In our family, even though my husband is a great cook and does a lot of the cooking, I have always been the pastry chef. I think that to make good pastry you have to have a sweet tooth, and I certainly can check that box!
When it comes to a recipe repertoire, it’s very easy to fall into a rut, using the same recipes over and over because we know they work. Which is why I am always on the look out for new ideas. In our magazine My French Country Home, we always include recipes for French dishes. And in the current issue we turned to cookbook writer Kate Hill. Kate lives in South West France, in a beautiful country home. As well as writing her books, she also offers cooking courses, and now I’ve tried out her recipes, I’m thinking I should go!
In our current magazine, we share several of Kate’s ideas, include a de-li-cious pear tart. I tried it last weekend, and was instantly hooked. A Gascon recipe, La Croustade is a crunchy and sugary pastry made with juicy pears. With just 6 ingredients, you can turn this out quickly, pop it into the oven, and 30 minutes – watch your guests’ delight!
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Make The Rough Puff Pastry
2 cups (300 g) flour + extra for rolling
1 ⅓ cups (300 g) unsalted butter (note: European butter is higher in butterfat)
⅔ cup (150 ml) cold water
½ cup (100 g) white granulated sugar
1 generous pinch of salt
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
Using a small knife or your fingers, break the butter into chunks. Work the butter into the flour and salt mixture with your fingers, leaving many different sized pieces (almond, pea, lentil sizes)—this should be a very coarse mixture.
Make a well in the flour and butter and add the cold water. Mix quickly with a large spoon, adding more water as needed.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead just enough to form a smooth ball.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle about ½ inch (1 cm) thick.
Fold the rectangle into thirds, and roll out into another rectangle. Fold this rectangle into thirds. Repeat two more times.
Cut the last rectangle in half, using one half for the top and one half for the bottom. Roll the bottom half out until it is a ¼ inch thick (6 mm), then place on a half sheet or cookie pan lined with parchment paper.
Roll out the top and let rest while you add the filling.
Make The Pear Filling
6 very ripe pears, a mixture of varieties
½ cup (50 g) white granulated sugar
A generous sprinkle of cinnamon
Optional: A glug of armagnac (brandy, calvados, rum, etc.)
Peel and thinly slice pears into ¼ inch (1 cm) pieces.
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and armagnac together. Let sit while you roll out and shape the dough.
Place the pear filling in a thin layer across on the surface of the bottom pastry, then cover with the top pastry.
Fold the bottom edges up over the top edge and crimp.
Brush with a whole egg wash and dust heavily with white sugar (expect there to be sugary, juicy leaks running out and around the pan—don’t worry, it’s delicious!).
Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 30 minutes or until very golden brown.
As soon as you can handle the pan, slide the whole croustade off of the parchment and onto a wooden cutting board (this helps keep the bottom pastry from getting soggy, as the steam escapes into the porous wood).
Let cool, cut into big squares and serve with crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of salted butter caramel.
A 25th anniversary edition of “A Culinary Journey in Gascony: Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat” is available on www.kitchen-at-camont.com
For more recipes and inspiration, follow Kate on Instagram @katedecamont.
All photos by Ruth Ribeaucourt