While enduring the really cold and dark Berlin winter, I always long for the warmth, the light and the smells of Southern France which I was lucky to have enjoyed almost every summer throughout my childhood and youth. The memory of it alone often makes me suffer the winter blues typically settling in with me around this time of the year just a little bit better, knowing that there will be days when I would once again be able to soak in all of the sensations that I so uniquely connect with the landscape that inspired the impressionists, the architecture of Le Corbusier and the designs of Eileen Grey and holds the secrets of the art of scent that Patrick Süskind captured in his gruesome novel „Perfume: The Story of a Murderer“. So with the images and sensory memories of Southern France and particularly its purple-colored lavender fields in my head, I strolled through the market the other day, and while the stands are still rather scarcely populated with any notable variety of fruit these days, there are beautiful pears – one of my favorite fruit, actually – to be had. It seems only logical that I got fixated on the idea to bring pears and lavender together. I opted for a mascarpone filling as I think the combination with poached pear is quite an ideal marriage. I gave the tart a topping of pecans that caramelize in maple syrup during the baking process. You may actually end up finding the smell of the latter at least as tantalizing as that of lavender.
So: Enjoy and think of summer! It’s out there somewhere preparing for a big entry – I’m sure of it!
- 4-6 nice Williams pears, not too soft (for a bit of a bite, go for rather hard ones)
- 1 liter of water
- 500 grams of sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers
- 200 grams of flour
- 100 grams of cold butter
- 30 grams of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- a couple of tablespoons of water
- For the egg wash: 1 large egg yolk, whisked
- 500 grams of mascarpone
- 3 large eggs
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- 60 grams of sugar
- 125 grams of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup
Poached Pears (prepare approximately five to seven days before baking):
- Put the water in a large saucepan and add the lemon juice.
- Peel the pears but leave whole, in particular do not cut away the stem. Put into the water & lemon juice immediately.
- Add the sugar to the water. Cut the vanilla pod in halves, remove the seeds with the back of a knife and add both the pod and the seeds to the water. Add the lavender flowers.
- Bring to the boil and then let simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer the pears and the liquid to an airtight/sealable container (very clean, ideally disinfected with hot water). Let cool down, then keep in the fridge for about 1 week to allow the flavors to infuse nicely.
- When making the tart, remove the pears from the syrup and let drip off well. Preserve the syrup – it is delicious and can be used for other desserts, cocktails etc.
- Cut into halves. Cut off the stems and remove the core. Make 4 to 5 parallel incisions into the outside of each half for decoration.
Preparing the shortcrust pastry:
- Pass the flour through a fine mesh onto the clean kitchen counter or a baking mat. Cut the cold butter into small pieces into the flour. Add the sugar and the salt. Rub the ingredients between your hands until you have a crumble.
- Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Quickly start kneading the ingredients into a smooth dough adding more water if required t. Should the dough become too sticky, add a bit more flour.
- Form a ball, wrap it into cellophane and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Butter a tart pan. Roll out the dough and line the tart pan with the dough. Cut off overhanging bits of dough with a knife.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the dough and cover with baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, remove the baking weights and the parchment paper, and brush with the whisked egg yolk. Bake for another 2 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Then remove the pastry from the oven and reduce the temperature to 160 degrees Celsius.
Preparing the filling:
- Beat the eggs and the sugar until creamy and light.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and the mascarpone. Beat with an electric mixer until you obtain a smooth cream.
Preparing the topping:
- In a small bowl, mix the roughly chopped nuts with the maple syrup. Mix well until all of the nuts are covered in maple syrup.
Bringing it together:
- Place the pear halves on the bottom of the crust with the outside facing up.
- Pour the filling into the pan.
- Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for approximately 15 minutes, until the top begins to form a skin. Ensure that it is firm enough to prevent the nuts from sinking in.
- Sprinkle the nuts over the top.
- Continue baking for approximately 30 minutes until picking up a light brown colour.
- Let cool down before serving or serve lukewarm. Also goes nicely with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.