WHEN I hear people say that baking is one of the most therapeutic things you can do, I can’t help but tell myself: “What else must these people do that are so nerve-wracking that they find baking relaxing?” Just the thought of measuring everything exactly, following the recipe religiously and all the waiting that follows when you place that batter or dough in the oven and stare and stare, hoping that everything turns out alright—how is that therapeutic?
Cooking, though similar, gives more elbow room for modification. Creating dishes on the fly is not only normal, it is an admirable skill. The flexibility involved in substituting ingredients and adjusting seasonings, to the ways of controlling the heat and knowing the different cooking times of various components of a dish may also seem daunting to those who can’t boil an egg, but at least there is room for tweaking.
Although this month’s theme for the magazine Cook (the sister publication of the BusinessMirror) is desserts, I knew I could veer away from baking by choosing to do a no-bake dessert. I could leave the baked sweets to our pastry experts, Chefs Jojo and Edward, who share their recipes with our readers monthly. But one of the reasons we at Cook chose desserts as a theme, apart from the fact that desserts make for a pretty cover, is to encourage existing and would-be home-bakers to consider making their own goodies for the coming holidays. It seemed wrong for me to promote something while avoiding it entirely. The recipe I chose to do is simple enough for novices like myself, while still providing enough of a challenge. Making tarts involves a few separate processes that all come together toward the end. Each stage is important, each procedure a necessity for the final product to work.
Uncomfortable as it might have been, I must admit that all the effort and anxiety adds to the feeling of accomplishment once it all comes together. It is quite rewarding to finally be able to see the tart come out of the oven, looking as it’s supposed to look like. It doesn’t end there though, as a few more tense moments occur when the time comes to release the tart from the pan and when it is sliced.
There is just so much that can go wrong with pastry, but when it all works out, the sense of accomplishment one feels is even sweeter.
Pear and Almond Tart
For the crust:
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup (3/4 bar) salted butter, cut into small cubes and kept very cold
2 tbsp to 4 tbsp water
For the pears:
4 pcs pears
2 cups white wine (or red if you want the color to contrast)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
For the almond filling:
1 cup ground almonds
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
Combine water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise and core. Place in lemon water, add sugar and wine and let simmer till just tender. Let cool completely.
For the crust:
In a large bowl, rub together flour and cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add water a tablespoon at a time until you can form a dough.
Wrap dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, roll dough into 1/8-inch thickness. Place over buttered tart pan, and press gently into the sides and bottom. Cover tears and holes with excess dough. Using a fork, poke holes into the bottom part of the tart. Place tart in freezer for an hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Once tart is frozen, line with parchment or wax paper. Fill with beans, rice or baking beans to provide weight. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until crust is cooked but still lightly colored. Remove baking beans and paper. Tart crust is now ready to be filled.
For the filling:
In a bowl, combine soft butter and sugar and whisk till well combined. Add flour, ground almonds and egg and mix till batter is smooth.
Pour almond paste over tart base. Arrange pears and bake at 350°F for 20 minuters to 25 minutes. Let cool and remove tart from pan.
Image credits: Michael Anthony Sagaran