t be on the menu because I always run out of time. I know, I know – I feel bad for my guests too.

My worst memory of the first time I cooked for the Kitchen Genius is that I made a kick-butt lasagna, but he wondered what was for dessert. Good thing that man loves my lasagna because there was no dessert.

Even on special occasions dining out, I rarely order dessert, usually because I am too full. I’ll sip a cup of coffee and have one bite of KG’s dessert and be perfectly happy. This confession rarely makes me popular and most people look at me like I’m a freak of nature, but my weakness is salt, not sugar.

In order to fit in better with the rest of the world, I’ve resolved to change my entertaining ways. With that in mind, I actually did make dessert for my impromptu dinner party last Thursday. I decided to attempt a recipe I read about years ago, but never got around to making – a cast iron skillet pear tart.

For some reason cast iron pans just make me happy. I caressed a whole bunch of them just yesterday at The Cook Shop in Lemon Tree Village in Brewster. They remind me of camping and I adore camping, but best of all they can go from stovetop to oven and that’s just what I did for this recipe.

First I melted some butter and mixed in some sugar and cinnamon. Then I carefully arranged pear slices on that caramel-like goodness and cooked them until nearly tender.

In an attempt to go all natural, I decided to use real butter, instead of my normal Butter Flavored Crisco for the crust. It was much harder to work with, and I wasn’t in love with the results. The crust had a nice flavor, but was kind of dense - nothing like the delightful flakiness I prefer in pastry.

The Kitchen Genius says that he’s read a combination of half real butter and half shortening makes the best crust, but I’m sticking to my Crisco from now on. Feel free to use whatever you prefer in the recipe and if you have any thoughts on the butter versus shortening dilemma, please share them in the comments section, because this is really bothering me. I want to like butter better.

But back to the tart…I managed to roll out the crust and carefully placed it over the caramelized pears, tucking in the edges.

The trickiest moment came after I pulled the tart out of the oven. I let it rest for about five minutes until all the bubbling calmed down and then I held my breath as I placed a plate over the top of the skillet and flipped it over. For a heartbeat nothing happened and then I felt a gentle thud as the pastry hit the plate.

Perfection! The tart came out of the pan intact, with barely a pear mussed. Even though the crust wasn’t quite what I hoped for, the tart was pretty tasty and my whole house smelled wonderful. Maybe there is something to this dessert thing…

The Recipe:

Cast Iron Skillet Pear Tart

Serves 8

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
Single crust pastry

Melt butter in a ten-inch cast iron skillet. Add sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined and bubbling. Carefully arrange pear slices in a pleasing pattern in the pan. Simmer for ten minutes, until pears are almost tender.

In the meantime, make pastry:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
5 - 6 tablespoons of ice cold water

In a mixing bowl stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until pieces are the size of baby peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over part of the mixture and gently toss until it comes together. Push to one side and repeat until all the flour mixture is moistened and easily forms into a ball.

Knead once or twice until dough comes together. Roll out to a ten inch circle and place on top of the pears. Tuck in the edges so that there is no overhang (or up-hang as the case may be).

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes (checking after 20), until crust is light brown and filling is bubbly.

Let cool for five minutes in skillet. Place a flat plate over the skillet and flip over quickly. If any pears remain in the skillet, gently scrape them and place them on tart. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

For a printable recipe click here


NKP said...

I like butter, but have the most success with Dorie Greenspan's crusts. Half unsalted butter, half regular shortening. Both frozen in little chunks before being added in the food processor. As little blending as possible.
The pear tart looks great - my kind of dessert. With a little vanilla ice cream on the side.

Mirin is sweet rice wine or sweet rice wine vinegar for cooking. :) You can find it in the Japanese or Asian section of some grocery stores.

vanillasugarblog said...

I love the Cook Shop, but thought they are so over-priced. Cute shop though.
But I like your pear tart even better. Your friends are lucky to have you!!
How about this cold? Yikes!

sj said...

oh this looks great :) I love cast iron too!

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Laurie, thanks for stopping by. I love your pear tart. Never made one wth pears, only apples, but this one is good. You asked about Mexican chocolate. The sugar in Mexican chocolate is unrefined, therefore grainy. This adds its' own unique flavor along with the cinnamon and almonds. If you prefer the smoother chocolate, use it. If you want to get a flavor of the Mexican chocolate, just add some cinnamon and almond flavoring and maybe a little coffee.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the advice Natashya! And the info on the mirin.

Dawn, it's snowing here! And yes, the Cook Shop is ridiculously expensive. That's why I only caressed the pans instead of buying them. But it's a fun place to window shop.

Glad to find a fellow cast iron devotee, Jo!

Thank you for the education about Mexican Chocolate, Teresa.

I love these foodie conversations! I'm learning so much. Hope you are too.

sj said...

you've been tagged :) go here to find out more

Alicia Foodycat said...

Congratulations - you have achieved tarte renversée aux poires! One of the classics. So don't you be putting your cooking abilities down again, OK?