Pear and Custard Tarts
These pear and custard tarts came from a memory really. We had lots of beautiful organic D’Anjou pears to use up, and I wanted to make something special with them. Most of the pear tarts you see involve chocolate or frangipane, and they all seem a bit heavy for the delicate pear. I wanted to make something light and creamy that would glorify these gorgeous pears. When I was young we used to have pears and custard for dessert. It was so simple but always so tasty. It was an easy dish to prepare, some poached pears and Birds custard, but it was so satisfying and less tart that the usual custard and stewed apple. It was a flavour combination that stayed with me. So, with this in mind, I made some home-made custard with fresh organic eggs, and added some lemon juice and zest to bring a bit of touch of lightness. I placed the custard in some crumbly buttery pastry and lay the pears gently on top. I popped them in the oven, and let all the flavours mingle together. These tarts are little slices of heaven! I was so pleased with the results and I think I really did those lovely juicy pears justice.
- 190g /1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 110g / 1 stick butter
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons cold milk / water
- 3 large pears, peeled, cored and halved
- 50g / 1/3 of a cup of castor sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick / ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon powder (if you have no cinnamon stick)
- 2 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for later use)
- 1oo g / ½ a cup of caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons of corn flour (corn starch)
- 240 ml / 1 cup of whipping cream
- 120ml / ½ a cup of milk
- Zest of half a lemon, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Begin by making the pastry. For this recipe, I made a gluten free pastry using Bob’s Red Mill flour. If you prefer, you can make a normal wheat pastry. You can find a recipe here. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the milk/water a little at a time. You just need enough to bring the pastry into a loose dough. I don’t give exact amounts of liquid, as I find each brand of flour is different. Generally, I use about 2 tablespoons. Bring the pastry together with a fork, then take the pastry dough into your hands and wrap it in cling wrap. Place it in the fridge and leave it rest for at least thirty minutes.
Meanwhile you can poach the pears. Place the cored, peeled, and halved pears in a medium saucepan. Pour enough cold water over them to cover them. Add the cinnamon (stick/powder) and sugar. Place over a medium heat and bring them to the boil. Once they have boiled, take them off the heat, and allow them to cool. Once cool, remove the pears from the poaching liquid and place on a large plate.
To make the custard, place the egg yolks, caster sugar, and cornflour into a saucepan. Whisk together over a medium heat. Slowly whisk in the cream and milk. Gently bring to the boil, stirring all the time, until the custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Leave aside to cool and cover with Clingfilm so it won’t form a skin.
Grease 8 pastry tartlet cases with a little butter (my cases are 10cm in diameter). Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a clean surface with some flour. I like to roll my pastry on a slipmat as it makes the job a bit easier. Roll the pastry out and cut out 8 pastry circles that are 12 cm in diameter. Fit the pastry circles snugly into the pastry tins. Once you have pastry cases ready, lightly prick the bases with a fork. Then place a circle of parchment paper into each and pour baking beads/ rice on top of the parchment paper. This will ensure you get a nice crisp even baked pastry that won’t puff up.
Place the pastry cases into the oven. Bake blind, with the parchment paper for 10 minutes. At this stage they should be just golden and set. Take then out from the oven and remove the parchment and baking beads. Place the pastry cases back in the oven and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes. You want them to be slightly golden/ honey tan colour. Remove from the oven and brush them with a little beaten egg white. (Reserved from the eggs)
Keep the oven at the same temperature (180 C/ 350 F) To assemble the tarts, place about a dessertspoon of custard in the base of each pastry case. Slice the pears into thin strips. Arrange the pear strips on top of the custard. Place the tarts into the oven for about 30-40 minutes. The custard should be just set with a small bit of a wobble. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar.