Hay, Hay, It’s A Caramelized Pear Tart!

carmelized pear tart

You know, sometimes with this blogging stuff I wonder just how much of the back story I ought to share with you. I mean, do I *really* want to tell you about my disasters or just gloss over all that and share pictures of beautiful foods and success stories? But with this one, unless I first share about the tart that *wasn’t*, I won’t have much to say about the tart that is, er, was.

When Trinigourmet announced the 15th Hay, Hay, It’s Donna Day! with a theme of tarts, well of course I had to play along . . . what else would a Fruit tart do? I saw a cover photo of a back issue of the Donna Hay magazine with a pear tart and knew that’s what I wanted to make. But I don’t have that issue and I didn’t find the recipe so I thought I’d improvise. I do have an issue of Donna Hay’s magazine with a custard tart. I thought I’d use nutmeg rather than cinnamon and I wanted to put pear slices on the top.

pear tart

I started by making my own crust with pecans in it. What I didn’t realize is that when I was removing the beans from the blind baking, I cracked the crust. When I started pouring the custard into the crust, well, let’s just say I was glad the kids were outside with The Husband. I mean, I want to enlarge their vocabulary and encourage proper enunciation, but just not with *those* words. The custard filling poured out the bottom of the tart pan through the crack in the crust and while I was trying to pour it back into a bowl the crust, or at least pieces of it, fell completely out of the tin.

slice of tart

Not to be undone over a little thing like complete failure, I threw together a new crust. This time I used my favorite shortbread crust with some pecans added to it. Then I threw a partial stick of butter in my large frying pan and tossed in a little brown sugar and white sugar and sprinkled it with some nutmeg and let it simmer until it was a thick liquid. Next, I added three sliced pears and a splash of lemon juice and let them simmer for a few minutes, stirring them in the sauce. I cooked them until the pears were beginning to get tender but still firm and opaque. They made quite a bit of juice in the pan so after I pulled the pears out and arranged them on my crust, I added a little more sugar to the pan and let it cook until it was thick again. I poured some of the caramel sauce over the pears and the rest I used to serve with the ice cream.

tart and ice cream

So, although this project was inspired by Donna Hay, it doesn’t actually include any of her recipes and doesn’t look like the picture on her magazine. But I think we’ll still call it a success and sweep the rest under the rug.

New Math

Tonight we were giving away our last available car seat (yay!) and threw in dinner with it. I didn’t take any pictures of the dinner — grilled citrus chicken, grilled red snapper, mango/pineapple salsa, potatoes, and green salad. For dessert I made a nectarine & blueberry tart but the filling was less than stellar.

nectarine-blueberry-tart.jpg

I combined approximately equal amounts of yogurt and lemon-lime curd. I thought I bought vanilla yogurt but it was plain but, still, it was very thick Stonyfield Farms yogurt and the curd, of course, was quite thick. Thick + Thick = Thin & Runny isn’t an equation with which I’m familiar. pH shift broke the structure? Maybe Crystal will know what happened. It was also a bit too tart overall, but it lived up to its name!

Thing 1 was pretty funny this afternoon. After I was lamenting the thinness of my filling she suggested that I write a rather large note to myself and hang it by the cookbooks: Do Not Mix Yogurt and Curd for Tart Filling! Then I had her hold a light for me as I experimented with different picture taking and she requested that she get credit for being the photographer’s assistant.

Photography by Fruittart
Photographer’s assistant: Thing 1

My Hero!

Thursday was a friend’s birthday and she had a very simple request: would I please make her a birthday cake. No problem! Surely we can bake a birthday cake with no wheat, no dairy, no egg, no almond. We’ve done wacky cake/crazy cake/depression cake/war cake ad nauseum so I tried some new recipes.

First was a chocolate cake that used maple syrup for the sweetening. I’m going to give that it’s own post later. Second came an orange cake that is essentially the wacky cake made w/o cocoa but with orange juice in place of water. Meh. It was moist and tasty but not quite the texture for a layered cake, especially when made with barley and whole grain spelt flour (coarse and grainy).

Finally I found a recipe for a ‘white cake’ and the birthday girl asked for a lightly spiced cake so I decided to play with that and added a little cinnamon and nutmeg. It stuck to the pan. It has great texture and taste, but it wouldn’t release from the pan.

In order to salvage the third cake, I resorted to an old standby: trifle. The birthday girl asked for cherry or orange flavors so I went looking at the store. I was thinking of possibly layering some cherry pie filling with Cool Whip but that seemed so pedestrian. Then I found Hero Black Cherry Preserves, which particularly caught my eye because they don’t list high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. It says, “black cherries, sugar, glucose syrup, citric acid, fruit pectin. All natural ingredients. No preservatives. No artificial flavors or colors.” Doesn’t that sound like something you could eat? Into the basket it went.

