Friday, November 28, 2014

Pear Cardamom Crumb Bars

Pears have a habit of behaving a little bit like bananas.  They seem to ripen quickly when you least expect it and then they must be consumed within a narrow window of time for maximum enjoyment.  If you find yourself with a couple of pears in this condition, consider transforming them into these bar cookies.

There are several varieties of pears, each one with its own peak season.  The most common varieties are Bartletts (late summer – fall), which are very juicy and turn a beautiful shade of yellow when ripe; Boscs (fall – spring) have a long tapered stem end, brown skin and firm flesh with a smooth texture; and D’Anjous (mid-fall – spring) with their quintessential pear shape.  Red D’Anjous are similar but with a dark red skin. 

These Pear Cardamom Bars are an ode to pears.  The pastry dough, which buzzes together in a few minutes in a food processor, forms both the bottom crust and the crumb topping.  The dough includes a small amount of almonds, a touch of cardamom and lemon zest for additional flavor.  The pears are thinly sliced and tossed with lemon juice and sugar to form the filling.  These bars are subtle and delicious little pastries with a light touch.  They’re nice to have for a brunch table or a simple treat for a lazy afternoon.

I hope you had a terrific Thanksgiving with lots of fabulous food and good time spent with family and friends.  I know I sure did!

I want to send a special THANK YOU to food blogger Sally BR, who wrote to tell me she posted a review of my ecookbook, The Global Pastry Table.  It's a very thorough review and she also features the Spice Cake with Blackberries recipe.  I’m very honored to have her wonderful feedback.  Sally’s just the sort of person who is really the target audience for my work.  And her cake looks fabulous, too.  Check it out!

Bench notes:
- The pears need to be ripe but not mushy.
- To toast the almonds, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 350 F degree oven for about 10 minutes. 
- Use almond extract sparingly.  A little bit goes a long way.  Place a couple of drops on a spoon to avoid spilling too much and then add to the mix.
- The sliced pears are spritzed with lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Keep pears at room temperature to ripen or store them in the refrigerator if they’re ripening too quickly.

Pear Cardamom Crumb Bars
Makes 16 bars

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour                               
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) almonds, toasted
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar        
1 teaspoon baking powder                                                                                              
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom                                                              
zest of 1 lemon                                                                   
6 oz (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter                  
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 – 3 drops almond extract

2 large ripe pears (about 1 lb 2 oz)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.   Lightly grease an 8” x 8” square baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment long enough to form an overhang along two sides of the pan.
Combine the flour, almonds, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the almonds are finely ground and the ingredients are fully combined.  Cut the cold butter into 1/2” pieces and add to the dry ingredients.  Pulse until some of the butter is the size of oatmeal flakes.  Combine the egg yolk, vanilla and almond extracts and add.  Process just until the mixture starts to clump and holds together when pinched.    

Press about 2/3 of the dough clumps into the prepared pan to form an even bottom layer.  Refrigerate the remaining 1/3 of the dough for the topping until ready to use.

Bake the bottom crust until puffed up and the surface looks dry and slightly browned, about 20 – 22 minutes. 

Peel and core the pears.  Cut crosswise into 1/4” slices and place in a bowl with the lemon juice, tossing to coat evenly.  Add the 1/4 cup sugar and toss.   Lay the pear slices evenly over the bottom crust.  Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the pears, making sure to distribute to the edges and the corners to form a border.  

Bake until golden brown, about 28 minutes.  Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.  Run a thin knife around the edges and gently lift out of the pan using the parchment overhang to assist.  Cut into bars. 


SallyBR said...

How sweet of you to link back to my post! Thank you!

Your pear crumble made me smile, as cardamon is my favorite spice right now - cannot seem to use it enough! ;-)

pastry studio said...

HEY, SallyBR! Glad to see you went and got some cardamom! It's just the most intoxicating aroma to open that jar and take in all its complexity. I was actually just looking over a recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas for Finnish Pulla yeast dough made with cardamom. I think I'm feeling a need for more cardamom in my life.

Thanks again and very best to you, SallyBR.

Anonymous said...

wohh....thank you for sharing this i really like it

pastry studio said...

Thanks, manoj!