Batter Licker

November 1, 2010

pear tart with gorgonzola-walnut crust

Sweet and salty, refreshing but buttery – this tart takes all the wonderfully complex flavors in a traditional pear, gorgonzola, and walnut salad topped with balsamic vinegar, and turns them into a baked treat appropriate for the warm holiday season and cold weather ahead.

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I always look forward to the end of summer, as it marks the beginning of the season for speckled, golden yellow-skinned, slightly red-flushed Bartlett pears. The creamy, tender white flesh of Bartletts tastes refreshingly sweet when consumed raw in salads or bruschetta, but also holds its shape well in cooked dishes, whether baked in cinnamon butter or poached in red wine.

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Pungent crumbles of blue cheese pair well with the ripe sweetness of Bartlett pears, while the acidity of balsamic vinegar brightens the flavor at the same time that cinnamon, honey, and cloves add a spicy warmth to this tart.

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Buttery walnuts and sweet honey mellow out the tangy gorgonzola in this deliciously savory crust. The resulting subdued, cheesy flavor (which I think resembles the taste of a hypothetical love child between gorgonzola and parmesan) is incredibly addictive, and provides a subtle savory flavor that wonderfully contrasts the sweet baked pear filling, making this tart equally appropriate as an appetizer or dessert.

This holiday season, before you and your guests overdose on the same, standard ol’ apple pie/tart/crumble that seems to be served at every dinner party, perk things up a bit, and try this gorgonzola-walnut crusted pear tart.

Pear Tart with Gorgonzola-Walnut Crust
Makes one 9-inch tart

1 Gorgonzola-Walnut Crust, recipe below (double it and use 2 to 3 additional pears to make a pie)
4 pears (I used Bartlett), thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
2 oz. gorgonzola or other blue cheese for sprinkling

Prepare Gorgonzola-Walnut Crust recipe per instructions below up to the point where dough is formed into a disk and chilled. (On the day of baking, you may also roll the dough out, press into the tart pan, and keep chilled while you make the filling.)

Preheat oven and a foil-lined baking pan to 450F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, honey, lemon, and flour until smooth. Add pear slices, and gently stir to coat pears in the filling mixture. (If you haven’t done so yet, roll out the chilled dough now and press it into the tart pan.)

Pour pear filling evenly across the bottom of the tart. Dot the top with 1 Tbsp. butter and 2 oz. gorgonzola crumbles.

Bake on hot, preheated baking pan until crust turns golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes, and serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Gorgonzola-Walnut Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart, or double the recipe to make both top and bottom crusts of a pie

1 c. flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 c. walnuts
1/2 c. butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 oz. gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. honey
3 to 4 Tbsp. freezing cold ice water

Chill butter cubes and blue cheese crumbles in the freezer for at least 15 minutes and up to one hour.

In food processor, grind walnuts into a fine powder (but not so long that they turn into walnut butter!). Add flour, salt, and honey, and pulse to combine. Add partially frozen butter cubes and blue cheese crumbles, and pulse 4 to 6 times until dough has the texture of a coarse meal with pea-sized butter and cheese pieces still visible. Add 2 Tbsp. ice water, pulsing a couple times in food processor until mixture just barely starts clumping together (i.e., if you pinch some dough and it holds together it’s done; otherwise, add 1 more Tbsp. water and pulse again).

Transfer dough into a bowl or lightly floured surface, and knead just enough to shape into a disk (there should still be bits of butter and cheese visible in dough). Sprinkle disk with flour, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Keep dough refrigerated until after you have prepared the tart or pie filling. Once filling has been prepared, line a baking pan with foil, place in oven, and preheat oven and pan to 450F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to approximately 1/4-inch thickness until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan (if doing a free-form tart, roll out to same thickness/size). Transfer dough to tart pan (or cool baking sheet) and press into corners and sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to cut off any excess crust hanging over the pan’s sides. Add filling evenly across the bottom of the tart pan. (If making a free-form tart, leave 1 1/2-inch border around the sides, and fold that up and over the filling to create a self-contained tart.)

Bake on hot, preheated baking sheet until crust is golden-brown, approximately 20 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled. Tart will keep for 3 days stored in airtight container.

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