Monday, November 2, 2009

Pear crostata with cardamom

May I confess something to you?

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.


  1. I laughed out loud when I read your first sentence. I wasn't either. But I find myself making all kinds of pear recipes right now. Posted one a while back and have another to post in the future that I worked on last week. I am loving the pears right now! I think your pear crostada is a great change from the common apple crostada.

  2. That is a gorgeous photo of the red pears. I like crunchy pears, like Asian pears.

    Opposite of you, I can't stand cardamon. :) I had it in Turkish coffee the first time and almost had to spit it out. I wonder if I'm missing some gene that allows me to enjoy cardamon . . ha ha (recently read that's what distinguishes the cilantro haters from the cilantro lovers!)

  3. I'd like to say I've had a different experience with pears, but, sadly, I cannot. Love your pear tart, though!

  4. I laughed too when I read this. I've always believed that pears and melons are ripe for 20 minutes. Before that, they're hard and have no flavor. After that, they're soft and have no flavor. But, oh, if you can get them in that 20 minute period you're in heaven.

    I love pears. It's just that my timing is off...

    (I also love love love cardamom)

  5. Hmmm, I agree mostly about pears, although my aunt used to send a box of royal rivieras for christmas which were juicy and buttery that I loved. I never can pick them at the market in the same state... those must be genetically mutated! Anyways, so I never thought of baking them, genius!

  6. I just had cardomom ice cream this weekend! I just discovered cardomom and I love the perfume-like taste.

    I discovered pears late growing up in Hawaii. I now just learn to be patient and eat it at thr right moment. Or another thing to do is poach them! They're amazing that way and perfect for the upcoming holidays!

  7. Haha pastry frustrates me greatly, too. The last time I attempted it months ago, I took so long shaping it that it got too warm and melted into a big oily dough puddle during the pre-bake =X. Your crostata looks awesome and I <3 cardamom.

  8. What a perfect pear tart! And I love cardamom, too. For a savory dish, you can combine it with like ginger and cumin to make a nice seasoning for chicken. ;)

  9. Those pears look gorgeous! Funnily enough, I only like pears when they're rock hard (I slice them and eat them), and won't look at them when they're ripe and mushy :) And love cardamom - it goes into a lot of Indian food.

    Beautiful crostata by the way.

  10. I guess cardamom is a pretty popular spice!

    Jen: I like asian pears too--somehow the crunchiness works with them. I'm surprised you have such a strong reaction to cardamom--though it is a potent spice. I guess I've got the cardamom and cilantro genes... :)

    foodhoe: royal rivieras--didn't Food Gal just write about those recently?

    Single Guy: I would love to try cardamom ice cream, that sounds awesome!

    Xiaolu: I knew I wasn't alone in mt pastry problems...

    Food Gal & Shaz: I think my future must hold chicken with cardamom and Indian spices--that sounds perfect.

  11. I'm not a big pear fan myself, but I would totally eat that!

  12. i'm not crazy about pears myself, and i think it's because i've had one too many mealy bites in the past. this is a fabulous rustic dessert, though, and i've found that baking them (especially atop a buttery pastry) makes pears much more tolerable. :)

  13. I actually do love a sweet, juicy pear, but I seldom buy them. Now you've got me wondering why. I guess because no one else in my family likes them much and they would go to waste to quickly. Now I can buy them and put any leftovers into this lovely tart!

  14. Buy pears when hard and green. Let them lounge around the kitchen for a couple of days until they begin to give when pressed gently. Don't abuse them! Refrigerate them. Buy some very good cheese such as Havarti or Gouda or Cheddar or .... Pour a glass of mellow red wine or crisp white wine. Slice the pears with the skin and the cheese. Add some Italian crackers. Sit down somewhere comfy and indulge! MOM

  15. Bob, Grace & oneordinaryday: you should all give this recipe a try! Say what you want abot Giada, but her recipes usually work.

    Mom: Sounds like a perfect snack...let's have it together one day soon! xoxo

  16. Fantastic recipe. Pears are so delightful and cardamom -- kudos for using a spice that people don't always think to use! I should know -- I have a ton of it and am always looking for new ways to incorporate it. I will have to give this one a try!

  17. See, I'm not from the west so loads of things for me to discover. When I get into something, I may buy a huge quantity and experiment, so I've made a ginger and cardamom pear tarte tatin, chocolate cake with ginger and pears, red wine and white wine poached pears, and a pangrilled pear salad. My next pear recipe...maybe pear jam or puree!