It’s fall. Time to impress everyone with your rustic baking skills, right? Maybe not. Maybe we can’t all be like Martha Stewart, with military corners on our pie crusts and apples picked from our own grid-system orchards. But that doesn’t mean we can’t bake to impress. In fact, there’s one really easy (don’t let the 14 steps fool you), incredibly tasty recipe that’s a snap to put together and will stun the Autumn-loving hell out of your friends and family.
It’s a Red Wine-Poached Pear Tart, and all you need to put it together are some seasonal pears (we’re trying, Martha), a fruity, not too tannic red wine, cinnamon, sugar, and pastry dough. There are plenty of recipes online for a variety of pear tarts, some of which involve pre-poaching the pears for a number of days. Our solution—remembered from a cookbook we can’t find, but pretty faithfully re-imagined here—is the simple skillet method: make a wine-syrup in an oven-safe skillet (cast iron works best, and just looks winningly rustic), layer some pears artfully (or chuck them in blindfolded), and simmer. Pastry crust—which we made from scratch but you are more than welcome to buy frozen—goes over the top, and the whole thing goes into the oven. When it comes out, let it cool (and for god’s sake, don’t grab the handle…it hurts, we know…) and carefully, with a trusted friend or authority figure, invert.
Voila, pear tart fit for a rustic country dinner with Martha. If only she’d invite us over.
*Bear in mind, since this is truly a hack recipe, amounts will vary slightly depending on the size of your pan. (And don’t go for something too big, remember you’re inverting this bad boy when it’s done.)
- 4 to 5 pears (we used Bosc), not too soft
- Roughly 2 cups of fruity not, too tannic red wine
- Cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Crushed black pepper (optional)
- Mandarin orange slices (optional)
- Pastry dough (if store bought frozen, thawed)
Yields: 1 tart
The best part of this tart, beyond seasonality bragging rights and an excuse to drink up the leftover red wine, is how few ingredients are required, most of which you’ll have on hand (wine, pears, butter, shortening, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, water).
Step One: Cut up some pears. We went organic, because why not. You can peel the pears, slice thinly, or peel, core, and halve them. (The latter is a bit easier in terms of arrangement in the pan.)
Step Two: Chuck some wine in your (oven-safe) pan. (Do this carefully, since it’s alcohol and fire.) We absolutely eye-balled this, but roughly two cups is good. You’ll be cooking it down.
Step Three: Add the sugar and cinnamon and whisk to incorporate.
Step Four: Add a few slices of mandarin, optional, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Step Five: Layer in those pears. Be careful, since the liquid will be hot. When in doubt, use some tongs. (Just good life advice.)
Step Six: Simmer. Everything is going to smell delicious. Enjoy that. You’ve earned it. (Optional, drink that first glass of leftover red wine.) Once the pears are thoroughly red and the liquid is at least halved, turn off the heat and set the pears aside. Discard cinnamon sticks (if used) and Mandarin slices. It’s dough-go-time.
Step Eight: Assemble ingredients for your pastry crust (bear in mind, if you bought pie or pastry crust, you get to skip this step and just enjoy that wine. Fewer Martha points, but it’s easier. Just remember to defrost it in time.) If you are making from-scratch crust, don’t be freaked out. Just have cold butter, cold water, and a bit of patience with sticky hands.
Step Nine: Combine flour, cold butter cubes, shortening, and salt in a bowl big enough for mixing. Using your fingertips (or a pastry cutter, or two forks, though that never really worked for us), crumble the fats into the flour. Your hands will heat up the butter (bad for good pastry dough) so work quickly. Or have cold hands.
Step Ten: Not really a step, but a moment for reflection…your pastry dough should look like crumbcake topping (cookbooks often say the butter should be about the size of small peas). If anyone judges you for the mess, tell them you are baking a rustic country tart and to back off…
Step Eleven: Add a bit of ice water (2 tablespoons to start) to gather the dough together. Add more ice water if needed but only just enough for the dough to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface. Cut into four pieces and, per Epicurious, “smear” each piece a couple times to distribute the fat. Gather back together into a mega dough ball and roll out into a 5-inch circle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Yes, it’s time for that other glass of leftover wine.
Step Twelve: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured cutting board, roll out your dough so it’s big enough to cover the reduced pear-wine mixture.
Step Thirteen: Carefully lift the dough from the cutting board and lay on top of the cooled pear mixture. Tuck the sides of the dough down into the pear mixture, being careful not to let any wine seep up. (Or you can be sloppy, like us.)
Step Fourteen: Put your (oven safe) pan into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, checking for browning. Once the tart is done, pull it out and let it cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, but not too long. (If you let it cool for too long, the sugars in the wine syrup will harden and stick your tart to the pan.)
If you actually did drink wine, make sure you’re sober for this step. With a friend or loved one nearby, and some big oven mitts, invert the cooled tart onto a large plate (make it big, bigger than the pan, and pretty, since it’s what you’re gonna serve the tart in). If, like us, you lost some crust, no worries. Slice up some more seasonal fruit and hide your mistakes shamelessly. Then eat. (Optional: Tweet a humblebrag about your tart at Martha. It’s a good thing.)