Pear and blue cheese tart
This pear and blue cheese tart is fabulous to serve as an appetizer at holiday parties. All of the components can be made separately in advance. Right before guests arrive, you can build the tart and heat it briefly for a no-hassle treat that is delicious and very impressive. These tarts also travel well.
For ease of preparation, we recommend using tart pans with removable bottoms. For this recipe, Wilton 4.75-inch round tart pans work best, but smaller pans or petit four molds also work for little bite-sized treats. Pate brisee dough makes a wonderfully light and flaky shell; however, any tart dough can be substituted.
Pear and blue cheese tart
Makes 4 small tarts
- Pate brisee dough (see recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 slightly under-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cubed
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 7 ounces Roquefort cheese
- 5 ounces Brie (Camembert is a good option too)
- 3 ounces goat cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (or more as needed)
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- dried beans or pie weights
- Prepare pate brisee dough according to the directions below and chill thoroughly. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and return 3 portions to the refrigerator. Using a bit of flour, roll the dough thinly until it is at least an inch wider than the tart pan all around (the smaller the tart pan, the thinner the dough should be to allow for ample filling). Carefully fold the dough into the tart pan and gently press it into the corners without stretching it. Fold the excess dough back inside the pan and pinch it upwards, creating what's known as a "lip." This will push the dough slightly over the edge of the pan.
- Use a fork to prick numerous holes in the bottom of the dough to prevent air bubbles (this is known as docking, see photo below). Allow the rolled dough to chill for 30 minutes (or freeze for 10). Repeat this process with the rest of the dough.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line each tart pan with foil, taking care to press the foil against the bottom, corners and sides. Fill the tart pans with dried beans or pie weights to weigh down the dough while baking. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans or weights and foil and continue baking until the dough is firm and golden, approximately 8 to 12 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet and caramelize the pears. It's best to do this on medium-high heat to prevent the fruit from getting mushy. Drain the pears and toss with a bit of fresh ground pepper. Set aside.
- Remove any rinds from the cheese. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend the cheese until just combined. Don't over mix or it will curdle. Add enough heavy cream to create a spreadable consistency that still holds its shape.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Spread some walnuts in the bottom of each tart shell, followed by the pears. Top each tart with a dollop of the cheese mixture. Using a small offset spatula, spread the cheese evenly over the pears, forming a dome shape.
- Place the tarts on a baking sheet and into the oven. Cook just until the cheese melts and spreads, approximately 15 minutes. Serve warm.
- 12 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
- 1/3 cup ice water
- Briefly pulse the flour and salt in a food processor to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse several times until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal (some larger chunks of butter are good).
- Slowly add the ice water and pulse until just combined — it will still look crumbly, but over mixing will create a tough crust. To test if the dough will work, pick up a small amount of the mixture in your fingers and press it together. If the dough forms, it's done. Add an extra bit of ice water only if necessary.
- Pour the dough onto plastic wrap and use the plastic to press the dough together into a disc. Place the wrapped dough in the fridge to chill for at least an hour or overnight.
Tips for working with pate brisee
An example of docking and rolling the dough so it comes just above the edge of the pan.
- The dough should be cold, but sometimes it needs to be briefly warmed up a bit with hands before rolling it out. If the dough is too cold, it can crack, but when the butter warms up too much it can become slightly sticky.
- Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough. Too much flour can dry it out.
- If you run into problems and need to re-roll the dough, simply form it back into a disc and allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator until it firms up. Overworked dough can develop an elastic quality that will cause it to shrink while baking.
- Make sure to thoroughly chill the dough before baking so it holds its shape in the oven.