Pear puff pastry tarts + spiced palm sugar syrup

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This is the result of wanting a warm, buttery autumn pastry. I had a truly divine sorbet a couple of weeks ago, Chin Chin Lab’s apple turnover, smooth and intense tangy-sweet fruit with spiced syrup soaking crisp pastry. It was more fragrant and lovely than most fruit pies I’ve had, and it made me want to go into the kitchen and bake something spice-warmed and flour-dusted, but with pears.

This is a tart which looks much fancier than the required effort–just cut up raw pears, a bit of pastry, and layered aromatics. There’s a little granulated sugar and lemon zest on the fruit itself, then a drizzle of spiced syrup, which involves quietly simmering some spices with honey and palm sugar–no fretting over temperatures. The palm sugar aspect is best made into a syrup: sprinkled on, it rolls off and caramelises on the tray. It gets on much better melted with honey and spice, which in turn partners wonderfully with the buttery pastry, similar to the flaky joy of baklava.

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Now, I do not care if you use store-bought pastry. I encourage you to use any pastry which makes it easy for you to make these tarts. If it were possible, though, I would personally make and send you homemade rough puff pastry, but I’m not currently in possession of either magical power or super-advanced technology.

Use what you like and enjoy it.

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PEAR PUFF PASTRY TARTS + SPICED PALM SUGAR SYRUP

Inspired by pear tarts with honey bourbon creme fraiche on The Vanilla Bean Blog. Sugar syrup based on this baklava recipe.

Makes 4 pastries. Keeps for 2 – 3 days, chilled and well wrapped.

ingredients

spiced palm sugar syrup (makes enough to bake onto the tarts + a little extra for serving):
2 tbsp palm sugar or light brown sugar
1/2 tbsp honey (more if you like; my honey was very sweet)
2 tbsp water
Squeeze of lemon juice
use whatever whole or ground spices you like; I infused the following:
1 inch piece lemon peel
1 small cinnamon stick
3 – 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Fragment of star anise
1 clove

for the tarts:
~240g – 250g puff pastry, homemade or bought. I made 3/4 recipe of rough puff pastry with 90g flour and 100g butter.

fruit topping:
2 tsp granulated white sugar
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
1 medium Williams (Bartlett) pear, still quite firm; ripe pears have a weaker flavour
Squeeze of lemon juice
A little milk or beaten egg to glaze

to serve:
Good Greek-style yoghurt (I used The Collective’s gingerbread), crème fraîche, or sour cream–something both tangy and creamy really works here.
Spiced sugar syrup
A light dusting of icing sugar and/or ground cinnamon, if you like

instructions

for the syrup: The night before, or at least 1 – 2 hours before baking, combine all the ingredients in a small pot and gently stir over a medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring up to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until it becomes a light syrup–the consistency should be visibly thicker, with close bubbles throughout the mixture. Remove from heat, leaving the spices in the mixture, and set aside until cool. Ideally, chill overnight. (If you don’t want to infuse, make the syrup plain, then stir in small pinches of whatever ground spices you want at the end.)

for the tarts:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/180 fan (400 degrees F). Line a baking tray with paper or foil.

In a small bowl, rub together granulated sugar with grated lemon zest with your fingers until evenly damp and fragrant.

Quarter the pears, slicing them away from the cores, and cut them thinly–not paper thin, say 5 – 8 mm (around 1/4 inch), as pears will shrink upon cooking and you want a bit of bite. Transfer slices to a container and squeeze over some lemon juice as you go. You should get 16 – 20 slices. Set aside.

Well away from the oven, prepare the pastry. On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 15 x 20 cm (6 x 8 inch)  rectangle and evenly cut into quarters, trimming all edges to ensure even rise. Transfer pastry to lined baking tray.

Quickly arrange 4 to 5 pear slices over the surface of each pastry, overlapping slightly. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture on top.  Gently glaze the pastry edges with a little milk or egg.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating tray halfway, until bubbling, puffed, and browned. Remove from oven and drizzle each tart with 1 tsp spiced syrup, coating both fruit and pastry, and return to oven for 2 – 5 minutes more, just to brown the pastry a little further and let it meld with the syrup.

Remove to a rack and let the tarts sit until firmed up and just warm (or room temperature). Serve with a good dollop of something creamy and tangy, drizzle over more spiced syrup, and serve.

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