Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seckel Selections (Or: It's All Gone Pear-Shaped)

A few months ago, I found, at the farmers market, a variety of pears I'd never seen before:

New to me.
Seckel pears. They were so cute that I had to get bunch even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them. When I told Michele about them, she said she used to get them all the time as a kid. Pretty much everyone I spoke to about them that day made similar comments. "I see them all the time!" "My family has them every season." "I grew up eating them." Well, I've been coming to this same farmers market for over a decade, and I've lived here in New York for over twenty-six years, and I've never, ever seen them.

A Brief Cogitation:

I am not above thinking that these pears are actually brand new and that everyone's winding me up about knowing about them. That's how my brain rolls sometimes.

A Brief Cogitation Ends

Paranoia aside, I determined that pear tarts were the way to go. I don't do a whole lot of baking with pears, aside from adding one to my apple pie (which I don't do any more) so this was pretty new territory for me. Two things came to mind. Wait. Three things came to mind: 1) I wanted to use my mini tart pans, 2) I wanted to pair the pears with ginger, and 3) there was no way I was going to peel these pears! Seriously! Take a look at that picture again. They're tiny! By the time I peeled and cored them, there'd be nothing left of them!

Actually, since this was a grand experiment, not peeling the pears made sense. So did using the basic pastry recipe for the zwetschgendatschi. And so did adding a bit of the ginger spread I use for some of my ice cream.

Pears and pastry.
What I ended up with was something that I thought was plenty tasty.

Double seckel.
The pears were al dente and the ginger spread was fairly close to the consistency I thought it would have (despite having never used it in that way). The pastry was the thing that I wasn't thrilled with. A bit thick, due to the technique used in pressing it in the tart pans instead of rolling it out and laying it in. Still, all-in-all, not bad.

The next week I bought some more pears because I got the idea of poaching them with vanilla bean and drizzling a balsamic vinegar reduction on top of them. I changed the crust recipe to something I rolled out because I could get that thinner and it would bake up crispier.

Oooo! Shiny!
Oh. And I went with the full-sized tart pan.

Not bad but let me tell you, making that balsamic reduction was something else! Talk about a lingering, pungent aroma! Maybe next time I try it, I'll try to cook it down quicker. Wowf!

Michele's co-workers liked this version. I took another one with us to a gathering of friends the following week and it was fairly well-received, too. I wasn't quite convinced, though. The bottom was a bit soggy (between carrying it around in NYC and the moisture from the vinegar and the vanilla glaze, the crust suffered), and there was something missing in the overall taste of the tart. I liked it but, as a couple of the foodies at the gathering said, it needed some kind of bottom note to balance out the reduction. 

So, this one stays on the drawing board for now because the season for seckels is over and I'll have to wait until next summer to give it another go. I'm thinking a gingered custard to sit the pear on top of instead adding the balsamic reduction. 

Assuming, of course, that I'll find them again. (Conspiracy theorists, arise!)

Currently listening to: Noel Pointer - Wayfaring Stranger



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