Impress your family or guests — or in my case, my co-workers — with these airy, perfectly spiced pastries.
While they are a bit time consuming to make due to the number of components, each individual element comes together quickly.
All parts can be prepped a few days in advance. The pear puree and the streusel can both be made up to week in advance; store each covered and refrigerated. The pastry cream can be prepared up to three days ahead, covered and refrigerated. The pastry squares can be cut, shaped and frozen for up to three months, tightly wrapped — simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Spiced Pear Breakfast Pastry
1.5 pounds ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
3 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons flour
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
¼ cup flour
¼ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cool water
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Two 17.3-ounce packages of frozen puff pastry (2 sheets each), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Flour, for dusting the counter
Make the puree
1. Place the pears, water, sugar, lemon juice, allspice and cardamom in a small saucepan. Cover the pan. Over medium heat, cook gently until the fruit is cooked through, mushy, and all the excess moisture has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently.
2. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly and use an immersion blender to puree smooth.
3. Cool completely or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Make the pastry cream
4. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until tiny bubbles appear at the edge of the pan. Stir in the cardamom and allspice. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.
5. Set a strainer over a medium bowl placed inside an ice bath. Set aside.
6. Set a second strainer lined with cheesecloth over a small bowl. Strain the milk. The milk should still be slightly warm — if not, gently reheat.
7. In a small bowl, add 1/3 cup of the spice-infused milk. Whisk in the cornstarch and flour. Add lightly beaten egg yolks and whisk.
8. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
9. When small bubbles form at the edge of the pan, remove from heat and slowly whisk about half the warm milk into the egg mixture. Return the milk-and-egg mixture to the pan and place it back on medium heat. Whisking continually, bring the mixture to a boil until the pastry cream thickens and is satiny and smooth like pudding, about 5 minutes. Whisk steadily to avoid scorching.
10. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a sturdy spoon, push the custard through the strainer into the bowl set over the ice bath, to remove any lumps. Add the butter cubes and stir until the butter has melted and the pastry cream is glossy and cooled. Transfer the custard to a small bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until completely cool (up to 3 days).
Make the streusel
11. Place the flour, oats, brown sugar, nutmeg and salt in the food processor and pulse about 4 times. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture comes together in damp clumps, 3 or 4 pulses.
Assemble the pastries
12. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, water and salt together until thoroughly combined.
13. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Remove one package of puff pastry from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and roll out the pastry until it is 8-by-12-inches. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut 6 (four-inch) squares.
14. Fold one pastry square in half diagonally to form a triangle. Using a sharp knife, make a cut along one of the short sides about ½ inch from the edge, starting at the fold and stopping about an inch short of the opposite corner. Repeat with a cut on the other short side.
15. Unfold the triangle to reveal a diamond shape with the attached corners at top and bottom. Using a small pastry brush, lightly egg wash the cut portion of the pastry dough.
16. Lift the separated edge on one side of the diamond and pull it across so the point is on top of the opposite corner. Repeat with the other separated edge. This should create a pastry that is diamond-shaped with decorative twists at the top and bottom, and a center exposed and waiting for the filling. Repeat with the remaining dough squares. If at any time the dough warms and gets sticky, return it to the refrigerator to re-chill.
17. Lightly coat the edges of the pastry with the egg wash. Chill the pastries in the freezer for 5 to 8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining sheets of puff pastry to create 24 pastry shells.
18. Spoon 1 tablespoon of pear puree into the center and spread it to the frame. Gently spread 2 teaspoons of pastry cream on top of the fruit. Scatter about 1 tablespoon of the streusel over the custard. Repeat with the remaining pastries. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 5 minutes.
19. While the pastry chills, preheat the oven to 400 F with the rack in the middle.
20. Slide the pastries into the oven and bake for 21 to 24 minutes. The puff pastry will get golden brown and will lift up in airy layers. Cool slightly before serving.
Adapted from washingtonpost.com
Savory Baked Pears with Gorgonzola, Walnuts and Cranberries
3 large pears
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup gorgonzola cheese or blue cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons honey, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cut the pears in half from top to bottom. Leave the stems on if desired for presentation.
3. Use a melon baller to scoop out approximately ½ tablespoon-sized holes where the seeds are. Make the holes larger or smaller as desired.
4. Place the pear halves in a large baking dish, cut side up. If the pear is too round and won’t stay with the cut side up, you can make a small cut on the bottom to level the fruit.
5. Drizzle the pears with olive oil.
6. Sprinkle the thyme over the pears, and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper.
7. Bake the pears for 15 to 20 minutes.
8. While the pears are baking, combine the cheese, nuts and cranberries in a small bowl.
9. Remove the pears from the oven and stuff the hole of each pear with the cheese mixture, so it is mounding up. You may need more or less cheese mixture based on how large the holes you made are.
10. Place the pears back in the oven and finish cooking for 10 more minutes.
11. Remove the pears from the oven. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.