This year for Thanksgiving, we had the biggest crowd that we’ve ever hosted. I have a very small immediate and extended family, and most of my extended family lives in other parts of the country (and world), so holidays are usually just my mom and dad, brother, one uncle, and one set of grandparents. What little family I have is great, and I always love spending time with them on the holidays and otherwise, but it was really fun to have such a big group this year.
In addition to being able to enjoy the company of extra people, I also had to bake more for all those guests, so I got to put together three desserts for this year’s Thanksgiving. I decided long ahead of time that I was going to make untraditional desserts with traditional flavors, just to try something different. I love apple pie, pumpkin pie, even pecan pie – but sometimes they seem so overdone, so I tried to spice it up a bit.
In addition to this Pear Cranberry Crostata, I made a phenomenal Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cognac Caramel (recipe coming soon!), and my favorite Pecan Pie bars dipped in chocolate. Everything was well received, and of course I had to know how I’d done for myself, so I had a bit of everything… Quality Assurance! It’s a MUST. ( ) After our big Thanksgiving feast, most of us went for a long walk around the neighborhood, which was a nice chance to be outdoors in the fresh fall air as the sun was setting, and also to burn off at least a few of those tons of calories consumed. Most importantly though, we were just trying to clear up space in our bellies for dessert.
When I started making this recipe, I had already started in on one crostata recipe before I stumbled across this one from the Flour Cookbook. Frtunately all I’d gotten done was the pate brisee and the pears which were roasting in the oven. From there I just switched gears a bit, making the frangipane (which wasn’t part of my initial plan, but was a great addition), and then kind of throwing it all together. I actually really loved the look of this crostata. I folded the roasted pears together with fresh, tart cranberries, not so much measuring as making sure the ratio of pear to cranberry looked right, and then I tried to fold the dough so it looked haphazardly arranged. Get it? Organized chaos? I thought it looked quite pretty. It also tasted incredible. The frangipane added a sort of complexity, but also more heft to the dessert so it seemed more like a pie than a basic crostata. It was the perfect amount of sweet and tart, and a hint of caramel flavor and spicy ginger from the pears. I was in love this this dessert, which is too bad because only one piece remained after Thanksgiving, and it’s sole purpose was for photographing the morning after
Below I’ve copied the recipe as it’s written in the book, however as I mentioned I deviated from that a bit. I cubed my pears before I roasted them, which meant they took a little less time in the oven, and also maximized the surface area of the pears for maximum caramelization. I only used 6 pears, and used two each of anjou, bosc and red bartlett, which seemed to work out beautifully. There was no textural difference after they’d roasted, just deep caramelized pear flavors. If you’re looking for a wonderfully seasonal dessert that’s almost as pretty as it is delicious, you have got to try this.
Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata
from Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery Cookbook
9 Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1-inch knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced
½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1/2 stick/56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Pâte Brisée (recipe follows)
Frangipane (recipe follows)
1 cup (100 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons sanding sugar, pearl sugar, or granulated sugar
Position a rack in the center oven, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
1) In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, toss together the pears, ginger, granulated sugar and butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the pears are soft when pierced with a knife tip and golden. Let cool completely. (The pears can be roasted for up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
2) Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Place the dough circle in the prepared baking sheet.
3) Using the back of a spoon or a small rubber spatula, spread the frangipane in the middle of the dough round in a circle about 9 inches in diameter, leaving a 3-inch border uncovered.
4) Place about 8 pear halves, cut-side down, in a circle in a single layer on the top of the frangipane, lining them up with the edge of the frangipane and with the stem ends pointing toward the middle. Place 1 or 2 pear halves in the center to cover the frangipane circle completely. Sprinkle ¾ cup (75 grams) of the cranberries evenly on top of the pears. Top the first layer of pears with a second layer of pears, using about 7 halves and reserving 1 pear half, arranging them in a smaller concentric circle. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup (25) grams of cranberries evenly on top of the second layer of pears.
Place the reserved pear half on a cutting board. Using a paring knife, and starting at the squat bottom end, cut four or five lengthwise slices, stopping just short of the stem end. Fan the slices, and place the pear half in the center of the second layer of pear halves. Starting at one side of the crostata, fold the 3-inch border of dough up and over the fruit, forming six to eight loose pleats around the perimeter and pressing the pleats firmly together onto the fruit. The center of the crostata will remain exposed in a 3-to 4-inch circle, showing off the fanned pear. Refrigerate the assembled crostata for at least 1 hour before baking. (At this point, the crostata can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before baking.)
Position the rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the pleated pastry with the beaten egg, then sprinkle evenly with the sanding sugar. Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the pleats are golden brown. Make sure all of the folds are evenly browned, so there are no chewy underbaked bits of dough in the finished crostata. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The crostata can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Makes about 10 ounces dough, enough for one 9-inch single-crust pie, 10-inch crostata, or 9-inch quiche
1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon/128 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons cold milk
1) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter over the top and mix on low speed for about 45 seconds, or until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and pecan-size lumps of butter are visible throughout.
2) In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk until blended. Add to the flour-butter mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
3) Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
4) Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Makes about 1 cup
1/3 cup (50 grams) blanched whole almonds, or ½ cup (50 grams) almond flour
¼ cup (1/2 stick/56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
1) If using whole almonds, grind them in a food processor as finely as possible without turning them into paste. Set aside.
2) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or hand-held mixer or wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until light. Add the ground almonds or almond flour and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, or until thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
3) On low speed, beat in the egg. Add the all-purpose flour, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined. You should have about 1 cup. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, then let sit for a few hours at room temperature before using. Or, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, then thaw it in the refrigerator before using.