This is the only image I have of this tart, that I made in two different versions and shapes the weekend past. Taken on my phone, just mere moments before it was about to be sliced. I made the base and filling here in Cape Town and wrapped it up to take to my lovely friend Corina and her guests in Hermanus, about an hour and 20 minutes away. It survived the journey. It bakes to a wonderful crisp every time I make this base and is ideal for light, creamy fillings like curd, mousse and would be perfect as a chocolate tart. If you use wheat flour or gluten free substitutes, the base turns out beautifully – a light texture that begs for the tines of a fork to cut through it, crumbs splintering delicately into the air.
I can’t take credit for the base, it’s adapted from an Expresso Breakfast Show recipe, given to me by Katelyn Williams and Zola Nene. I doubled the original quantity as I feel you need closer to just under 3/4 of the mix to make a nice thickness of crust for this pie, for a round standard pie tin, 9 inches/ 23 cm diameter. Because I blind bake I prefer a thin aluminum, loose-bottomed pie tin that conducts heat well and from which the pie can be removed to stand on its on.
Blind baking or pre-cooking is done with pies that have fillings such as this one that don’t need cooking. It’s done by covering the pie with baking paper and a layer of pie weights or dried beans so that the dough stays put and doesn’t rise up during the baking process. The recipe contains a rising agent so it is essential, though all pie doughs are best baked blind.
I keep the remainder of the dough for smaller tarts. The dough freezes well and requires no kneading. Convinced? Great!
For the base
125 g butter, softened
125 ml castor sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
500 ml gluten free flour mix (such as cup for cup mix, or subs with ordinary cake wheat flour)
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped (optional)
For the filling
250 ml (1 tub) mascarpone cheese
250 ml (1 tub) creme fraiche
1/3 cup castor sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped (or 1/2 t vanilla extract)
4 Forelle or medium-firm sweet pears, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2 cm thick *cover slices with lemon juice to prevent oxidation*
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water plus extra
vanilla pod, seeds extracted
1. Prepare the dough by creaming the sugar and butter in a stand mixer or with a handheld beater or by hand with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
2. Add the beaten egg and vanilla seeds, beating well to mix.
3. Add flour, baking powder, salt and mix until a firm, stiff ball forms.
4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease the pie pan. Divide the dough into two balls. Now remove just under half of one ball and join it to the first half. Roll out the dough slightly with a floured rolling pin just to soften it, until about 12 cm diameter.
5. Press the dough evenly into the pan all the way up the fluted edges using your fingers. Cover base will a disk of baking paper. Top with baking beans or weights and bake for 15-16 minutes until crisp and lightly browned. Monitor your oven carefully. *note: some prefer to bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, you know your oven best)
6. While the base is baking, add the mascarpone, creme fraiche, sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Don’t over-beat as the mascarpone can curdle. Cover and leave in the fridge.
7. In a wide saucepan add the sugar and turn up the heat to medium. Add the water and swirl the pan. When the sugar is dissolved, add the vanilla pod.
8. When the sugar water starts to bubble add the pear slices and coat. Allow to cook on medium, swirling and turning. If the pears start to release water, turn the heat up or get rid of some it by pouring it out. You want the pears to cook and be soft but not mushy, and the water to dissipate so they can start to brown. If you find yourself needing to add more water to prevent the pears from catching, add a little at a time. Allow to cool and remove vanilla pod.
9. Remove pie crust, set beans aside (they can be reused many times) and allow to cool for 10 minutes, before gently removing from tin and sliding crust onto wire rack to cool. Remember to remove loose pie bottom from under the crust. When completely cool, fill with mascarpone filling and top with caramelised pears.