There’s one thing you should know about me: I bake a lot. I love desserts, I make a lot of desserts. Although I rarely share dessert recipes on here, it’s an integral part of my routine – but if you want to see them, they’re all on my instagram! maybe hit that follow button?.. so a new recipe was due and I’m very excited about this one. This Poached Pear and Ricotta Tart requires minimal technique. It’s a very simple dessert that’s easily put together but looks impressive and elegant. It’s not overly sweet and the flavors compliment each other so well, making it a wonderfully light, juicy dessert that’s perfect for Fall/ winter or whenever you have fresh pears lying around.
It consists of three components: a crumbly crust, a creamy ricotta filling, and juicy poached pears. Making everything from scratch is very easy but we can all use a few baking shortcuts every once in a while, so using store-bought shortcut pastry is perfectly fine, too. If you do decide to go that route, you can put it all together in about 30 minutes, so that’s a plus! But the crust can also be made up to 3 days before using. Just wrap well in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to use. Either way, it’s all very easy.
Making short crust pastry
Short crust pastry dough is a very simple type of dough used for pies and tarts, and made with flour, fat, salt, and water. The fat is rubbed into the flour, followed by the water. Little pockets of fat are formed within the dough and when baked, the fat will melt away, creating layers of fat and texture. This structures gives a crunchy, flaky but also sturdy pie crust.
The ratio is usually half-fat-to-flour. In order to get those pockets of fat in the dough the key is to use cold ingredients (cold liquid and cold fat). Shortcrust pastry can be prepared either by hand or with a food processor, just make sure not to let the dough heat up in the process – cold ingredients ensure a flaky texture.
You can use different types of fat, like butter, lard and shortening. Butter yields a lot of flavor, and it’s my fat of choice, but its starts melting at room temperature, so during the whole pastry making process you’re basically just trying to keep them solid and cool. Lard has a highest melting point. At room temperature it will be more solid than butter, as butter tends to melt more easily when mixing it in the flour. So because of that shortening and lard tend to be easier to work with. In general these three fats can be substituted 1:1 in a recipe, and you can also use combinations of two of the fats.
Mixing only fat and flour won’t yield a good crust. It will not properly cook and crumble apart very easily. So we need to add some sort of liquid – usually cold water – that will bring the dough together and form it into a ball. You can enrich the dough further by adding extra fats, like egg yolk. The egg proteins also help to form a sturdy structure. So as long as you choose your fat:flour:liquid ratio properly you can play around with your options.
It’s important not to overwork the dough, so there is minimal gluten network formation in a short crust pastry. Once the liquid is added, work it just enough for the dough to come together.
For this recipe we’re blind baking the crust. So you’ll need weigh it down with something to help it keep its shape during baking – like uncooked rice or dried beans.
Poaching the pears
Poaching is a gentle, stove-top way of cooking. Winter pears are ideal for poaching because they keep their shape. The longer the pears sit in the spiced syrup after poaching, the better they’ll taste.
Be sure to use firm, ripe pears. You can customize the poaching liquid to taste, adding spices like cinnamon, slices of fresh ginger, vanilla beans, orange, or chai tea.
During cooking, you’ll want to make sure the pears cook evenly and remain submerged in liquid. After poaching the pears, remove them with a slotted spoon, then cook the liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to a thick and rich syrup. The best way to test if the pears are done is by poking one with a paring knife; if it’s soft, it’s done. Depending on the pear it takes as little as 10 minutes.
Poached Pear and Ricotta Tart
For the crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (145g)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 stick very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (110g)
- 3 tbsp ice water
- 5 firm, small to medium pears
- 2.5 cups water
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 cups ricotta
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the poached pears:
For the ricotta filling:
- To make the crust: Add flour and salt in to a medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor). Add butter and quickly cut it into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. By hand: rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, working as quickly as possible to prevent the dough from getting warm.
- Add ice water and mix briefly, about 30 seconds, to form a soft dough. Add more cold water a teaspoon at a time if the mixture is too dry. Form the dough into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours (or overnight). Take dough out of the fridge 15 minutes before ready to roll.
- Dust a work surface with flour. Roll out dough to a thin round approximately 10 inches in diameter (for an 8 inch pan) and place in pie shape, trimming the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Cover the dough with parchment paper (or aluminium foil) and fill with dried beans or rice.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the beans and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To poach the pears: Peel the pears, leaving the stems on. Add water, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon a medium saucepan, and bring to a low simmer.
- Add pears to saucepan and allow to simmer for 10-18 minutes, occasionally gently pushing down the pears to make sure they are submerged in poaching liquid.
- Insert a pairing knife into the pear and if there’s no no resistance, remove from heat and transfer pears to a separate plate.
- Cook the liquid over medium heat until thick and reduced by about half.
- To make the ricotta filling: In a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, icing sugar and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, whisk the mixture for 3-5 minutes, or until fluffy and smooth.
- To assemble: Once the crust and sauce have completely chilled fill the tart with the ricotta filling, using a spatula to smooth it out.
- Slice about 1/4 off one side of the pear and turn the flat side down on a chopping board. Carefully slice into 1/4-inch slices, leaving half an inch from the stem of the pear and not completely cut all the way through. Using your hands, gently fan out the pear slices and place on top of the ricotta mixture in the tart. Repeat the process for all of the pears.
- Drizzle over the poaching sauce and serve.
Tips & Tricks:
If you make this Poached Pear and Ricotta Tart please be sure to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you and I love responding to every comment. And don’t forget to also tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see your photos!