Pastries

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…aka the Three Cheese Delight aka Cheeses of My People Tart aka Baby Don’t Kiss Me. It’s the Ottolenghi recipe so good even Martha Stewart is onto it. C’mon, let’s get quaint with this caramelised garlic tart.

My friend Andrew hosted a potluck birthday party this weekend (HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREW!) and this was my contribution. This tart is my first recipe cooked blind (no pastry pun); I’m on a diet due to some near startling health news (nothing serious but from what I recall the doc said my veins were clogged with pure Nutella and I must be cleansed) so I’m keeping to a strict diet for a few weeks/months/who know until I’m better and possibly more attractive-er. With a blindfold wrapped firmly around my tastebuds held together only by fickle willpower I was unable to indulge in the stinky delights of this tart however my friends said it was nice and the minuscule lick I enjoyed over dinner seemed balanced, so, good times? This tart heats up really well too; I prepared it the day before the party and warmed it in the oven at Andrew’s place for around 10 minutes before serving.

The three cheeses of my people element comprises of feta, haloumi and kefalograviera (possibly my fav cheese of all time) to form the cheesey holy trinity of my ethnic background. If you don’t have access to this fabulous array try using one bitey, one mild and one… whatever the heck you like. Or just whack some goats cheese in there, oldschool. Keep it to around 240g and try to include both soft and firm cheeses.

Caramelised Garlic + Three Cheese Tart
(adapted from Ottolenghi)
2 sheets puff pastry
2 large heads of purple garlic, cloves peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
220ml water
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
100g Bulgarian feta
80g haloumi, grated or roughly chopped
80g kefalograviera or kefalotyri, roughly chopped
2 eggs
200ml cream
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a round tart tin with puff pastry and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Once chilled blind bake in the oven for 20 minutes being sure to weigh down the case with pie weights (or in my case some beans). Remove weights and bake for another 10 minutes until begin to golden.
2. Blanch garlic by boiling the cloves for 3 minutes. Strain well, return pan to heat and add olive oil. Once hot add the garlic cloves and fry for a couple of minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, thyme and a pinch of salt and continue to simmer until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated (around 10 minutes).
3. To assemble the tart sprinkle haloumi at the bottom of the tart case followed by the kefalograviera then crumble the feta on top. Arrange caramelised garlic cloves over the cheese. Whisk the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper and gently pour over the tart. Season with cracked pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves.
4. Reduce heat to 160°C and return tart to oven for around 45 minutes or until the top is golden and set. Remove from tart tin and serve with a whole sprig of thyme to garnish.

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Pear Vanilla Bean Brûlée Tarts + Pear Crisp

As my harshest critic, I rarely, no, NEVER, make statements of this nature however the time has come where I have finally blown my own mind; ladies and gents, this has to be one of the most fabulous thing I’ve ever created.

No, really.

I was invited to take part in Australian Pears’ What Can You Pair with a Pear competition for Australian Pear Month and naturally I couldn’t resist the challenge; from a very young age I never enjoyed the pear (I’ll put it down to an amazing aversion to soft fruit) but lately I’ve been sneaking pear into my salads to shed the irrational reluctance. Also, have you ever experienced the joy of receiving fresh produce via courier? Feels good, man.

Pear Vanilla Bean Brûlée Tarts + Pear Crisp

A few ideas for a new pear dish included salads and poaching etc however I ended up a little carried away so this may be a little lengthy for the Australian Pears were after (err, sorry!). For those wanting to try this recipe; I prepared the crisp, crème pâtissière and pastry on one day one, baked the tart shells and filled them on day two and blow-torched on day three.

The pear flavour isn’t overwhelming but instead offers a massive hit of freshness behind the crème pâtissière. The tart shells are buttery and sweet and of course the brûlée provides a shardy crack and amazing crunch. And as for the embedded pear crisp; well, it’s like eating magically charred toffee pear. It’s one of those rare occasions where completely winging it resulted in complete success! The only thing I’d considering trying for next time is using a little more pear purée. This recipe makes four 12cm tarts, or, many little tartlets.

Pear Vanilla Bean Brûlée Tarts + Pear Crisp

Pear Vanilla Bean Brûlée Tarts + Pear Crisp
(an original recipe)

Pear crisp
1/2 pear

Pear crème pâtissière
2 Williams pears, peeled, cores removed
200ml cream
1/2 vanilla bean
100g (approx. 5) egg yolks
100g caster sugar
60g corn flour
70g butter

Pastry
200g flour
60g pure icing sugar
Pinch of salt
120g cold butter
30ml cold water

Assembly
1 cup sugar

For the pear crisp
1. Preheat oven to 100°C.
2. Slice pear along its cross section and very finely slice with a mandolin. Transfer to baking tray and bake for 2-3 hours, checking occasionally, until pieces have dried out. Store in a sealed container until use.

For the pear crème pâtissière
1. Roughly chop pears and purée in a food processor. Push through a fine sieve.
2. In a separate bowl combine egg yolks, sugar and cornflour and whisk until combined.
3. Over medium heat place pear purée, cream and scraped, split vanilla bean and stir continuously. Heat until just beginning to boil. Slowly pour mixture into bowl of yolk mixture to temper then return to pan and heat. Again, whisk continuously until beginning to thicken, this should take a few minutes.
4. Decant into another bowl, remove vanilla bean husk and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to touch. Gradually add cubed butter, whisking after each addition.
5. Return plastic wrap and place in fridge to cool completely.

For the pastry
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Combine flour, icing sugar and and salt in a food processor. Cube butter, add to mix and process once more. Add the cold water and once again process until mixture forms a ball. Remove, form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a few hours (or until cool if you’re in a hurry).
3. Roll out pastry, stamp out circles and prepare into tart greased tart tins. Fill with pastry weights (or rice, or beans) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and bake for a further 15 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove from tart tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the assembly
1. Carefully spoon pear crème pâtissière into tart shells until just overflowing. Flatten with a palette knife and allow to cool and set in the fridge for at least a few hours. Once ready (the surface will have firmed up) sprinkle with an even layer of sugar and scorch with a kitchen blow-torch until toffee has formed. Place a pear crisp round in the centre, sprinkle with more sugar and again scorch with blow-torch until toasted and embedded. Serve immediately with additional pear crisps on the side.

Pear Vanilla Bean Brûlée Tarts + Pear Crisp

Or rather; enjoy immediately. Happy Australian Pear month!