Showing posts with label winter desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter desserts. Show all posts

20 February 2014

Pear-Ginger Crisp with Salted Almond Topping

Pear-Ginger Crisp with Salted Almond Topping

From 2007: Tarte Tatin and Cherry Clafoutis not withstanding, pears are the fruit I have always associated with a true French kitchen.

When Grandma Annie wanted fruit, she usually chose a juicy pear. Her mother, Mémére, loved them, too. It took me years to develop a taste for pears, as I found them too metallic.

I like them now, and they are second only to apple desserts in my repertoire.

This dessert was created from odds and ends and leftovers on a snowy night in 2007. It was better than I expected, and I've made many times over since that wintry night.

01 February 2014

Fig-and-Walnut Tart with Cognac


It was so much fun to gather windfall figs from the yard.

I'm reposting this original recipe because this dessert is really exceptional and very rich. It's exactly the kind of dessert to serve in winter. 

France, The Lot, Fall, 2008 - It was late September, and we left the house* each day at mid-morning, ready to explore the meandering river country, driving up into mountain villages and down into vineyards: Montcuq, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Luzech, Albas, Douelle, Catus and up into the still-green Dordogne to visit lovely LaRoque Gageac. And every day, into Cahors, sometimes taking the dizzy-ingly high bridge that sneaks up on you as you snake around the city.

Nights were dark and still, and mornings so cold you could see your breath. We'd eat a hearty breakfast, load the market baskets into the Mini and drive off to enjoy the warm heart of the autumn days. We'd return to our tiny village by late afternoon, my husband to a nap, and me to the kitchen and the yard to ponder supper.

I loved this time of day, when we could hear the rush of traffic climbing the hairpin turns of the road beside the gorge: Workers returning from the city to the village, where the air was fragrant with grapes and woodsmoke. There was excitement, too; the grape harvest was near.

The figs on the tree in the yard that sloped toward the vineyards were ripe and falling; I picked a basket of them and paired them with the ubiquitous walnuts of the Quercy. A smidgeon of cognac and voila! Truly the richest dessert I have ever tasted.

Here is what you will need to make my very simple Fig-Walnut Tart:
  • 1 pie crust
  • 10-16 ripe figs, halved from top to bottom
  • ¼ cup Cognac 
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts, broken
  • dash orange zest (about a teaspoon)
  • dash sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your pie crust as usual; originally, I used a pate brisée (pie crust) mix from Carrefour, a somewhat upscale French supermarket. Place in a round tart pan or pie plate.

Prepare figs and drizzle with Cognac, brown sugar, orange zest and 1/2 of melted butter. Place open side up in pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top and drizzle with the remainder of the butter and a dash of sea salt.

Bake tart on lower shelf in oven for 40-50 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure walnuts do not get too dark. Allow to cool a bit before serving with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Since I made this in France, and have not replicated it in the US, I recommend checking it frequently during cooking time.

It was rich and rustic; softness and crunch with deep dark hints of pleasure. How satisfying to create a dessert this good from fruit plucked from your own backyard, even a rented backyard!

One of the reasons I have not recreated this dish is that I have not found a source for fresh figs. Plums or apricots would be a good substitute; you may have to adjust the amount of sugar used.

*Readers can rent the house we stayed at here.

PostScript: What about this take on figs? Yum!

18 November 2007

Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

Each kitchen has its own unique aroma. When I was young, my mother's tiny yellow kitchen in the apartment she and my father rented near the harbor was redolent with the spicy scents of ginger and cinnamon.

It was that kitchen that came to my mind as I sampled the first bite of my walnut crisp filled with winter fruit drenched in Calvados.

The taste was rich and sweet and layered, which is what I intended. It reminded me of the inside of my mother's spice drawer, or a photograph in a shelter magazine showing a kitchen filled with pine boughs and pewter.

It is entirely my invention, in that I did not seek inspiration anywhere but my own cupboard, intent on using up what I had on hand. There is nothing extraordinary about it - except the taste!

Winter-Fruit-and-Walnut Crisp

  • 1/2 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4-5 apples, chopped
  • 1-2 small red pears chopped
  • two tablespoons Calvados
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  • three tablespoons sugar
  • dash or two cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or graham flour
  • 1/2 stick or more cold butter
  • three tablespoons brown sugar


Place chopped fruit in bowl and toss. Drizzle with Calvados. Add vanilla, fructose and cinnamon and toss again. Place in greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

In a second bowl, mix chopped walnuts, flour and brown sugar mix. Cut in butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour topping over fruit.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until topping turns deep golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Even my husband liked it.