Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pear Crostata

E xperimented on my friends again today. I don't really see them as guinea pigs, and I certainly hope they don't feel that way. Often though, I try things for the first time when asked to bring something for a pot-luck. It's that "sink or swim" method that I, for some weird reason, seem to enjoy. "I sure hope this works, because if it doesn't, there's no time to make something else". Maybe I don't have enough stress in my life. Although, if you really think about the term "pot-luck", maybe I shouldn't feel bad: Pot/dish of food and Luck/element of chance. I'm simply contributing to an ancient and cherished cultural tradition. Think about it, if I only brought dishes that were a "sure thing"... how then is the "luck" aspect to be represented?

Today I made a Pear Crostata based on my favorite Peach/Plum Crostata* recipe. Not exactly flying blind, I'll admit, but still I had no idea how the pears would act, or what proportions of stuff to mix with them, etc. My tendency is to lean on a recipe like a person with a broken leg leans on crutches. I need it to support me and take some pressure off, but eventually find that there are times when I can set it aside and hop around on one foot.

So this is me, doing my part to preserve our rich history... without crutches.

Pear Crostata
[[Original pastry recipe is no longer available. New recipe has been posted and link added below]]

1/2 recipe of Prodigal Pastry
zest and juice of one lemon
1/8 cup flour
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
5 large pears (or the equivalent)
1 small handful of cranberries

Prepare the pastry according to the recipe. Roll out to a 14" circle (don't worry if it's not perfectly round). Put pastry back into fridge, either on a baking sheet or loosely rolled between two pieces of plastic wrap.

Pre-heat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, mix together the lemon, flour, sugar and spices. Peel and core the pears, then cut them into 1/4" slices (or 1/2" cubes). Work with one pear at a time, dropping the slices into the mixture in the large bowl and stirring them gently every so often. Chop the cranberries (not too fine), and set aside.

Take the rolled out pastry from the fridge, and if not already on a baking sheet, center it on one now. Using your hands or a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit from the bowl to the pastry surface. Do not dump the fruit from the bowl onto the pastry! Spread/arrange the fruit evenly over the pastry, leaving a 2" border around the edge. Discard any extra liquid on the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the chopped cranberry evenly over the pears.

Fold edges of pastry inward, and lightly press the folds that form as you go around. Brush the folded edge with a little water and sprinkle with sugar. If it's warm in the kitchen, or if (like me) it takes longer than you thought it would to arrange the fruit and play with the edges, pop the whole thing (pan and all) back into the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes, then drop oven temp to 375° and bake for another 25, or until crust is nice and golden/amber colored. Let rest on pan for 5-10 minutes, then carefully slide onto a rack to finish cooling. After that, I usually slide it onto a big cutting board and cut it into wedges with a pizza-cutter.

Notes: Overall, it turned out well. My biggest complaint was that I should have made two of them. Alway make more than you think you'll need. It was a little heavy on the cardamom (corrected amount is listed). The pear slices did not hold up during the careful stirring part. Next time I'll dice them instead. Try increasing the amount of cranberries and tossing them with the pears. Try ginger instead of the cardamom. Still not a fan of baking with pears. If they're firm enough to work with, they're unripe; if they're ripe, they'll fall apart and not hold their shape. They do taste lovely though.

*I'm noticing that all the crostati I've made use fruit that begins with the letter-"P". I was planning on trying apple next, but maybe I should use papaya or persimmon instead? Or would Pippins be o.k.?
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