Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pear and Gruyère Tartlets (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

So first of all,

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

This kicks off my favorite season of the year.

I kind of start to giggle.  Like a little girl.

It's bad.

But this time of year is so fun.  It's full of cozy clothes, family, friends, and good food.

And there is so much to be thankful for.
I'm sure by now you've read countless lists from every journalist, celebrity, neighbor and friend of thoughtful, wonderful things we all are thankful for.

Good job.
Free country.
Awesome family.
God.
Clean bill of health.
Supportive friends.

And don't get me wrong.  I'm grateful for all those things too.  Very, very grateful.

But what about all the other things I appreciate that maybe aren't as acceptably "mainstream."

1) Like Emily Blunt.

The chick dated Michael Buble, then went and married John Krasinski.

My top two.

Mad props to her.
The fact that such a human being exists is enough for me.

2) Or Dry Shampoo

Because it's no ones business but my own that I haven't washed my hair in 4 days.

3) How about Windex?

What better smart aleck suggestion do you give your friend when they come to you about a weird growth?  What am I, a doctor?

4) The 80's

As a female with curly hair, I can't think of anyone more grateful that we're on the other side of that hair experimentation.

5) Red Lipstick

Nothing instantly makes people treat you like a movie star more.  "Oh, wow, you look stunning." "Red is definitely your color."  "Where are you going, a premiere?"  "Shoot, gurl, how long you spend doin' dat?"  Uh, my hair is in a bun and I'm re-wearing this skirt for like the 28th time, but "thanks!"

6) Autobiographies.

Because I'm nosy.  And not only is the juice better from the source, but it's basically a plea to all who will listen.  Oh, politeness prevents me from saying no to that!

7) Twilight.

Because you either make an instant friend or a mortal enemy.  And that's kind of funny.

8) Tattoos.

They inform me at first glance that you are not a pretentious snob.  Walking down an alley might make me uncomfortable, but my presence there doesn't bother you in the slightest.

9) Stairs.

I don't see an obstacle.  I see toned thighs.  Sure the top half of me is dying an oxygen deprived death, but my legs say "muchas gracias." And if you wear dresses as much as I do, that's all that matters.     

10) And finally, Pushing Daisies.

Because it's sickeningly sweet and wonderful.  A couple who can never touch?  Talk about tension.  Plus, dead people come back to life and Kristen Chenoweth sings sappy love songs in her head.  It's pretty great.

Oh, and it's the inspiration for this weeks post.

Granted, the signature Pear and Gruyere Cheese was actually a pie in that show...and drugged up with some anti-depressants.  I did mention inspiration, right?

Yep.  Okay, we're good.
Oh guys.

Not to toot my own horn, but I outdid myself this week.

I mean I gave myself 5 Stars.  I've only done that one other time (remember Snickerdoodle Blondies?)

I wanted to make something that was more individually sized and a little rustic.

Hence the tart...err tart-lets.

And keeping the skins on.

Crusts intimidate me because they can be oh-so-great, so-so, or chip-a-tooth-rock-hard.

I've made a few crusts in the past and they've never been the latter (thank goodness), but it was never "boast" worthy.

But guess what?
Boom.
I'm a pie crust master now.

Mostly because I found this amazingly detailed recipe.  Researched a few pie crust tips.  Took copious notes and snapped photographs of the whole process.

So you can be a pie crust master too!

Now THAT'S something to be thankful for.
Perfect Pie Crust
adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker. My new best friend!

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp of Salt
1 Cup (2 sticks) of Butter
1/2 Cup Ice Water (more or less)

For this recipe:
3oz of Grated Gruyere Cheese

Makes enough for 2 - 9inch pie crusts or 8 tartlets.
Chill time required.  At least 30min before (butter and flour) and 1 hour afterwards.
A very helpful source: Pie Crust Tips

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Pear Filling
adapted from theKitchn
3 Pounds of Bartlett or Anjou Pears (approx. 6 pears)
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Port Wine (I used a Ruby Port)
1 1/2 Cups of Water
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cinnamon stick (if desired you can substitute 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 egg, beaten (used to egg wash the crust)
For the Crust:

Before you start.
Here are some thoughts to keep with you while making crust.
a) Cold. Cold. Cold.  Think "cold."  Every ingredient should be thoroughly chilled.  I read that nothing
    should reach below 60F degrees.  So I froze everything.  The cubes of butter.  The flour and salt
    mixture in a bowl.  Because when you start working the dough with your hands, things heat up.
b) Flaky crust comes from having chunks of butter left in the flour.  Then when it cooks you have
    pockets of goodness.  So you don't want to mix everything until is all blended.  Mix well, but not to
    death.  And with that we begin...

1) Place two sticks of butter in the freezer for 30 mins. Measure out 2 1/2 cups of flour in a medium
     bowl.  Add 1 tsp of salt.  Whisk or mix together.  Place bowl in freezer.  
*Tip: The proper way to measure flour is to scoop spoonfuls into the measuring cup and then flatten off
          with a knife.  Packing the flour in (unless specifically requested) results in too much flour.
2) If you are lazy like me and the thought of getting out a food processor to make two measly crusts
    makes you want to never bake again, then this recipe is for you!!!  After the cubes of butter are
    chilled take one out at a time and grate them using the larger side of a cheese grater.  Try to work
    quickly so the butter doesn't melt.  If you notice things softening up, you can always place it back in
    the freezer for awhile.
3) Put the butter shreds in bowl with the flour and freeze for a few minutes.  While that is chilling, get
    some ice water ready.  You will probably end up needing about 1/2 cup, but I made more for good
    measure.
4) Toss the butter and flour mixture together with your fingers until all the butter is coated in flour.  The 
     butter should still be chunky.  
5) With a spatula fold the dough, adding 2 Tbsp of ice water at a time.  I ended up using about 16 Tbsp.  
    You may need more or less.  Keep folding in more water until the dough starts sticking together.  
6) Carefully fold the dough with your hands until it is in one nice lump.  
7) If you are going to make tartlets divide the dough into eight equal parts.  Otherwise divide in half.
8) Place the portion of dough on a piece of Saran Wrap.  Place an additional piece of Saran Wrap on
    top and flatten the portion slightly into a small disk.  Repeat this for the remaining sections and
    refrigerate for at least an hour.  You can store these in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and the freezer
    3+ months.
For Pear Filling: 

1) Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  

*Tip: I know nothing about port.  Only that, I like it.  But I didn't want to spend $10+ on a bottle for  
          some tarts.  So I was reduced to deciding between the cheapest options: tawny and ruby.  I've 
          read that if you are going to go cheap, Ruby is the way to go.  Tawny is better and has more 
          complexities as you go up the price chart.  
Side Bar: I used vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract.  Don't go out and buy it, but supposedly it's 
                better. (Learned that lesson when I made Root Beer Float Cupcakes.) Got to use it while I 
                have it, though.  
2) Wash the pears well.  Then core and slice into thin pieces.  You can leave the skins on!!  I tried
     keeping them at 1/4" inch chunks.
3) In a large sauce pan, add sugar, wine, water, vanilla, salt, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon stick.
    Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  In the meantime, place a medium sized bowl into the
    freezer to chill.  (You'll use this to help stop the cooking process of the pears later)
4) Add the pear pieces to the boiling mixture.  Lower heat to medium-low.  And let them simmer for 
    about 20 minutes or until the slices are tender.  (I taste tested a few because with the skins on you
    want to make sure they aren't too tough before you take them out.)
*Tip: I carefully, stirred the pears to make sure each piece was getting enough heat.  Because you want 
         them to maintain their shape since the tart is open-faced, you have to be pretty gentle.  I took a 
         large slotted spoon and brought the pear slices from the bottom to the top.  More like a folding    
         method as opposed to stirring.  Honestly, do what works for you.  
5) Once slices are tender enough, use the slotted spoon to remove them and place into the chilled bowl. 
    You may need to drain some liquid out of the bowl back into the pot.
6) Set pears aside, and return the liquid back to a boil.  You want to continue to keep it at a boil until
    the mixture becomes a thicker syrup. There should be about 3/4 cups worth.  This method is called
    Reducing.
7) Pour syrup into a cup and add 2 tsp of cornstarch to thicken.  Stir well.  Then place into the fridge to
    chill.  This is just while you prepare the crusts.
8) Grate about 3 oz of Gruyere cheese (use the small grates this time).
*Tip: It's not absolutely necessary, but a pastry cloth (especially if you are going to be making tartlets)
         is a life saver.  You can flour it, the dough rolls nicely, it's an easy clean up, and makes
         transferring the tarts to the baking sheet a breeze.
9) Unwrap a portion of dough, add a little mound of cheese and place saran wrap back on top, flip over
    and do the same thing.  Roll the dough out slightly in the wrap, just until the cheese is well pressed
    into the dough.
10) Unwrap the disk and flour well.  Dust the board/cloth, rolling pin, and top of the crust too.
11) Continue to roll out the dough until it is about the diameter of your hand.  
*Tip: Try to keep dough at the center of the circle thicker.  This part will be holding the bulk of the 
         weight and needs to be able to hold up during any transfer.  Once you get it near the right size just 
         continue to roll out the edges, leaving the center untouched.  
12) Layer an eighth of the pear slices into the center of the disk, leaving about an inch around for the 
      edge.  You can make two rows or try to go in a circular pattern.  
13) Drizzle some syrup over the pears. 
14) To create the edges, take a section, lift it up over the pears and pinch it between your fingers.  Press 
       it over to one side and repeat until complete.  Make sure the little flaps are pressed down enough as 
       they tend to pop back out in the oven.  
15) Carefully transfer the completed tartlet onto a foil/parchment paper lined baking sheet.  (This is
      where the pastry cloth comes in handy.  You can just pick it up and transfer the whole thing into
      your hand.  Otherwise just make sure to THOROUGHLY flour the board and bottom of the dough
      before rolling).
16) Using a brush or your finger, rub the beaten egg along the top edge of the crust.  *Optional: top the
      entire tartlet with extra gruyere cheese.  I used more of a cheese "fleck" for this part.
17) You can bake four tarts at a time on the same baking sheet.  Place in oven, on the middle rack and
      cook for approximately 30-40 minutes.  I actually ended up cooking mine for 45 minutes, but it all 
      depends on the oven. The crust should be golden and not at all doughy.  You should start to see the
      filling bubble up as well.  (There will be a lot of grease from the cheese on the bottom, fyi).
18) Remove tartlets from oven and allow to cool on sheet for 1 minute.  Then place on cooling rack and
      allow to cool completely.  You can store any extra in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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Weekend wishes from Archie The Cat 
Bring on the holidays!














5 comments:

  1. I really like your crust tutorial. Especially the pics!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! This crust is sooo good. Definitely a little messy, all that butter. :)

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  2. Oh my this looks so good. Thanks tons for the recipe. I would love to have you link up to my ongoing Holiday Baking Party @ http://www.astrollthrulife.net/2013/11/holiday-baking-party.html. Hope to see you there. Hugs, Marty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Marty. I'll be sure to go and link up!

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  3. Thanks for joining the party, these will be a fabulous addition to my holidays. Hugs, Marty

    ReplyDelete