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When thinking of fruit desserts, does the pear come to mind? Author Susie Middleton says it should. Susie wrote the cookbook Fresh from the Farm and says once you try her Little Pear Crostatas with Hazelnut Crisp Topping, it might just become your favorite! Susie told Tonia's Kitchen says the dough is extra buttery, and says beyond the Bartlett pear base, the ingredients list is simple and basic. The taste is anything but! Find out more about Fresh from the Farm here.
Little Pear Crostatas with Hazelnut Crisp Topping
Makes 4 crostatas; serves 8
For the Dough
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purposed flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (1⁄2 pound) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes (keep cold if working ahead)
4 tablespoons ice water
For the Crisp Topping
1⁄4 cup unbleached
1⁄4 cup very finely chopped, toasted, skinned hazelnuts (see Cook’s Tip, p. 226)
3 tablespoons light
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted
For the Filling
3 ripe but firm pears (about
6 ounces each), peeled,
cored, and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons very finely chopped toasted hazelnuts (see Cook’s Tip)
Make the dough
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the cubes of butter and use your fingers to toss them carefully with some of the flour. Pulse about 20 times, or until the butter particles are quite small. With the motor running, add the ice water in a stream. Process until the dough is beginning to come together (but it will still be loose—if you pinch some together it should form a clump). Don’t over process. Turn the loose dough out into a big mixing bowl and knead it briefly to finish bringing it together. Use a scale to weigh the dough and portion into 4 equal pieces (about 5 ounces each). Shape each piece into a disk about 3⁄4 inch thick, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate or freeze.
Make the topping
Combine the flour, hazelnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a small mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it in completely with your fingers until a fine, crumbly topping forms. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Fill and assemble the tarts
Remove the dough disks from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line two heavy-duty rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
When you are ready to assemble the tarts, put the sliced pears in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, and then add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Toss until thoroughly mixed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream and
Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on a rolling surface. Roll out a disk of dough into a round about 71⁄2 to 8 inches in diameter, sprinkling flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Transfer the dough to one of the parchment-lined sheet pans. Repeat with the remaining three disks of dough, so that you have two rounds on each sheet pan.
Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the hazelnuts over the middle of each round (in a rough circle, leaving a 2-inch border). Portion the pear mixture evenly among the 4 rounds, arranging it in the center of the dough over the hazelnuts and leaving a 2-inch border of dough around the fruit. Pleat and fold the edge of the dough up and over the outer edge of the pear filling. Brush the top of the dough (and under the folds) with the egg mixture. Arrange a quarter of the crisp topping over the fruit in the center of each tart, letting little pieces of crisp topping spill over onto the dough as well.
Bake for 32 to 36 minutes, rotating the sheet pans halfway through until the crostatas are nicely golden all over and crisp and brown on the bottom. Let cool on the baking sheets and eat warm or at room temperature. Store, covered with plastic, at room temperature for a day or so, or wrap well
To get the best flavor from hazelnuts, buy them whole and toast on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until the skins darken and crack. Rub the nuts in a clean dishtowel until most of the skins come off. If you’ve got time, pop them back on the baking sheet and toast until golden all over. To chop them very finely, use a small coffee grinder. Just remember to stop before you make hazelnut butter!