pears

German Pear Tarts

Sir Ian Kennovan was elevated to the Order of the Laurel this weekend, and I had the honor of contributing to his reception food. Instead of my go-to meatballs, I decided to play around with something I’ll be making for my 16th century German feast at Helvetia — poached pears.

Sabina Welserin has eight recipes for pear tarts in her 1553 cookbook: one “exotic” tart, one Italian tart, and six decidedly German tarts (one is specifically for quinces but mentions that pears can be cooked the same way). The last six all have two of the same ingredients in common: sugar and cinnamon. Three of those six use raisins, three use cloves, three use wine, and one uses ginger. These are all common ingredients found used together throughout the entire cookbook, so I decided to combine them all into one tart. I also chose to poach the pears per recipe 113 instead of letting them fully bake in the oven given the smaller serving size and shorter oven-time.

To start, I peeled and poached seven anjou pears in about a bottle of cabernet sauvignon with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, and I tossed in regular and golden raisins to rehydrate with them. After straining the fruit out of it, I let the wine reduce further and set it aside.

While the fruit cooled, I pre-heated the oven and made short paest loosely following the recipe found at Medieval Cookery. Saffron was omitted due to cost, but the rest of the recipe follows the same. Rub butter into all-purpose flour until it makes crumbs, then bind it with a bit of water and egg yolks. Don’t overwork it, and let it rest in the fridge. At this point I remembered that I don’t have a rolling pin, so I took the empty cabernet bottle and put it in the fridge to chill as well.

I then chopped the pears and tossed them (and the raisins) in more sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I then floured my surface and my wine bottle/rolling pin, rolled out the crust, and pressed circles out for my tartlet pan. I then buttered the tartlet pan, pressed the crusts in, and sprinkled sugar over the bottoms of the crusts. I then spooned the fruit into the crusts, poured about a teaspoon of the mulled wine reduction over the fruit, and sprinkled with more sugar.

I baked these at 375* for about 15 minutes using 12-cavity non-stick tartlet pan. In between batches, I let the dough and the bottle chill in the fridge to keep the dough from getting too sticky. I also only made three dozen and had about 2 or 3 whole pears left over. I’ll probably make a large tart with the leftover fruit this week.

 

And here are Sabina Welserin’s (relevant) six pear tart recipes that I drew from:

73 A pear tart

Take pears and peel them and cut them into thin strips, take beef marrow, cinnamon, sugar and raisins and let it bake. If you do not have any marrow then use butter or another fat.

80 A pear tart

Cut out of each pear eight or twelve slices, according to how large the pear is, fry them in fat, take them after that and lay them nicely around the tart and sprinkle them under and over with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and raisins and let it bake.

87 To make a pear tart

Then take the pears and peel them and remove the cores and divide the pears into two parts and cut them into slices as wide as the pear is and turn them over in a little good flour. Then heat up some fat and roast them therein, until they are a little browned, afterwards prepare the pastry shell and lay them on top of it, close together. Take cinnamon, sugar and raisins mixed and sprinkle them on the crust and over the top of it, let it bake a while. After wards take Malavosia, put sugar into it and cinnamon, let it boil together, pour it over the tart and let it cook a short while.

107 To make a quince tart

Take quinces and cook them well and strain it and put sugar, cinnamon and strong wine thereon. Apple and pear tarts are made in the same way.

113 To make a good pear pudding

Cook the pears in good wine and strain them and put cinnamon, cloves and sugar therein and a toasted Semmel, then it is ready.

131 To make a pear tart

Take the pears and peel them, then fry them in fat, put them into a mortar and pound them well, put rose sugar and rose water in it, put ginger, cloves, cinnamon and sugar therein. Taste it, make a pastry shell as for other tarts, make no cover for the top and bake until crisp.

Tartlets for Laurencia’s Vigil

I was honored to have Baron Janos ask me to contribute tartlets for Laurencia’s vigil at Ice Dragon. I’m not overly familiar with medieval English food, so I relied on recipes from the good folks over at Medieval Cookery.

Photo by Sir Ian
Photo by Sir Ian.

I made well over 10 dozen tartlet crusts using their recipe Short Paest for Tartes (A Proper New Booke of Cookery, 1575). The recipe calls for 1 1/2c flour, half a stick of butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of saffron, and ~ 1/2c water. After rubbing the butter into most of the ingredients, add water until the dough just sticks together. Let it rest, roll it out, and fill your pan with the dough. What I failed to notice was that I’d grabbed the self-rising flour instead of the all-purpose, so my tartlet crusts got a bit fluffy..

..which nixed the Ember Day Tarts from my planned offerings. So I went with the other two I’d planned: Chardewardon and Mon Amy.

Chardewardon (various 15th century books) is a light custard made by creating a “pear sauce” (as you would applesauce), then adding egg yolks to thicken it. The recipe calls for one egg yolk per pear, softened by simmering in wine. I added ginger and cinnamon while the pears softened, strained the liquid off, then added yolks and half the amount of sugar the recipe called for and simmered until it thickened. I grew frustrated with this recipe because it didn’t thicken as I’d expected it to in the pot, but rather thickened and sat up after cooling in the fridge overnight. The resulting custard is light and refreshing, and I’ll likely make it again for feasts and non-medieval functions.

Mon Amy (A Noble Boke of Cookry, 1468) is, essentially, a medieval cheesecake, and I chose it for this reason — who doesn’t like cheesecake? The recipe is more complex than the chardewardon by far, and I’m going to fiddle with it for future use. It calls for making fresh cheese, which is then strained per usual, and though I was wary of this step, I followed it anyway, and was met with the issue I’d anticipated.. Fresh cheese, after having the whey strained, is hard and crumbly. It doesn’t melt well, in my experience, and is..chewy. Simply “whisking until smooth” isn’t feasible, so I poured my hot cream and fresh cheese into a food processor and pulsed it a few times until the big chunks were reduced to..smaller ones. I returned the mixture to the pot and followed the rest of the directions.. However, the cream, sugar, honey, and yolks only thickened enough to create something like a thick porridge of fresh cheese curds, and it carmelized a bit as I prepared my ice bath to cool the pot down. (I’d thought it had scorched and was about to cry until I tasted it. Thankfully it hadn’t!) I wasn’t happy, but let it settle in the fridge overnight, and what I awoke to was a very dense, delicious cheesecake-like custard that needed to be softened a bit with heat before I could really spoon it into the tartlet shells. It wasn’t a disaster, but I’m going to revise my own methods for this recipe before serving it again.