Sunday, December 6, 2009

pear and hazelnut crostada

baked pear crostada
so, i'm back.
and, with one of my favorite
desserts:
a pear crostada that
has successfully served
several thanksgivings.

every year,
after i've had my first bite,
i think, why don't i make
this at the first sign
of fall, when pears are popping
up left and right at the markets?

the answer is simple:
i really don't make desserts
without an occasion.
but if i was the type of person
who decided on a sunday
to just make a pie or tart
to enjoy after dinner,
this would be the one that
i would turn to,
time and time again.

because, without a doubt,
this is my kind of dessert.

reason 1: it's fruit based.
peeled pears
if given the choice,
i will almost always pick a
fruity sweet - something with
apples, plums, peaches,
blueberries, strawberries,
bananas, pineapples -
over a chocolate concoction.
make it an in season,
peak of their prime fruit,
like juicy pears,
and you don't even have to ask.
just cut me a sliver.

reason number 2: it has a crust.
hazelnut dough, not a circle - and that's fine
maybe because it took me so
long to feel comfortable making
pie crusts or maybe it's just because
pastry crusts are
buttery, tender and lovely,
but i just think there is something
incredibly special about
pies, tarts
and their flaky bases.
unless you're offering me carrot cake, too,
i'll take the pie, please.

reason number 3: hazelnuts.
toasted hazelnuts, semi-husked
i never really understood the power
of these buttery fragrant nuts
until i started making
but then, i was hooked. once
toasted and husked, they offer
an unparalleled element to sweet
and savory preparations. here,
they get double time to shine:
first, they're ground with flour
to form the base in the crust,
then whirled in the food processor
with butter and brown sugar
to make the crumb topping.

reason number 4: it's a crostada.
dough folded over pears
ok, if i'm being honest, this is
probably what drew me to the
recipe. when i first printed it out,
years ago, i had finally come to
terms with the fact that it is not
that hard to throw ingredients
in a food processor to make a crust.
but, my rolling, transferring and
pressing prettily into a pie pan skills?
still shaky. a crostada, in which
i could roll the dough out into
as close to a circle as i could get
it, pile it high with pears and then
fold over the edges, this way
and that, was right up my alley.
read: it's forgiving.

reason number 5: it can be made in steps.
crostada with crumb topping, unbaked
well, i don't live with my mom anymore,
but that's where we celebrate thanksgiving.
even though this fall beauty is rustic,
i still think it's a little fragile -
i'd rather not bake, then transport.
(although, probably, that's my own paranoia.)
i love that i can show up
at my mom's house with:
a disk of dough that is still chilled after
an over an hour in the car, a container of
buttery hazelnut crumbs for the top,
three ripe pears and a tiny plastic bag
of flour and sugar to later mix with
those pears. oh, and there's usually
an orange rolling pin sticking
out of my bag, too, but a bottle of wine
would work just as well.

still not convinced?
well, let me tell you a couple other
things. this is the kind of crostada
that makes people tell you how good
it smells in the house before they're
even fully inside. it's the type of
crostada, that i think actually looks fun
to make - so much so that almost every
year, one of my sisters helps roll
the dough, fold the edges
or adds the crumbs on top.

and, most importantly, it's the type of
crostada that makes everyone at my
mom's thanksgiving table take a slice:
from someone who always thinks
they are too full to even come back to the table,
to a chocoholic, to another who doesn't
even eat dessert. ever.

and that, i think, is enough of a reason right there.
slice of pear crostada
pear and hazelnut crostada
adapted from bon appetit magazine
over the years, i've done everything from making the piecrust and crumb topping over the weekend and freezing them until wednesday night, to just making them both thursday morning and chilling until i leave to go to my mom's. they both work just fine. oh, and if you're really on your game, give yourself a head start by toasting and husking the hazelnuts the night before. directions are here.

i should note that the one difficulty i've had with this recipe is the baking time. it instructs 400˚f in the bottom third of the oven for 40 minutes, then 12 more after that. i've never even made it to the extra 12. in fact, 40 minutes seems too long. next year, i am absolutely baking this in the center of the oven for 30 minutes and then checking to prevent it from getting too brown. (in fact, this time, i took it out after about only 26 minutes of baking and it was already darker than i would have liked it.) below, however, i'm including the directions from the original recipe. enjoy it - oh, and pick up some vanilla ice cream, too.

topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
5 tablespoons packed golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed
pinch of salt

in bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients; blend 1 minute, or until clumps form. transfer to small bowl or container; chill until needed. no need to clean the food processor between steps.

crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup bread flour
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
3 tablespoons packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed
2-3 tablespoons ice water

in bowl of food processor, combine all-purpose flour, bread flour, hazelnuts, sugar and salt; blend 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until hazelnuts are finely chopped. add butter and pulse, just until coarse meal forms. with motor running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water and process just until a ball of dough forms, adding more water, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary. transfer dough to work surface and form until a ball; flatten into a disk. wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.

when you're ready to bake. heat oven to 400˚f. place dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll dough to a 13-inch round (or as close to a round as you can get), lifting paper, smoothing wrinkles and turning as needed. remove and discard top piece of parchment paper. transfer bottom piece of parchment paper with dough to a large unrimmed baking sheet.

filling
1 3/4 pounds ripe bartlett pears, peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

in medium bowl, gently combine pears, sugar and flour.

place pear mixture in center of dough, mounding high and leaving a 2-inch border. using parchment paper as an aid, if necessary, fold dough over pears, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks.

sprinkle hazelnut topping over pears (it will seem like a lot, but still, put it all on there). bake 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. (start checking it after about 20 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.) tent very loosely with foil to prevent over-browning and bake until juices bubble thickly, about 12 minutes more. transfer baking sheet to rack; cool completely or just until warm. slide large spatula under crust to free from parchment and transfer to a platter (note: my mom and i transfer it every year using three large spatulas and finger-crossing.)

1 comment:

Larry said...

this is awesome and since its at the end of thanksgiving dinner it never gets the attention it should. im sorry crostada