PEAR CROSTADA WITH CORNMEAL CRUST
Makes 1 medium-sized tart, which serves about 8.
Note: The pastry can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week. Let it warm up a little bit before rolling it out. Use a fine grade of cornmeal (not the coarser polenta) for best results.
• 11/2 c. cornmeal (see Note)
• 11/2 c. flour
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
• 1 egg
• 1/3 c. cream or half-and-half
• 21/2 lb. mixed pears
• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
• 2 tbsp. flour
• 3 tbsp. sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• Crme Frache (see recipe)
To prepare the pastry: Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Cut the butter into thin slices (working quickly to keep it cold), then lay the pieces on top of the dry ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (If you don't have a food processor, use a pastry cutter or two forks -- to cut the cold butter into the cornmeal-flour mixture.)
Add the egg and "buzz" once or twice -- just until incorporated -- then pulse in enough cream to bring the dough together. Remove the dough from the food processor and push it together into one mass.
Break the dough into two uneven pieces, with one being twice the size of the other. Form each piece into a ball and flatten each into a thick disk. Place each circle of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, and roll until about 1/8-inch thick. Ease the larger circle into a 10-inch springform tart pan and trim the edges. Cut the smaller circle into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To prepare the filling: Peel the pears and cut them into thin slices. Transfer to a medium-size bowl and drizzle with lemon or lime juice. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle into the fruit and toss to coat.
Spread the pears in the crust. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a criss-cross pattern, then tuck into the edges of the bottom crust. (You might need to wet them a little to make them stick.) Place the filled tart on a baking tray and bake in the lower half of the oven for about 40 minutes, or until light golden on the top and around the edges.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan and serving the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of crme frache on the side.
HOMEMADE CRME FRACHE
Makes 2 cups
Rich but light, this silky, subtle, fresh-tasting cultured cream -- with just a highlight of tartness -- is a luxurious topping for both sweet and savory dishes. It has mystery and soul, and it's really easy to make! Note: Use a yogurt that is made with live, active cultures. This will be indicated on the label.
• 11/2 c. heavy cream
• 1/2 c. cultured buttermilk
• 2 tbsp. yogurt (see Note)
Combine the cream and buttermilk in a glass or ceramic bowl or container, and whisk in the yogurt.
Cover the container and let stand overnight at a warm room temperature (about 75 degrees is optimal). In the morning, put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation and to chill. When it's cold, it's ready to serve. It will stay fresh for at least a month and thickens a bit as it ages.