I moved into my flat on Tuesday night, and I've been working 10-12 hour days since. Today is Friday. I think it goes without saying that when you only have a couple hours a night before you crash, you're just not as motivated to cook. But dear reader, I could not bare to miss this month's You Want Pies With That Challenge: Herbs & Spices. Chosen by the brilliant Elizabeth of Cake Or Death, I've got to tell you, I've been looking forward to making this pie for a month. I couldn't wait to get into the kitchen when, uh-oh, I realized the "furnished" kitchen only came with 3 small saucepans. Well, I've been accruing minimal tools and ingredients over short grocery trips the past few night just to make this damn pie. And even though it's a quarter to midnight and I've just finished this madness I am soooo proud of myself because it's a pie I really believe in and tastes really, really great. I mean this is the kind of tart you want to love and not let go. You want to treat her like a lady. Okay, I've probably had too much wine which combined with the exhaustion has made me go a little nutsy. I digress...
So what did I think of that inspired me for Herbs & Spices? Since I'm in the UK, and it's cold, I wanted something spicy yet soothing. Something that made me feel warm and safe. Something that radiated energy. Something that danced on my tongue and included alcohol. I give you-
Spiced-Wine Poached Pear Tart
1) GF Shortbread Crust
2 packages Sainsbury's Free-From Shortcake Fingers (essentially GF shortbreads. Enough to make 1 1/2 cups crumbs)
1/4-1/2 cup butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Use a blender, food processor or the old take-a-glass and smash it method to turn the shortbread cookies into small crumbs.
Melt butter in microwave.
Combine crumbs and melted butter; mix well.
Pat into a tart pan or a white flan plate if you're shopping in the UK and can't find a tart pan ;)
Heat in the oven about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove and cool.
2) Spiced-Wine Poached Pears
5 firm, stout pears of your choice, pealed and cored, leaving the stem on top
1 bottle of full bodied red wine (I used a nice Shiraz)
2 tbs cardamom pods/seeds
1 tbs black peppercorns
2 tbs agave
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs spice mix (I used my own secret mix combining cinnamon, caraway seeds, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, cloves)
1 cup 100% fresh pressed fruit juice of your choice (I used an apple, grape, raspberry mix)
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients from the wine down.
Bring to a boil for a few minutes.
Add pears to boiling wine, poaching for 5 minutes on one side, 5 minutes on the other side (yes, the wine is still boiling while you're poaching.)
Remove from heat and baste every 5 or 10 minutes for 1 hour while pears cool.
3) Vanilla Bean Custard
I'm not even going to lie, I used a store bought custard but cooked it myself. And it's got the bean which I tre love.
Spread a thin layer of cooked custard over the tart crust (just shy of 2 cups cooked) until covering.
Slice all poached pears but one in half lengthwise being careful to match the symmetry of each pear. This will make sure that the pears are the same height when resting on the tart.
Slice all halves thinly lengthwise to create ripple effect (I was going to fan the slices. It didn't work.)
Place rippled half on pie and place last poached pear remaining in the middle.
Yes, you will have a half a poached pear left over. I ate mine. It was delicious!
Anyways, we're posting our pies on Pi 3/14. Aren't we cute?! Check out the other amazing bakers who no doubt put me to shame. Now let me show you my favorite part of all of this slaving-
Leftover spiced wine. Hell yeah :)