My dad was very fun and very adventurous,
and from a formative age I learned to value men who would do things on a whim.
- Rachel Hunter
My older son had a hankering this week. Don't ask me how or where these desires come from (out of the blue) or what triggers them. When these urges come over him, I have little choice (at the risk of being labeled "Bad Mother") but to drop everything, tie on the apron and mettre la main à la pâte. I best show an unparalleled enthusiasm in his project, stand by, smile on my face, offering guidance and advice when asked, admiration when not. He arrived at the apartment, grabbed the beautiful blue and white cookbook, La Cuisine de Vefa, that he had offered me for a birthday past, and began flipping through it rather single-mindedly and energetically. "Can we make this?" he asked, stabbing his finger at the recipe for Jam Tart.
We set a date and I sent him away, urging him to make sure that he show up with the ingredients needed. He arrived the following day lugging a shopping bag and began emptying it on the counter. I was wondering how much he counted on doing himself or how much of "his" project he expected me to make while he, oh, I don't know, went and curled up on the sofa with the dog. But although he doesn't bake often, when he does decide to prepare a dessert, he does it wholeheartedly. He does make the Best Tiramisu in the World.
Son making pie crust with his grandmother many moons ago.
He pulled two jars of jam from that bag and placed them on the counter. Wowee! He never settles for anything but the best and I knew he had found these jars of artisan vanilla-infused pear jam in the upscale, specialty section of the supermarket. But when I saw that they were pear, well, I am no fan of pear anything. But I bit my tongue and onward and upward. I left the kitchen for a while and next thing I knew, he had made the dough, calling me in to confirm that it was perfect. A super butter-rich dough, we wrapped it in plastic and allowed it to chill and firm up in the refrigerator. I later showed him how to roll it out, line a pie plate and cut and create a lattice top. And we baked.
The Comice pear was developed in the nearby city of Angers in 1849 - 1850
He then began preparing his personal touch to the Jam Tart: wedges of ripe Comice pears caramelized in plenty of butter and brown sugar until just colored and tender. As soon as the Tart was baked and out of the oven, the crust and lattice golden and puffed, he placed the hot, caramelized pears all over the top of the tart, drizzling the butter across the whole thing.
We had dinner as the Jam Tart cooled and then… he left to go home, not in the mood for a sweet ending to the meal. And a week past and husband and I – I might not like pears but this was fabulously good! – ate slice and slice, whittling it away to one more wedge and I texted him to no avail. Son absolutely had to make this Pear Jam Tart in all urgency only to leave it for us to devour without him. And he never even tasted it.
I guess that means we will have to make it again.
PEAR JAM TART with BUTTERED CARAMELIZED PEARS
My son's version of a tart from Vefa's Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou
This is a very butter-rich pie crust and can be difficult and fussy to work with so give it time to chill and firm up in the refrigerator before attempting to roll it out.
For the Pear Jam Tart:
12.3 oz (350 g) flour 1 tsp baking powder
16 Tbs (225 g) unsalted butter, softened 2.8 oz (80 g) sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbs pear eau de vie or kirsch
1 Tbs fine lemon zest or 1 tsp vanilla
17.6 oz / 2 cups (500 g) pear jam (or jam of your choice) - the better the quality the jam (artisan, if possible), the better your tart will taste
Prepare the Crust Dough:
Sift or stir the flour together with the baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, the eau de vie and lemon zest or the vanilla. Stir in the flour/baking powder and knead on a floured work surface until it forms a smooth, homogeneous dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 20 – 30 minutes.
Prepare the Pear Jam Tart:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Separate off about 2/3 of the dough and shape into a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out this larger part of the dough to fit a 10 inch (25 cm) pie dish, carefully lifting and placing in and lining the pie dish. Add the jam, spreading evenly.
Roll out the remaining piecrust dough and slice (I use a pizza wheel) into ½-inch or so strips. Handling the strips very carefully so they do not rip and break, lift and place them on the jam tart overlapping the edges slightly to create a trellis/lattice pattern. Pinch the ends or each strip to the crust and trim. You can brush the crust strips with egg wash if you like.
Bake for about 35 minutes until the crust and lattice strips are a deep golden. Remove to a cooling rack.
Prepare the Caramelized Pears:
1 or 2 ripe pears (we used Comice) About
1 Tbs (15 g) butter for each pear
About 1 Tbs granulated brown sugar per pear
Peel, trim and core the pears; slice into wedges between ½ and ¾ inches thick. Heat a skillet, add the butter, sugar and pears and cook, stirring so the melted butter and sugar blend ( push and flip the pears gently so they do not break) until the pears are lightly colored, tender and caramelized.
Spoon the pears with the caramel butter over the top of the tart and serve.