Professional pastry kitchens are always imprinted in every way with the unique perspective of the Pastry Chef. I’ve been very fortunate to work with many wonderful pastry chefs, each with their own distinct style and attitude. Sometimes it’s a resolute commitment to the highest quality fresh ingredients grown locally in adherence to the practices of sustainable agriculture. Sometimes it’s an insatiable curiosity about the newest methods and ingredients and always pushing the envelope to fashion new flavor sensations. Or maybe it’s all about executing a classical technique and repertoire. I’ve seen some of the most amazing organic fruit imaginable, learned about the transformational power of the tiniest drop of culinary essential oils, worked with the world’s best chocolate, deconstructed this and that and reformulated and dressed up the ordinary. Chefs can be masters of the pure and simple or obsessed with powders and foam, but they are always insistent on absolute perfection in texture and taste, wizards of the crumb and the miniature morsel. Whatever their approach, the range of curiosities and renderings of your Pastry Chef stay with you forever.
One such chef was a fiend about tea, among many, many other things. He produced some amazing desserts where good quality tea could shine. And just as I was making this Yeasted Pear Tart I had a sudden memory of a delicious Chamomile Anglaise and thought its subtle flavor would go well with the subtlety of pears. Little did I know just how well chamomile actually pairs with the essence of yeast. It’s so incredible that I wonder why I’d never tried it before. Something about that wild yeasty aroma and flavor combined with the simple fresh garden richness of chamomile just seem so perfect together.
Both of these elements are quite simple to prepare. The tart dough takes about 5 minutes and then you let it go through its lovely and mysterious rising process. The sauce can be made in 5 minutes once it’s had a good steeping period.
I hope you’ll have a chance to try this sometime. It would be perfect for a Sunday brunch or a special teatime. Or really just any time at all.
- This anglaise is not particularly heavy because I wanted the freshness of the pears to shine through. I use half and half and just enough eggs to hold it together.
- Be sure to use pears that are ripe and very juicy. I think Bartletts work well here.
- This dough is very wet and sticky. If you have a pastry scraper, use it to scrape the dough into the prepared pan. Or a rubber spatula will work just fine.
Yeasted Pear Tart with Chamomile Anglaise
yeast dough adapted from Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz
3 T whole milk
2 t (1 pkg) dry yeast (not instant)
1/4 C sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 t salt
3 oz butter @ room temperature and cut into 1/2” pieces
3 medium or 2 large Bartlett pears
1 t lemon juice
3 T sugar
1 C half and half
5 t or 4 bags chamomile tea
3 T sugar
2 egg yolks
Generously butter a 9 1/2” springform pan.
Stir together the milk and the yeast in a mixer bowl and then add in the 1/4 C sugar, eggs and vanilla. Using the paddle attachment to finish the mixing, add in the flour and salt and mix for one minute. Add butter and continue beating for another minute. Gather the dough into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm space to rise for 2 hours.
To make the anglaise, bring the half and half to a simmer and add the chamomile tea. Remove from heat and let it steep for at least an hour or until the flavor is strong enough. Put through a fine mesh strainer and return the milk to a simmer. Whisk yolks and sugar until light. Add a small bit of warm milk to temper the yolks, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk and whisk thoroughly. Return to low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Remove immediately and pour off into a clean bowl to cool, stirring occasionally.
Peel, core and cut the pears into 1/2” slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning.
When the dough is ready, dampen your hands a bit and gently press down on the dough, spreading to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Arrange the pear slices in a decorative way over the dough, leaving a 1/2” border all around the edges. Press the pears down firmly into the dough. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the entire surface and let the tart stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes or until the tart is lightly browned and the center feels slightly firm to the touch.
Cool slightly and serve with Chamomile Anglaise.