Sometimes I feel like I don’t show my mother how much I truly appreciate everything that she does for me. She has always been my best friend; I can tell her anything and she is always extremely supportive of everything I believe in and want to do. She helps guide me along on my path when I need it but always knows when to step back to let me find my own footing. She lets me fall if she knows it will make me stronger but always catches me before I do something too reckless. She is my mother and I love her very much.
For mother’s day this year, I decided to make Dorie Greenspan’s Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart, and I arranged the pears on the top to look like a flower since my mom loves flowers.
I’ll be honest, this recipe intimidated the heck out of me. It had many individual components that needed much care and attention that I was left wondering if all the effort would even be worth it. My fingers are still sore from shelling those pistachios.
The part about poaching the pears in wine intrigued me. I don’t normally like the taste of red wine but they gave the pears such a beautiful pink color that I figured it would be worth it.
After sampling each of the individual components I was worried – I wasn’t crazy about the nutty pastry cream, or the wine-soaked pear slices. I love shortbread so I knew I would love Dorie’s Sweet Tart Dough recipe, but that was about as far as it went. The only component I liked on its own was the caramelized pistachios. I think that’s how I’ll eat the leftover pistachios! I skipped the optional sauce made with the poaching wine. Using a sauce with a pie seemed a little… weird to me.
I can definitely conclude after tasting the fully-assembled tart that the ingredients work together like a perfectly orchestrated symphony. Definitely worth the effort.
Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart (from Baking From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
For the Pastry Cream
- 2/3 cup shelled pistachios (do not use red nuts)
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/3 cups whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup sour cream (if you do not strain nuts out of the pastry cream)
For the Poached Pears
- 3 cups fruity red wine, such as Shiraz, Syrah or Zinfandel
- Zest of one orange – removed in wide strips
- Zest on one lemon - removed in wide strips
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 5 ripe but firm medium pears
- Small lemon wedge
For the Caramelized Pistachios
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
For the Sauce (optional but delicious)
- Poaching syrup from the pears
- 2 tablespoons honey
1 9 inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough fully baked and cooled
To Make the Pastry Cream: Put the pistachios and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground, about one minute. Turn the nuts into a medium heavy bottom saucepan, add the milk, and bring to a boil.
While the milk is heating, whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar, the yolks and the cornstarch in a bowl. When they are well blended, whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Whisking constantly, drizzle in one quarter of the hot milk – to temper, or warm the yolks so they don’t cook – then add the remaining milk in a steady stream. Pour mixture back into the saucepan, put the pan on medium heat, and, whisking energetically, bring to a boil. Boil, whisking, for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
You can scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl, in which case it won’t be smooth or, if you want a smooth cream, you can press the cream through a strainer, leaving the nuts behind; I usually leave the nuts in. Piece by piece, stir the butter into the pastry cream.
If you’d like to cool the cream quickly, place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and water and stir occasionally. Scrape the cream into a container, pres a piece of plastic wrap directly against the cream’s surface, cover and refrigerate for at lest 4 hours or for up to 4 days.
To Poach the Pears: Put the wine, citrus zests and sugar into a large narrow pot, one that will hold the pears snugly, and bring to a boil.
Peel the pears and immediately rub them with lemon to keep them from darkening. Reduce the heat under the pot so that the wine simmers gently and lower the pears into the pot. Cut a circle of parchment or wax paper to fit inside the pot and press the paper against the tops of the pears, Partially cover the pot and simmer, turning the pears if needed so they are evenly colored by the poaching syrup, for about 30 minutes, or until tender – test the pears by poking them with the point of a paring knife. Remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer the pears to a heatproof bowl and pour over the poaching syrup; cool to room temperature. (When cool, the pears in the syrup can be covered and kept in the refrigerator, still in the syrup, for up to 3 days.)
To Caramelize the Pistachios: Place a piece of parchment or a silicone mat on the counter near your stove. Put the sugar and water in a small non stick skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to a boil and cook without stirring until the sugar has reached an amber-colored caramel. Add the nuts and stir without stopping, until the sugar becomes a dark caramel color and coats the nuts. Turn the nuts out onto the parchment or baking mat, spreading them out as best you can.
When the nuts are cool, coarsely chop them. Keep them in a cool dry place until needed.
To Make the Optional Sauce: About 30 minutes before you assemble the tart, remove the pears from the poaching syrup, pour the syrup into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the honey and boil until the syrup is thick enough to coat a metal spoon. Pour the syrup into a container and chill until needed.
To Assemble the Tart: Cut the pears lengthwise in half, scoop out the cores and trim the stems and center veins as needed. Place pears cut side down on a triple thickness of paper towels. Cover with another triple thickness of paper towels and pat dry. Leave them between the paper towels (change the towels if they are very wet) until the excess liquid is absorbed. When the pears are dry, cut each pear half lengthwise into 4 to 6 slices.
If you did not strain the pistachios out of the pastry cream, mix in the 1/4 cup sour cream to thin it a little. Spread the pastry cream in the baked tart shell. (You may have some cream left over). Top the pastry cream with the pear slices, arranging them in slightly overlapping concentric circles. Scatter the caramelized pistachios over the tart and, if you’d like, serve each slice with some of the wine sauce or pour the sauce into a small pitcher and pass it at the table. (The tart can be covered lightly and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)
Happy mother’s day to all the amazing moms out there <3