Once at home, I stirred the contents of jar into the largest container of Cool Whip Light I could find and alternated the cherry preserves/Cool Whip mixture with crumbled cake.

hero.jpg

It’s not a proper birthday cake, but I think it will convert a failed baking effort into a tasty dessert. Stay tuned for more birthday cake drama! ;-)

You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Gas Oven

Eight hungry people and a baby shower to bake for. Kenny Rogers’ version no doubt had broader appeal, but I was quite frustrated when my gas oven decided it was time to go on holiday when I had *plans* for it. I was making a trial run of a new recipe for a baby shower when it decided it was not going to light. We could smell gas strongly when I turned it on, but even lying on the floor holding the flame thrower (propane torch) inside the oven, the Husband couldn’t get it to light so we turned it off before we were all gassed. I already had my cake mixed and fortunately the In-Laws were here with the motorhome and we were able to bake it in the motorhome oven, even if we ended up overbaking it.

flourless-cake.jpg

This was a recipe I lifted off the internet and then modified slightly to completely remove the sugar for gestational diabetes. It was good enough that Crystal picked up supplies from me and baked one in her oven and hers turned out 100 times better. Hers was puffier, moister, and just overall better — Food Science people can be trusted to do that sort of thing. So if you make this, make it like she did! ;-)

Flourless Cake

8 oz. good dark chocolate (we used 60% Ghirardelli the second time)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

6 egg yolks
2/3 c. Splenda

6 egg whites, beaten to firm peaks

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Melt together chocolate and butter in a double boiler.

Stir together the egg yolks with the Splenda. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate, stirring until well mixed.

Stir in 1/3 of the well beaten egg whites. Fold in the remaining 2/3 until there are no streaks.

Spoon into springform pan and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Garnish with whipping cream and raspberries, if desired.

*************

With the oven not working, I decided that I ought to come up with a no-bake option in case it wasn’t possible to make the cake. So I made some ‘fake fudge’. It’s not as dark as the fudge I usually make and I think Splenda has an awful aftertaste so I’m not thrilled with it. But if I had gestational diabetes and I wanted a treat, this would be great b/c there’s supposed to be less than 1 g of carb in each square.

fudge.jpg

Sugar Free “Fudge”
16 oz cream cheese
4 oz dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. Splenda
1/2 – 1 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Whip cream cheese. Add the chocolate, vanilla, and Splenda and beat until well mixed. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread into a foil lined 8-inch pan. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Keep refrigerated.

Another version with peanut butter:
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 c. whipping cream
1 t. vanilla

Soften cream cheese and butter and beat together. Add cocoa, peanut butter, whipping cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread into a foil lined 8-inch pan. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Keep refrigerated.

Not Quite Peachy Keen

Our small group has quite a few food allergy issues which makes cooking/baking a little more of a challenge . . . but there’s little I love more than conquering a baking challenge. (I’d *love* to be a member of the ‘Daring Bakers’ and participate in their monthly challenges — if you don’t know who they are, go now to one of their sites and you can find all of them from their blogrolls. There are many more talented people in the group and I love to see the monthly postings.)

But this Saturday was not the day of the kitchen victory whoop. It was a bit more of the baking pbbbbtttt!!! I was avoiding several flours: wheat, rye, corn, and spelt, cane sugar, berries, chocolate, dairy, soy, and a few other things. Somehow I got in my head that I *really* wanted to make a cherry-peach cobbler. I made two pans, one plain peach and the other cherry-peach. I used my own canned peaches, draining off the sugar syrup and adding some agave syrup and honey, sprinkling the fruit with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and a little rice flour to thicken. That part was all great.

peach-cherry.jpg

For the top I tried a cobbler topping made of white rice flour, canola oil, honey, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt, and rice milk. It was *really* white. It looked okay from the top when I pulled it from the oven:

cobbler.jpg

but the bottom of the biscuit wasn’t quite done and the rice flour was so gritty, my mouth thought I had mistakenly used sand we brought home from the beach.

beach.jpg

I was disappointed with it. Others must not have thought it was TOO awful, there were only a couple of servings left. Tonight I made the leftovers into smoothies by adding some yogurt, orange juice concentrate, and ice and zipped it in the blender. It was a little better but the grit was still there.

Lesson learned: don’t use only white rice flour. I think this would have been awesome if I had made my typical cobbler topping with flour, butter & milk and next time I’m going to try barley flour for my allergic friends!

I wish I had taken a picture of the success of the night, however. I made some peach sorbet by zipping a couple quarts of peaches in the blender with agave syrup and a little honey with some water and then froze it. It was tasty too. But I forgot the camera and then we let the remaining part sit out and thaw and then it wasn’t very pretty anymore. :-(

Meanwhile, I’m hoping tomorrow’s project redeems the week’s baking efforts. Stay tuned!