Luscious pears are one of the cooler months’ culinary delights.
A truly ripe pear is a real sensation, oozing juice and full of sweetness. Unfortunately most of us don’t get to sample pears at their peak as pears are usually picked when still hard. The good news is that pears continue to ripen (oddly enough, from the core out) after picking, so the opportunity to taste them at their perfect best awaits anyone with a little patience.
Pears go with: Honey, cream, ice-cream, citrus, wine including fortifi ed and balsamic vinegar, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, blue cheese, chevre, parmesan, vanilla, passionfruit, berries, apples and salad leaves.
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Recipes and styling Sue Stadler
Photography Ken Brass
1¼ cups plain fl our
90g unsalted butter, chopped
¼ cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
100g soft unsalted butter, chopped
100g icing sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
100g almond meal
1 medium-sized pear, peeled, cored and
sliced into six
2 tablespoons apricot jam thickened cream, to serve
To make pastry: Process flour and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add the sugar and egg yolks and process until mixture just comes together (be careful not to overwork the pastry). Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Cut into 6 rounds and use to line 6 individual tart tins with removable bases. Using a fork prick the bases, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven 180°C. Line each prepared tart case with baking paper, baking beans or rice and bake blind for 10 minutes, or until edges start to colour. Remove beans and paper and bake for 5 minute longer, to lightly brown the bases. Cool.
To make filling: Beat butter and icing sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined, then stir in the almond meal and mix well. Spoon mixture into pastry cases, filling them no more than three-quarters full. Place sliced pear on top of each filled case and bake tarts at 160°C for 30 minutes or until filling is golden and just firm to touch. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before turning out. As the tarts are cooling, heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan (or in the microwave) until hot, then strain. Brush the tarts with the strained jam to glaze, while they are still hot. Serve with cream.
Makes 1.5-2 litres
2kg firm Beurre Bosc or Corella pears
1kg caster sugar
500ml cider vinegar
500ml white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon allspice berries,
1 teaspoon cloves
5cm piece fresh root ginger, finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
juice and strips of peel from ½ a lemon
Peel and halve or quarter pears (Corella pears may be peeled and left whole) and place in a bowl of water with a little vinegar or lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Place all of the other ingredients into a large saucepan on low heat and allow to come slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Drain the pears and add them to the saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, if you like pears with a little crunch, 10–15 minutes if you prefer them soft. In the meantime, the jars should be washed in warm soapy water, rinsed, dried and heated in a moderate oven for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears, cinnamon sticks and peel to the clean jars. Boil the syrup for about 10 minutes until reduced by about a third and slightly thickened. Pour in enough to fill the jars right up to the neck and completely cover the pears (I use a funnel to pour the syrup). Scoop up the spices and add them to the jar as well. Cover and seal the jars and when contents are completely cool, wipe, label and store in a cool dark place for 1 month before using.
Pear Upside-Down Cake
3 large pears (such as Beurre Bosc), peeled, cored and cut into 2cm-thick slices
juice of 1 lemon
50g butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
150g extra soft butter, chopped
1 cup brown sugar, extra
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
80g ground hazelnuts
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Preheat oven to 180°C. Toss sliced pears in lemon juice to prevent browning. Grease and line a 24cm cake pan. Pour melted butter into base and sprinkle with brown sugar. Place the largest pear slices over sugar, overlapping each other in a spiral pattern, then top with remaining slices. Beat extra butter and extra sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking powder and spices and fold into mixture. Fold hazelnuts and combined buttermilk and milk, alternately into mixture. Dissolve soda in 1 tablespoon boiling water, add to cake mixture and mix to form a smooth batter. Carefully spoon over pear slices and bake for 50 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Remove and cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pan and carefully turn out onto a serving plate. Best served on the day of baking.