Aside from this, there not many things in the kitchen that are able to invoke fear in me quite like the thought of foods that involve rolling to an even thickness and shaping into a pretty form (pie crusts, cookies, biscuits, you name it). I must sheepishly admit that up until this point I have been a pre-made crust kind of girl. [Shrugs shoulders and tilts head to one side while sporting a half grin].
I know, I know It's not a rational fear. I guess its more like a mental block. Like pushing past the thirty minute mark on a morning run. Or getting your tummy wet when going into the ocean. Or throwing away that raggedy worn-out sweatshirt where the cuffs are falling off the sleeve (not that I would EVER own such a sweatshirt that someone tries to pry from my cold, dead hands...). All things that are not difficult, but present a tough mental hurdle to get over.
One by one, I am creeping deeper into the murky body of water that I have dubbed "my kitchen insecurities". Some were easier to push through (like my first experience with canning). Others...(THE CHICKEN)... not so much.
The more I push through them. The more fortitude I have to face the next challenge. I make bread for Pete's sake (well, I actually make it for my sake, not Pete's, but if Pete lived in my house I would make bread for his sake too). I can make dough for tarts (although, not without angst); so why can't I master a stinkin' pie crust? I issued myself a challenge. If I were from the 1800's, I so would have slapped a glove across my own face and asked myself to choose my weapons; fortunately, I was dueling myself so there was no glove slapping and my weapons are flour and butter. Whew.
I knew I wasn't quite ready to make something that needed precision work, so I figured if I went "rustic", I could do it... Something loosey. Something goosey. Ah... a crostata - a Pear Crostata w/ Figs & Honey seemed rustic, but yet elegant enough to sit on the Thanksgiving table. I have been finding myself turning to recipes that include pear more often recently - and it's such a nice change from apples (and peeling them) this time of year.
Fortunately, the dough came together rather easily in the food processor. It included corn meal, which added a nice texture to the dough. It rolled nicely. The filling was simple (chop and blend). Assembly was even easier -- drop and fold edges of crust up over top.
Success. If I were Dora the Explorer, I would have done the "We Did It" dance. But that would be weird. And maybe a little creepy now that my children are closer to college age than nursery school... Any hoo... I think I am just about ready to move on to making a real "big-girl" pie crust from scratch. My goal is to get off my pre-made crutch crusts in the next few months.
I put together an accompanying fig sauce... But I underestimated the strength of the soaking agent (Congac) for the figs. (Note to self - next time: dilute, dilute, dilute).
Oh, and by the way. I still have not recovered from my run in with November's chickens. Yes, I worked through it; but I still suffer from the occasional fit of cold sweats. Therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. (But it was really good chicken.) However, this did give me a jump on the hurdle I will be facing as I brace myself to start making Speculoos for FFwD. (Rolled cookies - shudder) Deep breath - I can do it!
Pear Crostata with Figs and Honey
Adapted From Bon Appetit
• 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
• 1/3 cup cornmeal
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
• 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
• 2 1/4 pounds firm but ripe unpeeled Anjou pears (about 4), cored, each cut into 8 wedges
• 10 dried but moist Calimyrna figs (about 4 ounces), stemmed, quartered
• Heavy whipping cream (for brushing)
• Raw sugar
• 2 tablespoons honey
• Rimless baking sheet
• Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Remove lid; spoon 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Return lid to processor; using on/off turns, blend mixture until dough forms ball, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Flatten dough into disk; wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.
• Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add pears and figs; toss gently. Roll dough out on lightly floured parchment to 14-inch square or round. Transfer parchment with rolled-out crust to rimless baking sheet. Mound pear mixture with juices in center of crust, leaving 2- to 3-inch plain dough border. Using parchment as aid, fold dough up over edges of pear mixture, pleating edges and pinching to seal any cracks in dough, forming square or round. Brush crust edges with cream; sprinkle generously with raw sugar.
• Bake crostata until crust is golden, pears are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly, covering crust edges with foil if browning too quickly, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove crostata from oven; drizzle 2 tablespoons honey over hot filling. Run long thin knife or spatula around edges of warm crostata to loosen. Cool crostata on parchment on baking sheet until slightly warm, at least 1 hour. Transfer to platter. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.