I extracted a small tub of raspberries from the freezer yesterday, comforted to see it near overflowing with the season’s harvest. Though saskatoons and blueberries came in in droves this year, the raspberries that made it to the freezer were few and far between – their perishability and spotty cropping this summer made them all too easy to enjoy as soon as they were picked. With this in mind, I wanted to make something special to highlight them. So began a trip down memory lane.
The image of a tart, likely from a patisserie in Paris, formed in my mind. The sort where half-submerged berries nestle in a spongy filling that wells up golden in the baking. However I don’t have a clue what that sort of filling actually is. Back to the drawing board. I do know that sweetened cream of any sort pairs well with tart raspberries, but alas I have neither milk nor cream nor cow on hand – another dead end.
Chocolate? Chocolate is also a wonderful foil for raspberries – I recall a chocolate torte with raspberry coulis made by my brother’s friend Anabelle in Vancouver that was about the most soul-satisfying (or destroying) confection I have ever had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into. However, I reserve chocolate for extra special occasions given the lack of attention, due to the lack of attention Yukon farmers, even the most intrepid and zany, give the cocoa plant. Onward.
I perused my cookbooks and discovered that while full of fabulous recipes and glorious pictures, I don’t seem to have any that have much of a focus on desserts – something I shall obviously have to remedy. To my standby, the Joy of Cooking. I perused the cakes, the fillings and the pies and pastries. A glimmer of a memory began to flicker – when I was little my mum and I would make a pear tart from one of the Sunset cookbooks, it featured on the cover glistening pear halves half-buried in a creamy filling, the whole drizzled with a sort of jelly and sprinkled with sliced almonds. Ok, it was no longer a glimmer, it was a full on 100-watt light bulb. At about this time I chanced upon the recipe for frangipane, one of those words that evokes delicious without any underlying understanding of its constitution. Turns out to be a custard with ground nuts folded in – well local eggs are a lot easier to come by than local milk, so off to the races!
The pears I confess are from my parents’ little orchard in BC, but this recipe works equally well with apples which are a darn site easier to grow in the Yukon. Did I overdo it as a vehicle for the lovely raspberries, which would have done equally well as a simple sorbet or served with a little cream from the store? Perhaps, but as the days grow shorter and there is more time to cook and think about cooking, there is space for a little creativity, and getting over the fear of multi-step dishes. For me it is also a deeply pleasurable journey in recreating a childhood memory with the colours and tones available to me today.
Tarte aux poires – Yukon style
Ever notice how desserts sound fancier in French? Stay tuned for a future article on the merits of the polar opposite from north of the channel – Jam Roly-Poly.
You will need
1 tart shell, pre-baked and cooled (I used the Joy of Cooking’s Pâte Brisée)
1 batch budget frangipane (based on the Joy of Cooking’s frangipane cream)
3 apples or pears
2 c poaching liquid
1 c Yukon raspberries
1 ½ c water + 1/3 c powdered milk, scalded with a vanilla bean
1 ½ c sugar
½ c flour
4 egg yolks, local if possible
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs finely chopped or ground sunflower seeds (I toast mine first)
1 tsp almond flavoring
Cream the sugar, flour and egg yolks in a double boiler above hot water. Remove the vanilla bean from the hot milk (it can be dried and placed in the sugar bowl) and whisk milk into the egg yolks, pouring slowly. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens well, then remove from heat and add butter and seeds. Set aside to cool, whisking frequently to prevent a skin from forming.
Poaching Liquid: 1 ½ c sugar dissolved in 2 c water, simmered with ½ a lemon, a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and a half a vanilla bean.
Halve and core three apples or pears – peeling optional. Poach the fruit till tender, 10-20 minutes depending on variety. Drain and cool, reserving liquid for future poaching or sweetening any number of things.
Fill tart shell with frangipane cream, and arrange fruit halves with stem ends towards the centre, pressing them down slightly into the filling. Scatter the raspberries over top and drizzle a little juice as artfully as you like. Serve it up and get mad compliments from your friends.