Makes 10-12 servings
Pastoral is the word that comes to mind whenever I even think about returning to this recipe. And return is another important word. Your first experience of baking lemon-laced pears into a sturdy, slightly crunchy pine-nut studded cornmeal crust, devotedly crowned with a beautiful lattice top, might well extend into a personal tradition.
The loving care you invest in this preparation will reward you with a tart that will feed many and can freeze and defrost seamlessly —so you can feed many again at a later time. Just be sure to wrap it tightly and thoroughly before freezing, and defrost completely before serving.
This tastes especially wonderful served a la mode with vanilla or salted caramel ice cream.
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for handling)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
Up to 1/3 cup water (as needed)
1/2 cup pine nuts
About 3 pounds ripe pears—any kind but Bosc or Asian (too grainy)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Combine the cornmeal, flour, suga, and salt in a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Pour in the olive oil, and run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the beaten egg and pulse a few more times until it is incorporated. Buzz in just enough water—2 tablespoons at time— to bring the dough together.
2. Remove the dough from the food processor and knead it briefly into a ball—folding and/or poking in the pine nuts as you go. Break the dough into 2 uneven pieces, one about twice the size of the other. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten each into a thick disk.
3. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Use a pastry scraper or sturdy spatula to loosen and then carefully lift the circle, easing it into an ungreased 10- or 11-inch false-bottom tart pan. Gently guide the ough into the corners, letting it climb the sides. Patch any breaks or holes by pressing the dough back together (with a touch of water if needed), and trim the edges flush with the top of the rim.
4. Scrape clean and lightly re-flour the work surface, then roll out the smaller piece of dough into a circle 1/8-inch thick. Cut it into strips about 1/2-inch wide, and leave them there for now. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower third position, while you make the filling.
1. Peel and core the pears, and cut them into thin slices. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, and drizzle with lemon juice and maple syrup.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle this into the pears and toss to coat.
3. Place fruit in the crust, spreading it out as evenly as possible. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a criss-cross pattern, then push the ends of the strips into the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (Use dabs of water, as needed, to make them stick.)
4. Place the filled tart on a baking tray, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.
5. Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.