Pears achieve perfection slowly. Blossom turns to bud, then to a baby pear that matures into a fragrant fruit the moment it’s swiped by a squirrel. In 10 years of tending pear trees, I’ve yet to nab a pear.
Poire Williams — presumably invented by William, mad with swiped-pear frustration — is a clear brandy often bottled with a whole pear. Once I thought of the packaging as pear prison. Now I see it as safe house.
Spring, I slipped the buds down the narrow necks of bottles. Summer, I watched the fruit swell. Fall, I cut down the bottles and topped them off with brandy. Now my pears are beautiful, ripe and unassailable.
Which is to say I’ve still never tasted one.
Adapted (precious little) from Patricia Wells’ indispensable “Bistro Cooking.”
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 pounds (7 or 8) firm, ripe pears, preferably Bosc or Anjou, peeled, quartered, cored
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Pie pastry (recipe follows)
- Whipped cream or creme fraiche (or both whipped together)
Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in the pears and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Increase heat a little; cook until pears and sugar turn a deep, caramel brown, about 15 minutes. (Don’t quit early.) Shake pan occasionally, so pears and sugar do not burn.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pile pears into a 10-inch Pyrex pie plate.
Roll out pastry and trim to a 12-inch circle. Cover pears with the pastry, tucking it around the edges and down into the dish.
Bake on center rack until pears bubble and pastry turns a deep, golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Place tart on a flat serving platter top-side down on top of the pie plate. Holding plate and platter together, invert both. Rap the pie plate with a wooden spoon to release any stubborn pears. Lift pie plate, leaving tart sitting pretty.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature, with the cream.
To make pastry: Measure into food processor 1 cup flour, 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut up) and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Process to coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Measure in 3 tablespoons ice-cold water. Pulse about 6 times until clumps are damp. Pat pastry into a disk. If sticky, dust with a little additional flour. Wrap in waxed paper, and chill at least 1 hour.
Nutritional information unavailable