Although this may be a dessert, it is not terribly sweet. Because of that, you want to choose pears that are very ripe, as they will provide the necessary sweetness. Peggy Smith, co-owner of Cowgirl Creamery in California and long-time chef at Chez Panisse restaurant, gave this recipe a subtle but powerful boost by suggesting the addition of pine nuts.—Laura Werlin
For the dough
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
For the filling
6 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium-size pears (about 1 pound), preferably Cornice or very ripe Bosc, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons large-granule decorative sugar, or use regular sugar
Make the dough
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter and process just until the mixture looks a little like cornmeal, 8 to 10 seconds. Don’t overprocess or your crust will turn out tough. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing between additions. The dough should begin to hold together, but you do not want it to form a ball. This will mean there’s too much water.
2. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Pat it into a flattened disk, wrap with the plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the rack in the bottom third of the oven. Have a fluted 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom ready.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 10 minutes. Roll out a 13-inch circle of dough and carefully place it in the tart pan. Gently push the dough into the crevices of the pan, leaving some overhang. Roll the rolling pin over the edges of the tart pan to remove the extra dough. (It is fun to roll out the scraps and dot them with jam. Bake them alongside the tart, but only for a few minutes. They will burn easily.) Line the bottom and sides of the dough with foil and fill the tart pan with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and let the crust cool.
Make the filling
1. In a medium bowl, beat together the cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the pine nuts.
2. Spread a thin layer evenly over the prepared tart shell. Lay the pear slices over the filling, close to the edges, slightly overlapping, in a circular pattern, continuing in toward the middle of the tart. Brush the pears with the melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar.
3. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are golden-brown and the pears have softened and turned brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.
Recipe © 2003 Laura Werlin. All rights reserved.