Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel

Plum Pear Blueberry Crisp

~
Nothing says summer better than a fruit crisp which effortlessly absorbs the season’s bounty. Let the market dictate your choice of fruit. Then fold the ripest gems – winey plums, tender pears, juicy blueberries – into your well loved and slightly worn ceramic dishes. Sprinkle with a little sugar and spice and crown it with a nutty streusel topping.

Plums Market

For this fruit crisp, I let the St. Helena farmers’ market do the talking.

Pears market

and ended up with this:

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel
and Armagnac Whipped Cream 

Serves 8 to 10

Streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Armagnac Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Filling:
1 pint blueberries, divided
6 ripe but not too soft pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, cut in 1-inch chunks
6 plums, pitted, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare the streusel:
In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and walnuts. Add butter and work into the topping with your fingertips until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the whipped cream:
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Place half of the blueberries and the remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter the remaining blueberries over the filling. Spoon the streusel evenly over the top. Bake in the oven until the crisp is bubbly, the pears are soft, and the topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Spiced Pear Tarte Tatin

pear tarte tatin tastefood

~ Spiced Pear Tarte Tatin ~

I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a tarte tatin. It’s my favorite dessert to make for weekend entertaining, especially during the winter when I crave homey rustic desserts. Tarte Tatins are delightfully simple, oozing caramel and fruit. Best of all they are beautifully imperfect, irregular and uneven in presentation – and all the more charming for that. While the upside-down tart bakes in the oven, the caramel from the fruit filling will bubble up in spots through the crust. Fear not: The crust will continue to bake, and when the tart is finished and cooling, the wayward caramel will harden and shellac  the crust like a candied apple – or in this case, pear.

Spiced Pear Tarte Tatin

Once you get the hang of making the caramel and the final turnout of the tart onto a plate, tarte tatins are an unfussy and reasonably quick dessert to prepare in advance of dinner. They taste best slightly warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8 to 10

Sour Cream Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup full fat sour cream

Pear Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in 4 pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
6 large Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and halved
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze

Prepare Pastry:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of peas. Add sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made one day ahead; refrigerate until use. Pastry dough may also be frozen up to one month in freezer before rolling. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight.) Remove pastry from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.

Prepare Tart:
Arrange butter in bottom of a 10 to 12-inch oven-proof skillet with sloping sides (preferably cast iron.) Sprinkle 1 cup sugar evenly over butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Arrange pears closely together, core-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Cut any remaining pears in quarters to fill in the gaps. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Increase temperature to medium-high heat. Boil until a thick amber coloured syrup forms, turning skillet to ensure even cooking, about 20 minutes.

While the fruit is cooking on stove, preheat oven to 425° F. Roll out pastry on  parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. Place in refrigerator while you wait for the filling to caramelize. When ready, remove skillet from heat. Lay pastry over fruit (work quickly because it will begin to melt from the heat of the pan.) Cut 3-4 slits in pastry. Brush pastry with some of the egg glaze.

Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and cool on rack one minute. Cut around edge of skillet with a knife or spatula to loosen pastry. Invert the tart onto a platter, using oven mitts. If any of the pears or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with a knife and arrange on top of tart.

Cool tart slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

If you like this you might enjoy these recipes:
Pear and Prune Crumble with Hazelnut Streusel from TasteFood
Ginger Pear Streusel Cake from TasteFood
Brown Sugar Pear Pound Cake from East of Eden
Spiced Pear Muffins from the Kitchn
Caramel and Sea Salt Pear Pancakes from Cookin’ Canuck

Pear and Almond Clafoutis

~ Easy Pear and Almond Clafoutis ~

You’d think I slaved over this dessert, but I didn’t. And you won’t either. Clafoutis are an entertainer’s best friend. If you’re looking for an elegant dessert to finish a meal – something that’s comforting and rustic, but can hold it’s own on the finest china, following a fancy beef tenderloin dinner, than look no further than a clafoutis. Composed of the simplest of ingredients (sugar, eggs, cream) and showcasing the season’s peak fruit, clafoutis imply a heck of a lot more time and finesses than is actually required. In other words: they are an entertainer’s best friend. File this one the for holiday and party season.

