Ginger Pear Tart with Walnuts
Thinly sliced pears scented with vanilla, crystallized ginger, and a pinch of cinnamon baked in a buttery crust, this simple tart tastes especially good when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This recipe makes one 9 inch round tart, or a 4 x 14 inch rectangular tart.
Start by making your pastry, gather together the following ingredients:
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons ice cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg- lightly beaten
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of your food processor, add the butter and pulse a few brief spurts, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse 3 or 4 times, until barely combined. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of seconds, just until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk if you are using a round tart pan or an elongated oval if you are using a rectangular tart pan. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before proceeding.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 12 inch circle if you are using a round tart pan, or a 6-16 inch rectangle for a rectangular tart pan. You don't have to be precise about these measurements, just make sure your pastry is a couple of inches bigger than your pan. Carefully transfer the pastry to the tart pan, and press it into the bottom and up the sides. Trim off any excess. I like to use my rolling pin to transfer the pastry. I lift the pastry by loosely rolling it around the rolling pin, and then I unroll the pastry over the tart pan. This helps to avoid tearing or poking holes in the pastry with your fingers as you lift it. Chill the pastry for a few minutes in the freezer.
Meanwhile prepare the filling, and preheat the oven to 375F.
- 2 pears, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp crystallized ginger, very finely minced
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Combine the butter, brown sugar, crystallized ginger, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
Retrieve the pastry from the freezer, and use a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom of the tart shell, then line the pastry with foil. Fill the foil lined tart shell with dried beans or pie weights, and bake for 15 minutes. This is called 'blind baking', it will help keep your tart shell flaky and crisp.
Take the tart shell out of the oven and remove foil and pie weights. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the base of the tart shell with half of butter mixture and sprinkle half of the walnuts evenly over the pastry. Layer the pear slices on top of the walnuts and brush the top with the remaining butter mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the walnuts on top of the tart.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. I wish I could adequately describe the aroma of this tart while it bakes, it's utterly heavenly.
To create the dark moody lighting in the photos for this recipe, I employed a technique called 'painting with light'. Using a flashlight and a piece of black card stock (from the dollar store) I took these photos without the help of the sun or any of the fancy lighting equipment in my studio. I wrapped the end of the flashlight with a sheet of black card to narrow the beam of light, giving me more control over its placement, and I stood to the left of the set to 'paint' my scene with light during a 30 second exposure in a dark room.
It takes a little experimentation to determine where to place the light and how long to leave it in any one area. For this overhead shot of the tart, I wanted to make the tart a little brighter than the surrounding elements, but I also wanted to add some light to the blade of the knife and the walnuts. The first shot on the far left, I spent too much time with my flashlight on the knife and walnut pieces (about 15 seconds) and created some unnatural looking highlights. In the next shot, I'm getting closer to the lighting I had envisioned on the tart itself, but the knife and walnuts are still too bright for my liking. Finally, in the last shot (far right) I was able to achieve the lighting I was after. I spent 6-7 seconds with my flashlight beam 'brushing' the knife and broken walnuts, and the remaining 23-24 seconds with my flashlight beam running up and down the length of the tart.
Be forewarned, painting with light can be addictive. I had so much fun creating the examples for my light painting tutorial, I decided to use a flashlight to photograph this recipe too.