Pear and mulled wine polenta tart

Pear and mulled wine polenta tart

By
From
How to Cook Pastry
Serves
6-8
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

This tart brings together the intense colour of wine-poached fruit and warm flavours of Christmas mulling spices in a lovely, almost-shortbready polenta pastry. You will need a 24cm flan tin (or ring).

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the sweet polenta pastry

Quantity Ingredient
170g plain flour
50g fine polenta
1 tablespoon fine polenta
pinch salt
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 egg yolks

For the pears

Quantity Ingredient
750ml red wine
100-150g caster sugar
10 cloves
5 strips thinly pared lemon zest
2 cinnamon sticks
12 pears, ideally Conference

Method

  1. To make the pastry, sift the flour, 50g polenta and salt onto a work surface and, using the side of your hand, spread it into a large ring. Place the softened butter, in one piece, in the middle and, using the fingertips of one hand, push down (‘peck’) on the butter to soften it a little more, but without it becoming greasy; it should be uniformly soft, but still cold.
  2. Sprinkle over the sugar and continue to ‘peck’ until the sugar is just fully incorporated. Add the egg yolk to the butter and sugar mixture and continue to ‘peck’ until the egg yolk is fully incorporated and there is no streakiness in the pastry.
  3. Using a palette knife, flick all the flour mix onto the butter, sugar and egg yolks and, using the edge of the knife, ‘chop’ the flour into the butter and sugar mixture. This technique helps to keep the flour from being overworked. Use the palette knife to lift any flour left on the work surface to the top occasionally. As you continue to do this, you will create large flakes of pastry. Continue until there are no obvious dry floury bits among the pastry; it should be a fairly uniform even colour.
  4. Shape the pastry into a long sausage and, using the palette knife on its side, scrape a little of the large flakes together at a time. This will finally bring the pastry together and is called ‘fraisering’. As more pastry sticks to the palette knife, scrape it off using a cutlery knife to avoid overworking it. Continue until all the pastry is fraisered.
  5. Bring the pastry together with your hands, divide in two and shape each half into a flat disc. Wrap well in cling film and chill.
  6. For the filling, put the wine, sugar, cloves, lemon zest and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan and simmer over a medium heat until reduced by about one fifth. Meanwhile, peel the pears, cut them in half lengthways and remove the core. Cut lengthways into 5mm slices, add them to the wine and cook at the barest simmer for 15–20 minutes (or less if very ripe) until tender. Drain carefully and allow to cool. Strain the wine into a saucepan and discard the flavourings. Simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency, then set aside for serving.
  7. Roll out one of the pastry discs on a floured surface to a 5mm thickness and use to line a 24cm flan tin. Chill until firm. Heat the oven to 200ºC.
  8. Blind bake the pastry for 15–20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until the pastry looks dry and feels sandy to the touch.
  9. Sprinkle the 1 tbsp polenta over the pastry and layer the pears into the pastry case, packing them in quite firmly. Roll out the remaining pastry disc to 5mm thick and, using a 5–6cm pastry cutter, stamp out as many circles as necessary to cover the pears. Start from the edge of the pastry at the rim, slightly overlapping the circles as you lay them on top of the pears.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes, covering with greaseproof paper after 20 minutes if it shows signs of becoming too brown. The pastry should be a golden colour with no grey patches. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before removing from the tin. Serve warm with the reduced syrup and crème fraîche.
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