Pear and Almond Clafoutis

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten (who, frankly, is another best friend when it comes to entertaining). Feel free to substitute other fruit, depending on the season, such as summer berries and cherries, plums and apricots. Serves 6.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon all natural almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Pear brandy or Almond liqueur
3 to 4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter a gratin dish or deep tart pan. Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour, cream, milk, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and brandy. Stir on low speed to thoroughly combine. Arrange the pear slices, slightly overlapping, in the gratin dish. Pour the custard over the pears. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake until the top is golden and the custard is set, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood desserts:
Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel
Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin
Apple Cranberry Crisp

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

~ Pear, Blue Cheese, Arugula, Walnuts, Levain ~

Who knew leftovers could taste so good? Day old country-style bread studded with cranberries and walnuts, a chunk of Point Reyes Blue cheese and miniature red pears were remnants of a cheese board I made over the weekend. Day old bread, as un-sexy as that may sound, is a kitchen workhorse – resurrected as toast, crostini, breadcrumbs; folded into puddings and dressings, or swathed in egg and pan-fried. I kept it simple. I topped lightly toasted bread with slices of the blue cheese and pear (culinary best friends), and freshened the pile with a few wisps of arugula and a brush of lemon. What were last weekend’s cheese board stars and today’s less-than-fresh bread made a comeback in this delicious appetizer.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Arugula Bruschetta

If you don’t have a fruit and nut bread, use a country style or levain bread and top the bruschetta with coarsely chopped walnuts. Makes 4.

2 – (1/4 inch thick) slices of walnut or levain bread, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 ounces blue cheese such as Point Reyes or Gorgonzola
1/2 cup arugula
2 small red pears, halved, cored, sliced thin
Lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven broiler. Lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Broil until lightly golden on both sides, 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced blue cheese over the bread. Cover the cheese with a few sprigs of arugula. Fan one half of a pear over the arugula. Brush the pear with lemon juice. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin

Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin

~ Perfectly imperfect: Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin ~

By now you may have noticed that I am a huge fan of tarte tatins.  Tarte tatin is an upside down fruit tart, traditionally made with apples. It’s named for the Tatin sisters who “invented” the upside down caramelized tart purportedly by accident in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1898. Legend has it that one of the sisters, due to fatigue or distraction (and we have all been there), somehow omitted the pastry in an apple tart, thereby adding it on top of the fruit in an attempt to salvage the dessert. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our kitchen disasters yielded such successful results?

Tarte tatins are a lovely way to showcase seasonal fruit. Homey and rustic, they ooze caramel and fruit. Best of all they are beautifully imperfect. Once you get the hang of making the caramel and the final turnout of the tart onto a plate, tarte tatins are an unfussy and pleasing dessert – and in my case, they are irregular, uneven and all the more charming for that.  I use a sour cream pastry which creates a crumbly, cookie-like crust. As the tart bakes in the oven, the caramel from the fruit filling will bubble up in spots through the crust. Fear not: The crust will continue to bake, and when the tart is finished and cooling, the wayward caramel will harden and coat the crust like a candied apple. How can anyone resist this?

Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin

I like to serve this with lightly sweetened whipped cream spiked with a spoonful of pear brandy. Serves 8 to 10.

Sour cream dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup full fat sour cream

Tart:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 large Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and halved
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze

Prepare the dough:
1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-sized. Add the sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form.
2. Gather the dough into a ball, and then flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (The dough may be made one day ahead and refrigerated until use, or frozen for up to one month. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight before using.)
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.

