As I mentioned recently, my wife and I are working for “essential” industries. We are still putting in regular hours at our respective companies. Working in an environment that involves close human contact at a time like this can be nerve racking. Sure, when we are at work, we focus on the jobs that need to be done. But, when we come home we think of the risks we take each day we go to work.
We are not exceptional. Many people are experiencing similar types of anxiety. We all deal with it in our own ways.
A few days ago, after a mere 4 hours of sleep, my wife awoke at the crack of dawn and went straight to the kitchen. She spent the next 10 hours baking. When my wife bakes, or cooks for that matter, the result is always impressive. This particular baking marathon was fueled by her love of our family and her need to occupy herself with something meaningful. It surely wasn’t fueled by a good night’s sleep!
It was therapy. It was determination. It was well-honed skill mixed with passion and promise.
It all started so innocently.
I just wanted to find a way to use some pears. “How about a tart,” I thought.
tart has exposed fruit filling on top. I
actually made a pie, since I used a top crust.
But, I called it a tart anyway because I’m a rebel.
for the pie crust:
½ cup lard
¼ cup butter
3 cups flour
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup cold water
for the pie filling:
8 Bartlett pears
Juice of ½ lemon
3 Tbs flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
for the egg wash:
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Cut butter into smallish pieces chill in the freezer, along with
the lard, for about 20 minutes.
Sift flour and salt together.
Cut butter and lard into flour.
Continue to use a cutting action until the flour mixture resembles corn
meal, in texture. Cover and return to
refrigerator to chill.
Rinse, wash and peel pears.
Quarter the pears by cutting the pears in half, lengthwise and then cutting
them in half again. With a paring knife, cut a small arc across the ridge
of the slice pear to remove the seeds and hard membrane.
Add the pear pieces to a large mixing bowl. Add juice of ½ lemon and toss the pears to coat. Set aside.
Mix together 1 tablespoon flour, ½ tsp cinnamon and ¼ tsp cardamom
in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture
over the pears and give the pears a few tosses.
Remove flour mixture from refrigerator. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Gently incorporate the water and continue
adding water until the dough begins to hold together. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Set one part aside.
Lay one of the dough halves onto a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a ball and press down to
flatten into a disc. Turn the disc over
and roll out with a rolling pin. Start
in the middle of the disc and roll toward the edges. Continue rolling until disc is 10” to 11”
Center the pie crust on a 9” glass pie pan. Press the dough down gently to conform to the
pan. Pour the pears into the pie pan.
Roll out the other half of the dough and center it on top of the
pears, in the pie pan. Press the two pie
crusts together at the seams to seal them, or use a fork or other tool to seal
Prepare the egg wash for the pie crust by whisking and egg in a small bowl. Apply the egg wash with a pastry brush. Sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on top.
Place the pie pan on the middle rack of a 400° oven. Bake for 30 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350°. Bake for another 20 minutes.
Rest the pie pan on a cooling rack for an hour before
slicing. The pie filling will thicken as
This is when things took an unexpected turn. I was impressed with how well the crust
baked. I could rotate the pie within the
pie plate with just a little effort which meant that the crust did not stick to
the pie pan, while it baked. I decided
to invert the pie pan and inspect the bottom pie crust. I figured that I had already taken pictures
of the competed pie so I had nothing to lose.
Once I had the pie resting upside
down on a cutting board, I felt along the surface of the crust. It didn’t feel as crisp as the top crust,
which makes sense, because it wasn’t exposed to air while it baked.
The oven was still hot and I wanted to give the pie a few more
minutes in the oven to crisp the bottom crust.
I inverted the pie again and set it on a metal rack. As I took the metal rack to the open oven,
the pie slid off and crashed onto the open oven door. It all happened so quickly, yet it seemed
like slow motion at the same time.
The pie was a total wreck. There
was no way to hide the massive damage.
It all happened so quickly that I didn’t even find time to curse. I just stood there and stared, numb and unblinking. I grabbed a piece of pear that had broken free from the crust and tasted it and I
came up with a plan.
a la Mode
1 broken pear tart
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs hot water
½ gallon, high quality vanilla ice cream
Break apart a pear tart and put the chunks in large mixing
bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1 cup brown sugar in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan, at
medium-low heat. When the sugar melts,
reduce heat to low and stir for one minute.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Carefully add the hot water. It will
sputter and put on a spectacular show.
Return the pan to low heat and stir for another 2 or 3 minutes, or until
the sugar has turned reddish brown.
Remove and cool. The cooled sugar
should have a crunchy quality to it.
Put 1 ½ cups of the broken pear tart in a large serving bowl. Add 1 large scoop of ice cream (about 1cup) to the bowl. Top the pie and cake with caramelized sugar and sprinkle some raw brown sugar on top, for good measure.