Soft juicy pear slices with a hint of ginger and almond turn this Ginger Pear Tart into a luscious treat. Easy recipe for regular or gluten free pie crust included.
Sometimes you just need pie.
Growing up, we never had pie. I hardly knew what it was. Plummy streusel cakes and fruit strudels and nut strudels and buttercreamy torten – now those, I knew what they were. Poppy seed cakes, and luscious quark cheesecakes and dense honey cake – those, too.
But pie – it was something you saw in those revolving glass cases in diners (which we never ate in) and which you sometimes had at friends’ houses. It was something you watched people eat on television and which you sang about in songs – Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? But pie was not a part of the dessert offerings in our German household on the Canadian prairies when I was growing up.
It wasn’t until I met my husband and was introduced to the never-ending pie smorgasbord on offer in his home, that I really got to know what pie could be. Every weekend my mother-in-law would bake (and still does) every sort of luscious pie you could imagine – apple pie and pumpkin pie and lemon meringue pie and flapper pie and plum pie and pecan pie and lemon coconut pie and banana cream pie and of course cherry pie, just to mention a few. There are always at least six or seven varieties to choose from, in an ever-changing rotation. She is a master at making a most crisp and delicate crust – never measuring a thing. And her fillings are always luscious and full of mouthwatering flavour.
Therefore, my children have grown up definitely knowing what pie is. They have been well fed with pie at Granny and Grandpa’s house over the years. They still rarely get pie at home (because why make it when granny makes it so much better?), but every now and then I do feel an urge to bake a pie or two, especially when it’s been a while since our last visit to Granny’s kitchen (she lives too far away for a weekly pie fix).
When I have made pie, I’ve used the trusty pastry crust recipe in my old Fanny Farmer Cookbook – it’s pretty fail-safe. But in the last few years I’ve developed a gluten-free version that works just as well for me. It’s crispy and tender and a perfect foil for this lovely pear tart that made use of the bowls of juicy pears we’ve had ripening on our counter faster than we could eat them.
This is my version of pie – a kind of amalgamation of the lovely fruit Tortes of my childhood and Granny’s luscious fruit pies.
Basic Pastry Formula (Pie Crust)
from inside the front cover of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (1980)
- 1½ cups (215gms) flour (all-purpose)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 dL) shortening
- 3-4 tablespoons cold water
Mix the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or two knives. Combine lightly only until the mixture resembles coarse meal or tiny peas. Sprinkle water over the flour mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and mix lightly with a fork, using only enough water so that the pastry will hold together when pressed gently into a ball.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out 2 inches larger than the pie pan, then fit it loosely but firmly into the pan. Crimp or flute the edges.
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Gluten Free Pie Crust or Tart Pastry
from Kitchen Frau’s notebook
- ½ cup (70gms) sorghum flour
- ½ cup (80gms) sweet rice flour
- ½ cup (65gms) tapioca flour/starch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (115gms) very cold unsalted butter
- 1 large egg white (reserve yolk for filling)
- 3 tablespoons very cold water
Mix the flours and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Cut the cold butter into ½-inch (1cm) cubes and add to the flours. Cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives until the size of peas.
Add the egg white and water and stir with a fork until combined. With your fingertips, quickly and lightly (so as to melt the butter as little as possible) rub the butter and flour together. When you can take up and squeeze a handful of the dough and it keeps its shape, it is mixed well enough.
Press and form the dough into a ball. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill the disk in the refrigerator for an hour, or up to 24 hours. If you chill it more than an hour, remove it from the refrigerator about ½ hour before you wish to use it, to make it more pliable to work with.
If making tarts, cut the dough into 6 wedges and roll each one into a ball, working it lightly with your fingers. It will crack, but you can press any cracks easily back together. On a floured surface (use sorghum or sweet rice flour), roll the dough out about an inch larger than the tart shells. (You can also roll it between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap). Lift it carefully into each tart shell, and press it together to seal any cracks. This dough is quite forgiving, and easy to repair – like play dough. Take any extra bits that you trim off the edges to press into any thinner spots on the rim of each tart shell.
Or roll out the dough into one large circle to fit an 11 or 12-inch tart shell. For a large tart shell made with gluten-free flours, you will definitely need to roll it between two sheets of wax paper or plastic. Work the rolling pin from the center of the pastry and roll toward the outer edges.
Peel off the top layer of wax paper or plastic and invert the pastry into the tart pan or pie pan. Carefully peel off the remaining sheet of wax paper and ease the pastry into the pan. Flute and trim the edges.
Makes six 4½ inch tart shells or one 11 or 12 inch tart or pie shell.
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Kitchen Frau Note: This tart involves a few steps in making it, but is worth the trouble when you are looking for a special dessert for a special occasion – or just for a lovely afternoon tea. Sometimes the fiddling and making of a dessert like this is the fun part – if you have the time and feel the need for a creative outlet. All the cares of the world drop away as you roll and slice and putter. And the end result is a delectable dessert – honeyed and golden and rich with a whiff of ginger and sweet melting pears.
Ginger Pear Tart
- one recipe Basic Pastry Formula or Gluten Free Pie Crust (see above)
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ cup (30gms) almond meal/flour
- 2 tablespoons natural cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 3 large or 4 medium-sized ripe pears (any variety)
- 2 tablespoons liquid honey
- 1 tablespoon white wine or rum (or water)
- 1 tablespoon coarse decorating sugar (or regular sugar)
- a few pinches of almond meal/flour for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Fit the pastry into six 4½ inch individual tart tins, or one 11 or 12 inch tart (or even a 10 inch pie plate will work). In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with a fork until smooth. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom of the pastry in each tart tin or the larger tart.
In a small bowl mix together the almond meal, sugar and powdered ginger.
Divide it evenly among the yolk-coated tart shells, spreading it out lightly with your fingers (about 1 slightly heaped tablespoon per shell) or sprinkle evenly over the larger tart shell.
Cut the pears in half lengthwise, core them and slice them into very thin wedges. Arrange the wedges evenly in the tart shells (alternate the direction of the slices for best fit) or fan them around the large tart shell in a circle.
In a small bowl mix the liquid honey and white wine or rum. Whisk til smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the pears, using up all the mixture. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar (½ teaspoon per each individual tart shell) and a few pinches of almond meal.
Bake the tart shells for 35 to 45 minutes and the large tart pan for 45 to 55 minutes, until the juices in the center are bubbling, the pears are tender when pricked with a fork, and the crust is golden brown at the edges.
Makes 6 (4½ inch) individual tarts or one large 11 or 12 inch tart.
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