Prepare the tart:
1. Place the butter in the bottom of a large oven-proof skillet with sloping sides. Sprinkle the 1 cup sugar evenly over the butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved, and the mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes.
2. Arrange the pears closely together, cut-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Cut the remaining pears into quarters to fill in the spaces. Mix the 1 tablespoon sugar, the cardamom, and nutmeg in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Increase the heat to  medium-high and cook until a thick amber colored syrup forms, turning the skillet to ensure even cooking, about 25 minutes.
3. While the fruit is cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the pastry on parchment paper to a round shape slightly larger than the skillet. Slide the paper onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator until the syrup is ready.
4. When the syrup has colored, remove the skillet from the heat and lay the pastry over the fruit (work quickly because it will begin to melt from the heat of the pan). Cut 3 to 4 slits in the pastry and brush the pastry with some of the egg glaze.
6. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the tart is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a rack 1 minute.
7. Cut around edge of skillet with a metal spatula to loosen the pastry. Place a large plate over the skillet and, using oven mitts, invert the tart onto the plate. If any of the pears or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with the spatula and spread on top of tart. Cool the tart slightly before serving and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Apple Cranberry Crisp

Apple Cranberry Crisp

~ Apple and Cranberry Crisp with Calvados Cream ~

If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. Sage advice in life and the kitchen, and very relevant to this fruit crisp. A good fruit crisp (or crumble – I go both ways) should contain seasonal fruit at it’s peak in flavor, subtley enhanced with a dusting of sugar and spice. The topping should be crisp and crumbly (see why I go both ways?) without being cloyingly over-sweet, allowing the fruit to shine through. I like to serve crisps with whipped cream, ever so lightly sweetened and fortified with a nip of spirits dictated by the fruit of choice. Everything works together, and when you have a recipe that encourages this, don’t mess with it. I love this crisp, and I think you will too.

Apple Cranberry Crisp

I used walnuts for this crisp, but feel free to switch them for hazelnuts, almonds or pecans, depending on the fruit you use. For this crisp I used apples given to me from a friend’s tree – my guess is they are Honeycrisp – and Granny Smith which I like for baking. Serves 8.

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in pieces
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For the filling:
8 large baking apples, peeled, quartered, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
1/2 cup dried cranberries or 1 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt in bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until topping resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and stir in walnuts. (Topping may be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use).

Combine apples and cranberries in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss to combine. Transfer fruit to a 9-by-13 inch baking pan, gratin dish or individual ramekins.  Cover evenly with the topping. Bake in oven until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 50 minutes. (If using individual ramekins, the baking time will be shortened to about 40 minutes). Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with Calvados Cream.

Calvados Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Calvados Brandy

Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer until whisk traces are visible in the cream. Add sugar and Calvados. Continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Pear and Prune Crumble with Armagnac Cream

Pear and Prune Crumble with Armagnac Cream

I almost didn’t post this recipe for Pear and Prune Crumble, since there are other similar recipes on TasteFood. Then I gave it some more thought: Crumbles are homey and rustic, easy to prepare and flexible with ingredients. They can be dressed up or simplified and are a surefire crowd pleaser. That’s worth sharing as an example – again.

A year round dessert, the crumble is forgiving. It effortlessly absorbs the season’s best fruit, tossed with some sugar and spice, then crowned with a streusel topping. Its nuance rests in the choice of fruit and spice. Summer begs for berries and stone fruit and a wisp of spice. Fall beckons apples, cranberries and bolder mulling spices. In the winter I prefer the prolific pear. Sturdy and gently perfumed, the pear provides a soft spoken backdrop for the filling, which I like to punctuate with intensely flavored prunes. As the crumble bakes, the prunes break down adding a rich and winey flavor, further amplified by a heady trio of spices – cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

To this particular recipe I also added frozen wild blueberries, which  I happened to have in my freezer and wanted to use up (as I said, crumbles are forgiving.) I served this dessert topped with Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream which adds an appropriately warm and fortifiying kick to a winter crumble.

Pear and Prune Crumble with Hazelnut Streusel and Armagnac Cream

Serves 8-10

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

For the filling:
8 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, cored peeled, cut in 1 inch chunks
20 prunes, pitted and halved
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frozen wild blueberries (optional)

Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream (recipe below)

Prepare the topping:
Whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and hazelnuts in a large bowl. Add butter and work into the topping, using your fingertips, until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in hazelnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a rectangular baking dish.
Place all of the filling ingredients (except the blueberries) in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter blueberries over the fruit if using. Spoon the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the oven until pears are soft and topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream.

Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream
Makes 2 cups (recipe may be halved)

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)