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Devoe Pear Custard Tart: Almost too pretty to eat

Gourmet Thanksgiving in Advance (described here) Recipe #7

I was worried this dessert was too pretty to eat until two of us ate the whole thing in one night. Luckily I got a photograph.

Devoe Pear Custard Tart

What I changed (reflected below) and why: Baked a pie crust I’d assembled and frozen previously; Substituted sweet vermouth for dry white wine because it’s what I had on hand; Didn’t strain juice from Bartlett pear shreds because that seemed cumbersome, and everything turned out fine; Substituted succanat for sugar for nutrition and molasses flavor; Devoe pears because I could find Seckel pears and Devoe were the next smallest; Omitted poire William because it seemed hard to find and would have been expensive.

1 pastry/pie crust of your choice, circular or rectangular, baked
1 cup sweet vermouth
2 ripe Bartlett pears
3/4 cup succanat
2 lb Devoe pears (about 10)
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)

1. Put wine in a wide 4-qt pot. Finely grate Bartlett pears (including skin) into wine. Transfer wine mixture to a 2-cup measure and add enough water, if necessary, to bring total to 2 cups liquid, then return to pan and stir in sugar/succanat.

2. Carefully peel Devoe pears, leaving stems intact, then core through bottom with tip of vegetable peeler or a small knife to remove seeds.

3. Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until succanat/sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups syrup), and reserve for custard and glaze.

4. Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean, reserving pod for another use. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 Tbsp pear syrup (leftover from Step 3) and butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

5. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tbsp water in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute. Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

6. Set out baked pastry/pie crust. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Stand pears upright on pastry cream, arranging decoratively. When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. (If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.) Cut and serve!

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