I made this a few months ago, but haven’t had a chance to post it. Actually, I made this before I even started the blog, back when it was nothing more than an ethereal dream.
It was the end of January and we were having surprisingly warm weather, I’m talking short sleeves and suntan lotion weather. January 30th happened to be Tu B’Shvat, the agricultural new year on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated by eating as many different varieties of fruit and nuts that you can find. Many people outside Israel also try to eat fruit that was grown in Israel. I wanted to make a dessert that incorporated this theme. Also, I love making fruit-based desserts, I’m not sure if that is obvious yet.
I was leafing through “Baking: From My home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan, and I came across this recipe. It was perfect because it used fruits that are in season in the winter and it is very unique. Rocker dude was a little skeptical because he is not a fan of nuts unless he is eating them plain, out of hand. I told him that as a compromise, I would not put the candied pistachios on top and that I would strain the ground pistachios out of the pastry cream. This is one of the first desserts that I have made with a number of components, I was excited.
This is what was left:
The poached pears provided no challenge as my mother has made poached pears in wine as an appetizer many times (serve it over some kiwi sauce, it is great in the summer!) and I learned how to make them many years ago.
I have even made pastry cream before, which is why this recipe was so ideal, it brought together elements that I already knew in something completely new (like the homonyms there?). I cooked the pistachios into the pastry cream and then strained them out after, for two reasons, a. because I promised Rocker Dude and b. because I didn’t have pareve sour cream and I was making this to be eaten after a meat meal. Conveniently, Dorie thought of all this and the recipe is easily adaptable to those in my situation.
I’m pretty sure that I did not slice the pears exactly as was directed by the recipe, but they still came out looking perfect.
We brought this dessert to our friends’ J. and M. (who by the way, has a birthday today – Happy Birthday!!). They were very impressed and J. especially loved the pistachio pastry cream. When Rocker Dude and I were walking home after that filling lunch and poor Little Rocker was falling asleep in her stroller, I asked his opinion of the dessert (he was the only one who left something on his plate). He said that there was something wrong with the cream – he doesn’t like creamy desserts. I reminded him of the fruit tart that I had made in the past that he loved. I then told him that there were pistachios in the cream (or at least the flavor), and he reminded me that he doesn’t like nutty anything. Since that day, I have not taken his opinion into account when nuts are involved.
For those of you who are unaware, Passover is coming and that means no more flour or any leavened products in the house – or anything that doesn’t say on it “Kosher for Passover”. I started cleaning the house of all crumbs – and spring cleaning while we are at it – a few weeks ago, but now we are coming down to the wire and cleaning up the last of the kitchen. I have been scrubbing baby hand prints off the cabinets for the past couple of days – lesson for the future, don’t try to clean and have a baby around – so counterproductive. So I will be taking a break soon in posting, or maybe I will post my Passover baking – it’s actually not too bad. Maybe I should make this tart again to take my mind off it.
2/3 cup shelled pistachios (not red ones)
7 tbsp. sugar
1 1/3 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
3 tbsp. cornstarch, sifted
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup sour cream (if you do not strain the nuts out of the cream)
3 cups fruity red wine (Shiraz, Syrah or Zinfandel)
Zest of one orange, removed in wide strips
zest of one lemon, removed in wide strips
3/4 cup sugar
5 ripe but firm pears
small lemon wedge
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. water
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, slightly warm or at room temperature
Poaching syrup from pears
2 tbsp. honey
1 9 inch tart shell (see tart shell recipe here)
To make cream:
Put the pistachios and 3 tbsp. sugar into a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Turn the nuts into a heavy-bottomed sauce pa, add the milk and bring to a boil. While the milk is heating, whisk together the remaining 4 tbsp. sugar, the yolks and the cornstarch in a bowl. When they are well-blended, whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Whisking constantly, drizzle one quarter of the hot milk to temper the yolks so that they don’t cook. Then add the remaining milk in a steady stream. Pour this mixture back into the pot and, over medium heat while whisking vigorously, bring to a boil. Boil, whisking for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat. You can then scrape the pastry cream into a bowl in which case it will not be smooth, or you can press the cream through a strainer to remove the nuts. Piece by piece, stir the butter into the cream.
Scrape the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream’s surface and refrigerate or at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
To Poach Pears:
Put the wine, citrus zests and sugar into a large narrow pot that will hold the pears snugly. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the pears and immediately rub them with lemon to keep them from darkening. Reduce the heat under the pot so that the wine simmers gently and put the pears into the pot. Cut a circle of parchment or wax paper to fit inside the pot and press the paper against the tops of the pears. Partially cover the pot and simmer, turning the pears as needed so that they are evenly colored, for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove the pan from heat. Transfer the pears to a heatproof bowl or container and pour over the poaching syrup. Cool to room temperature.
To Caramelize Pistachios:
Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on the counter near the stove. Put the sugar and water in a small nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. then bring to a boil and cook without stirring until the sugar becomes an amber colored caramel. Add the nuts and stir, without stopping, until the sugar becomes a dark caramel color and coats the nuts. Turn the nuts out onto the prepared paper or baking mat, spreading them out as best you can.
When the nuts are cool, coarsely chop them. Store in a cool, dry place.
About 30 minutes before you assemble the tart, remove the pears from the poaching syrup, pour the syrup into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the honey and boil until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into a container and chill.
To assemble the tart:
Cut pears lengthwise in half, scoop out the cores and trim the stems and center veins as needed. Place the pears cut side down on a triple layer of paper towels. Cover with more paper towels and pat the pears dry. Leave them between the paper towels until the excess liquid is absorbed. When the pears are dry, cut each pear half lengthwise into 4-6 slices. If you did not strain the pistachios out of the cream then mix in the sour cream to thin the pastry cream a little. Spread the pastry cream in the baked tart shell. Top the pastry cream with the pear slices, arranging them in concentric circles. Scatter caramelized pistachios over the tart, and you can serve each slice with some wine sauce. the tart can be covered and kept in the refrigerator up to four hours.