A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart

A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart
Author: From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Marcella Hazan, 1989: 589)
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds fresh pears (must be full-flavored firm fleshed pears)
  • 9-inch round cake pan
  • Butter for greasing the pan and dotting the cake
  • ½ cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs
  • Optional: one dozen cloves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add the sugar and a tiny pinch salt, and continue to beat. Add the flour, mixing it in thoroughly to produce a compact cake batter.
  3. Peel the pears, cut them lengthwise in two, scoop out the seeds and core, then cut them into thin slices about one inch wide. Add them to the batter in the bowl, distributing them evenly.
  4. Smear the pan generously with butter, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, then turn the pan over and give it a sharp rap against the counter to shake loose excess crumbs.
  5. Put the batter into the pan, leveling off with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Make numerous small hollows on top with a finger and fill them with little bits of butter. Place the pan in the upper third of the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top has become lightly colored.
  6. While it is still lukewarm, carefully loosen the tart from the bottom of the pan, lift it with spatulas, and transfer it to a platter.
  7. It is very nice served while still a little warm, or at room temperature.
  8. Notes: this cake can also be made with apples or other fruits. I usually make it with between 2.25 and 2.5 pounds (roughly) to start, to account for skin and core loss. If made with apples a smidgeon of cinnamon and ground cloves can be added for extra flavor – but not much; this is meant to be a delicate cake. Liquors could be added for flavor as well – poire William for the pear cake, for instance. Also, the fruits can be cut into largish or smallish chunks; if matchsticks are used the fruit melts a bit and the cake is more elegant. But big (1/2 inch) chunky bits are lovely too.
  9. Another idea – this recipe could easily be used to create a savory tart, using butternut squash or even sweet potatoes. For squash, I’d cut the sugar in half and use 2 cups of flour, and maybe sage as well as cinnamon and cloves. For sweet potato the same, although I’d recommend boiling the sweet potato pieces a bit first, because they are more fibrous and require more cooking than squash.
  10. This cake is very forgiving of time and temperature, as well. The moisture of the fruit protects it from being easily burnt.