A Little Slice of Heaven
This dessert is arguably right up there in my all-time top five favourite desserts. It’s a spin on the classic French tarte Tatin I made from a recipe by David Lebovitz. The poaching liquid is ambrosial—the beautiful fresh Bosc pears are poached in an entire bottle of a fruity organic Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a cinnamon stick, several fresh slices of lemon, a few Tellicherry black peppercorns, honey and a quarter cup of my tantalizing homemade raspberry sauce. You’ll have to stop yourself from drinking the poaching liquid after you’ve poached your pears. And the poaching liquid only hints at the incredibly complex flavours of the finished reduction sauce. Sound incredibly delicious? It is.
This recipe was recently published on David’s blog and the second I saw it I immediately knew that I had to try making it (in fact, I’ve made it twice already—we simply can’t get enough of it). The recipe is a definite keeper—a scrumptious treat we’ll be having every winter when the summer pears are no more and the Bosc pears grace us with their steady presence in the markets. For me, making this tart is a perfectly cozy way to while away a winter’s day.
How to Bake a Little Slice of Heaven
I love multi-step culinary projects requiring more than a day to prepare. And, happily for me, Red Wine Poached Pear Tart is one of them. While you can poach your pears and make the tart on the same day, the flavours are much deeper if you are patient and allow your pears to steep in the poaching liquid for at least a full 24 hours.
First, start by shopping for the most beautiful winter pears you can find, such as Bosc pears (winter pears stand up to poaching better than summer pears). Be choosy picking your pears. Have fun with it.
Before you begin, don’t forget to admire the perfection of these bodacious beauties. (I’m always enamoured with their whimsical shape. It gives them personality—they remind of a gorgeous curvy woman, or a Hershey Kiss).
I’m a firm believer that our moods are transmitted into the food we prepare. Food lovingly prepared by an appreciative hand always tastes better. Don’t believe me? Just read Like Water for Chocolate (a delightful novel by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel).
After a moment of quiet pear appreciation, begin by preparing your red wine poaching liquid.
I enjoy reading tasting notes on wine labels. It’s an art, and finely crafted wine notes such as the one found on this bottle make me happy.
If you like fruity wines, you’ll love this one. The tasting notes didn’t lie. The only problem with using a good wine is that you may have to restrain yourself from drinking most of it… (or not!).
Next, peel, halve and core your pears (leave the stem on one half of your peeled pear—it makes the tart more beautiful). Then get out that melon-baller you hardly ever use. It’s such a fun kitchen tool and I don’t get to use it often enough. It’s the perfect tool for removing pear cores—I love this part.
Remove the hard bit of fibre opposite the stem as best you can. Some of those fibrous thingies (don’t you just love how useful a word that is?) run deeper than others. (For anyone who cares to know, I looked up what to call that fibrous thingy you find opposite the stems of most fruit and discovered that it is the remains of the fruit blossom–the remnants of the sepals, stamens and stigma). Don’t be horrified if you must remove a bigger chunk than you’d really like to.
Gently slide your pears into the simmering poaching liquid and cover with a round of parchment paper with a coin sized hole cut in the centre (to allow the steam to escape). The pears want to float up above the wine and the parchment helps the parts that rise above the liquid from oxidizing as they poach, which turns them a brownish colour.
Some people don’t bother with this step as the pears eventually turn dark red anyway. But I always do a round of parchment as I think it helps the pears poach more evenly. I highly recommend reading David Lebovitz’s post, How to Make Poached Pears.
Once your pears are poached, immediately remove them from the hot poaching liquid using a slotted spoon (to stop them from continuing to cook in the hot liquid). Allow both the pears and the liquid to cool.
When the liquid is tepid, strain it back into the container(s) you will store your pears in. Cover and place in the refrigerator to steep, ideally for one to three days.
Immediately after poaching, the pears will be pinkish in colour, but after 24 hours of steeping in the poaching liquid, they take on a deeper richer red colour.
At this point, you’ll want to stop and marvel at how amazing these wine soaked pears look. I recommend getting out your iPhone or camera to take a few shots. You’ll dazzle everyone you know.
When it comes time to make your tart, begin by draining your pears of all the poaching liquid. Pour the incredibly delicious poaching liquid into a saucepan to reduce on the stove top.
Watch the reduction carefully towards the end, as it can quickly burn. When your poaching liquid has reduced sufficiently and starts to bubble vigorously with lots of large bubbles joined together, it’s ready. Vigorous bubbling looks like this:
When your reduction is ready, pour some of the incredibly delicious reduction syrup into your baking dish and reserve the rest for glazing.
Arrange your pears hole-side up into the baking dish.
You’ll notice I didn’t properly drain the poaching liquid from the holes in the pears. Make sure you do this. The first time I made this tart, I was so enamoured with the beauty and the light in the gorgeous red pears, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t fully drained all the poaching liquid from each hole of the pears. The result was a super watery tart and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until I looked at my photographs that I figured it out.
Prepare your dough.
Cover the tart with the dough. Tuck the edges around and in between the pears.
Bake until golden brown.
Let your tart cool for about 15 minutes and then flip it over onto a plate to display the beautiful pears. This part can be a bit tricky. See David Lebovitz’s recipe for full instructions on how to do this (see link below).
Lastly, glaze your tart with the incredibly delicious red wine glaze. Try as best you can to get some (or a lot) on your fingers so you have to lick them.
You’ll have leftover glaze—don’t worry—it’s fabulous on yogurt or ice cream and it makes an incredibly delicious “jam” accompaniment with warm brie cheese.
See David Lebovitz’s original recipe for the ingredient list and comprehensive directions.
My Adaptations of David’s Recipe:
I added the following ingredients to the poaching liquid:
- 10 whole Tellicherry black peppercorns (which I strained out before reducing)
- ¼ cup of my quick homemade raspberry sauce (recipe below)
Quick Raspberry Sauce:
- 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- ½ cup sugar
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and cook on stovetop. Smash the berries with a spoon until the mixture is soft. Cook until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and strain and press through a fine sieve. Allow it to cool if using for dessert. Makes about 1 cup.
The flavours of this tart are incredibly divine—like nothing you’ve ever had before. It’s a definite keeper. But after making it twice, the pear juices are still a bit too watery for my liking. Others have suggested two ways of dealing with this: one is to add a bit of thickener such as tapioca powder, arrowroot or cornstarch; the other is to drain off the juice before you flip the tart, reduce the juice and add it back to the tart after you’ve flipped it. I haven’t tried either method yet. When I do, I’ll update this post and let you know my results.
David recommends serving this tart warm or at room temperature with yogurt, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream. My partner loves to have this tart with his own homemade ice cream, based on David Lebovitz’s excellent vanilla ice cream recipe. I prefer something less sweet and find a tart Greek yogurt, or even sour cream to be the perfect foil. I think lightly sweetened whipped cream would work nicely too.
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife