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I’m an NPR junkie.

I listen in the car.  I read stories on my iPhone when I’m waiting somewhere.  I reference tidbits from these stories with reckless abandon.

It’s probably very annoying, but I do it anyway.

NPR makes me feel happy and smart, and since we’ve been TV free since 2008, it connects me to world events so I don’t live in so much of a bubble.

It also brings me interviews of Julia Child, which I listened to last week just before making this tart.  I had already planned to make this recipe for a dinner party, but hearing her talk (an old interview from 1989) made me feel inspired.

What is it about that woman that makes you want to make pie dough from scratch?  And then drop it on the floor?  And then serve it anyway?

I changed the original recipe around a touch, but it still turned out tasty.  The crust is fantastic (all that butter), and the pears are quite nice.

My main complaint is that there is no perfect way to serve this dessert – somehow you have to cut slices of tart without leaving someone with an entire pear on their slice, or with just a sliver of fruit.  Very challenging.

Nothing ended up on the floor (don’t worry, dinner guests, I promise it was all on the up and up.)  But we did chat about Julia Child at dinner.  And yes, I quoted the NPR interview I heard earlier in the day.

Hey, I contributed during the pledge drive this year.  I’m entitled.

Ingredients

For the crust
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
5-6 tablespoons cold water

For the pears
juice and zest from one lemon
2 cups simmering water
2 cups Riesling (or other sweet wine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 pears, peeled and the bottoms trimmed so they will stand up

 

For the custard
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup of the pear poaching liquid
2 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture is the texture of course sand.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, vinegar and cold water.  Mix together the egg mixture and the flour mixture, knead to combine.

Roll the dough out on parchment, sprinkled with a little flour so that it will fit in a 9″ springform pan.  Once rolled out, place in the springform pan and trim the top so it is even with the top of the pan and prick the bottom of the crust several time with a fork, place parchment paper inside the crust and then put in a layer of baking beads or beans.

Bake until set, about 20 minutes.

To make the poached pears:

Strain the lemon juice and place it and the zest in a large saucepan. Add two cups of simmering water and stir in the sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the wine, cinnamon sticks and the vanilla.

Bring the liquid to a boil and then add the pears so they are standing upright.  Cover loosely and barely simmer for about 8-10 minutes, just until tender.

Uncover and let stand 20 minutes in the syrup, or longer, before draining. Reserve some of the poaching liquid for the custard.

For the custard:

Whisk together the flour and sugar.  Gradually whisk in the 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid.  Beat in the eggs, heavy cream, and the vanilla.

For the topping:

Remove the cinnamon sticks from the remaining poaching liquid.  On medium-high heat, continue to cook the liquid until it reduces down to a caramel sauce, stirring frequently.  (Be patient – this could take 30-45 minutes.)

To assemble and bake the dessert:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Stand the poached pears inside the shell, evenly spaced.  Pour the custard around them.

Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, just until the custard is set.

Once the custard is cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool 20 minutes.  Once slightly cool, drizzle the caramel syrup over the pears and custard.

Serve warm or cold.

Source:  Adapted from Julia Child as seen here, and inspired by Roost.

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