{TWD} French Pear Tartlets

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Bonne année!

Lately, it seems, I can’t get away from French related things. I was in French Polynesia for two weeks, I recently made a French Yule Log, my new favorite wine is French, and now we have the French Pear Tart (or in my case French Pear Tartlets). Actually, now that I think about it, my last name is French. 😛

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie was picked by Dorie Greenspan herself! Dorie is the baker and author of Baking…From My Home to Yours, the book we are all baking our way through weekly.

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For our first TWD recipe of the new year, Dorie selected the French Pear Tart. In the recipe preamble, Dorie discusses how she was surprised to learn that the French use canned pears to make this tart. She states that the tart tastes great with canned pears, but to take it to the next level you can poach your own pears.

Naked pears, waiting to be poached.

Naked pears, waiting to be poached.

I decided to poach my pears. Poach my pears. I like the way that sounds. I’m going to make that my new saying for 2009. Anyway, I split and scraped a whole vanilla bean into the poaching liquid to infuse the pears with vanilla flavoring.

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I used whole-wheat pastry flour and almond meal to make the crust.  Instead of one big tart, I decided to make four tartlets. It’s easier to share this way.

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After partially baking the crusts and letting them cool, I spread the almond cream in an even layer and on top of the cream I sprinkled minced candied ginger for that extra zing.

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Then came the tricky part for me–fanning the cut pears. Although they came out alright, this is the area I need more practice. I don’t have a good pear-fanning technique. I also, probably, over-filled my tarts with pears.

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Aesthetics aside, this tart was outstanding. The flavoring combination of almonds, pear, vanilla, and ginger was perfect.I cut the tartlets in quarters and took them to work. imgp3114

This recipe is great because you can do bits and pieces of it over the course of a few days. I poached the pears and made the crust on one day, made the almond cream on another day, and assembled/baked it on a third day.

For the recipe (and to see how a real pro does it), please visit Dorie’s website.

Perfect bite-size!

Perfect bite-size!

Mini Whole-Wheat Parmesan Pretzels

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A Daring Baker’s rewind! Way back in November 2006, the two founders of The Daring Bakers decided to make pretzels and post their results: Cream Puffs in Venice and La Mia Cucina. Now there are over 1000 members from all over the world.

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The pretzel recipe they used came from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. I’ve changed the recipe a bit, substituting some whole-wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour and adding some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. I also made the pretzels smaller and decreased the butter used in the topping.

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If you have never made pretzels before, I encourage you to make these. They are so soft and tasty and easy to make.

Mini Whole-Wheat Parmesan Pretzels

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Note: The original recipe is called Hot-Buttered Pretzels

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Topping

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Dust the dough with flour to prevent sticking and place the dough in a plastic bag. Close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by  lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into sixteen equal pieces (about 1 1/4 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the sugar, and place it in a shallow bowl.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 14 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the sugar wash and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave. Yield: 16 mini-pretzels.

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