2011/11/12

Days gone by... (Pear & Date Crostata on a rustic rye crust)

Once upon a time, in a rural Upstate NY community, there lived a little girl.  She didn't have a curl, in the middle of her forehead.


But she lived in a white house.  In the middle of nowhere.  Seriously.  In the middle of nowhere. 


On one side of the house was a road.  Lined with pine trees. On another side of the house was a field - destined for haying.  On the other two sides of the house were fenced pastures.  Behind those fences were a bevy of cows and one lone ancient horse.  Oh, and the fence zinged when you touched it.  (Don't ask how I know that... I probably would still get in trouble for it.)


Between the white house and the fields, there was a yard.  And in that yard, there were two pear trees and one apple tree.  Stumpy, gnarly trees that had branches just perfect for hanging a swing. And branches close enough to the ground for one little mischievous munchkin to climb up in and read a book.  (The girl may have been mischievous, but she was also a bit of a loner.  Usually with her nose stuck inside a books.)


Those trees were the source of much amusement for that solitary little girl. 

And they bore fruit.  Wonderfully sweet & absolutely ugly looking fruit.  Sometimes, this little girl's mother would can the fruit & it would sit on shelves lining the wall of the cellar.  Sometimes, people would come over with their large bushel baskets and collect the bounty of the tree.  And more often than not, the girl could be found in the reading nook, with a book in one hand and an ugly pear in the other. 

The love of pears has never quite left that little girl.  However, the trees have long since stopped bearing fruit and the girl must now pick through the less-rustic looking fare that a store has to offer.  Sigh.

In the spirit of those less-complicated moments in time, here is a rustic tart that pairs the sweet juicy pear with the sticky sweet date - wrapped up in the nutty, earthy goodness of a rye crust.  It's not a fussy dish.  It seems to beg for wooden benches.  Farmstead kitchens.  Little girls with hair still lightened from a summer in the sun.  Scraped knees.  A hot cup of cider.


Pear & Medjool Date Rustic Rye Crostata
Crust adapted from Good to the Grain; Filling adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts

For Crust:
1 cup rye flour
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbs) unsalted butter, COLD, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup water, cold (you won't use it all...)

For Filling:
2 1/2 pounds ripe pears, peeled & cut into 1/8th's
4 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves - optional (if you don't love  cloves, nutmeg works well; if you don't like nutmeg, what's wrong with you?)
8-10 dried Medjool dates, pitted & roughly chopped

Preparation:

To prepare the crust:
Combine flours, sugar & salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse for ~30 seconds - until ingredients are well mixed and any clumps have been separated. 

Start pulsing in butter chunks.  Do this in stages so that you will have different size pieces - you want to leave pieces of butter in the dough - so don't fully incorporate.  Next add the vinegar & 8 Tbs of water to the mixture.  This dough is a bit loose before it sets - so you want the dough to mostly come together, but don't stress if it is not fully a cohesive mass.  Rye flour needs some time to absorb the liquid.  (That being said, if the dough is totally not coming together, add additional ice water - I like to do it ~1 tsp at a time until the dough looks like it is going to hold it's shape. Pinch a small piece together - if it holds, you are probably good). 

Pour dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Press into a flat square-disk.  Sprinkle a few drops of water on top.  Wrap tightly - chill for about an hour. 

When ready, remove from refrigerator and turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of paper.  (It will still be a bit crumbly at this point - that's ok).  Fold into 1/3rds and roll again.  Fold and roll a couple more times.  At this point - for best results, wrap and chill dough for another hour.  If you are in a hurry, you can just go ahead and lay it out a sheet of parchment at this stage...

Toss together filling ingredients and set aside. 

Preheat oven to 375F

If you have not already done so, lay out rolled dough onto a sheet of parchment that has been placed on a baking sheet.  Center filling on dough, leaving 2" border around edges.  Using the parchment paper to assist, fold the edges up around the filling - pressing together at the "corners".  Don't worry about being too fussy - it's rustic - that's the point! Once complete, I like to brush the outside edges with egg wash & sprinkle raw sugar on. 

Place into preheated oven and bake for ~50-60 minutes - until crust is golden brown & pears are fork tender.  (If the filling is starting to darken too much, you can foil the very top towards the end of baking.)

When done, remove from oven and cool on parchment until luke-warm to room temperature.  Ice cream would not be remiss as a serving companion - just sayin'

9 comments:

  1. Cher, love the trip down memory lane. What a lucky, lucky little girl. The crostata looks perfect for fall!

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  2. Lovely story! Although I believe you that there are pears in there, that crostata still made me drool. :)

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  3. Sweet story! I spent the first 13 years of my life in the country ( I also touched the electric fence) but we only had a crabapple tree, nothing to inspire such a yummy rustic tart!

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  4. I love making crostatas and this one looks especially good!

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  5. That sounds like an absolutely delicious combination of pears, dates, and rye crust. I made a very similar crust before and the technique was rather interesting. I'm inspired to give it a go. Thanks Cher for sharing!

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  6. Aw, Cher, what a great story. It makes me want to read Anne of Green Gables in front of the fire with some cookies and be a little girl again. How nice to grow up with pear and apple trees so close and this crostata looks delicious filled with all of those wonderful flavors! Great post!!

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  7. Cher, Lovely story and delicious looking rustic tart. I can relate to your story, as a little girl, I grew up on a peach orchard. I have never tasted a peach as good as the peaches from those trees.

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  8. Ditto on the others ... love the story. I was a similar little girl, only with tomato plants. (Yeah, definitely not as story-picturesque, those big, gangly tomato plants.) The combination of pears and apples is so delicious, I wish the local harvest lasted longer.

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  9. What a great post!
    The story came alive for me and the recipe and complimented it perfectly!
    Great work!

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