Sweet, juicy pears, once considered as “gift of the gods”, are members of the rose family and are related to the apple. This fabulous fruit was introduced to California and Mexico by Spanish missionaries, though cultivation has been traced 300 years to Western Asia and could date further to the Stone Age. The general growing season for the pear is August-October, but are available year round due to seasonal variations. It’s a good thing too! Pears are full of fiber, a good source of vitamin C, low in calories as well as containing copper and vitamin K. They promote cardiovascular and colon health, help combat premenopausal breast cancer and both vitamin C and Copper are thought to be antioxidents, making the pear a very healthy snack. When ripe, the pear is soft, buttery and sweet- luscious on it’s own or try this decadent Spice Caramel Pear Tart w/ Pecan Crust…

For more on pear varieties and history check out www.whfoods.com and www.usapears.com

Spice Caramel Pear Tart w/ Pecan Crust

1 stick cold, unsalted Butter, cubed
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup finely chopped Pecans
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Egg Yolk

Pears and filling:

2 large Pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/4 inch piece of Ginger
water to cover
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 large egg

For crust:

350 degree oven.

Combine the sugar, flour and nuts in a large bowl. Add the butter and egg yolk and mix either with fingers or the paddle attachment of a mixer until a crumb texture forms. Press into a lightly greased tart pan w/ removable bottom or a 9-10 inch spring form pan, pressing into the edges with a glass or measuring cup. Place a piece of parchment paper in the formed crust and fill with dry beans or rice to weigh it down, and bake 15-20 minutes. Remove the weight from the pan and bake another 5 minutes to lightly brown the bottom of the crust. Remove from the oven and let cool while you finish preparing the pears and filling.

Pears and filling:

In a wide pan or braiser, place the pears in one layer with the spices and ginger and cover with water. Bring then pears to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and cover. Cook about 20 minutes or until a knife easily inserts. Remove from the pan and cool until easy to handle. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid for the caramel.

In a sauce pan, combine the reserved cooking liquid with the 3/4 cup of sugar, bring to a boil over medium high heat and let bubble until the liquid turns a medium brown color and appears to thicken. Remove from the heat and, slowly, stir in the cream. Be very careful to add slowly as the hot liquid can bubble up with the addition of the cold cream. I add a little at a time to start and stir that in before pouring the remaining cream into the sugar. set aside to cool completely. Beat the egg and whisk into the cooled caramel.

To finish, slice the cooled pears into thin slices and fan out into the tart shell crust in a circular fashion (or however looks nice to you!) Pour the caramel mixture over the pears and place into the 350 degree oven. Bake 40-45 minutes or until the filling is set. Remove, cool and enjoy with whipped cream, ice cream, sweetened creme fraiche…whatever suits your fancy!