I'm not much of a pear person. But it took me a long time to realize it.
I had a friend in high school who claimed early on that she thought pears were a disappointing fruit. Unlike a good apple, she said, when they're crisp they're absolutely inedible and likely to give you a stomach ache. But within a very brief period they become soft, bruised, and mushy. If you don't happen to be home and staring at your basket of pears during this critical window, which I am convinced lasts about 10 minutes, forget it.
So, after many years of eating pears as a child, as an adult I finally figured out I don't care for them all that much. I do appreciate the beauty of pears, though, particularly these stunning starkrimson ones we got in the produce box recently. Don't they look heavenly?
Since I don't care for them raw, I figured baking them into a sweet pastry was the way to go.
A few years ago I discovered this recipe which is simple and foolproof. The crust turns out perfectly buttery and flaky, and because it's free form, you don't have to worry about having the pastry skills of a kindergartener. This is great news for those of us who handle dough like monkeys. Really, when I make pie and tart crusts, I'm more like an angry monkey, because I get so frustrated with it sticking and ripping that I often find myself abusing the dough quite terribly. I think pastry brings out the temper in me.
Anyhow, I've made many different fillings for this crostata and swapped out various spices to enhance the chosen fruit. This time, I chose cardamom to go with the pears.
Have we discussed cardamom, and how I love, love, love it? I discovered it in high school when my family and I went to Sweden and Finland to find some long lost relatives. In addition to finding a few distant cousins, we also discovered sweet, spicy, gingery cardamom, which seemed to perfume most of the baked goods we ate while traveling, from coffee cakes to simple rolls to berry pies. Ever since then, I've had a deep love of cardamom, but I find it doesn't go with everything.
It does go with pears, though.
I'd like to find some savory uses for cardamom, but in the meantime, a pear crostata works just fine. And like many other fruit pies or tarts, if you serve it with vanilla ice cream it's a wonderful dessert worthy of guests, but with coffee makes a delicate, sweet, and slightly decadent breakfast just for one.