November 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Monika Topolko in Recipes

Pear & Cheddar Tarts With Cornmeal Crust

Pear and Cheddar Tart

Every now and then, I tend to go through some kind of  a food-related phase. I’m not really sure how or why it starts. It just happens. These strange phases usually manifest themselves in me ignoring a certain type of food for no apparent reason.

Pear and Cheddar Tart

There was such a time in my life when I didn’t care much for pears. Up until then I have been eating and actually  enjoying pears for most of my life. In fact, I once almost choked on my grandma’s pear compote when I was a kid. Apparently, I considered chewing a terrible waste of time when faced with the sweet treat, so I just swallowed the pears together with the sweet sticky syrup and ended up caughing up pear pieces all over the kitchen. The witnesses say it was not a pretty sight. I am told that I ate most of my food in a similar fashion and that it is a miracle that I am still alive today.

Pear tree

Anyway, I rediscovered pears last fall. Darko’s grandma has this impressive pear tree in front of her house. When we went for a visit last October, she decided that we must take some pears home with us. The fact that Darko doesn’t like them at all and I feel nothing but resignation towards them didn’t bother her much and she proceeded according to her devilish plan. We ended up with not one, but three bags full of pears.

Pear and Cheddar Tarts

Faced with an abundace of pears, I was forced to explore and find a way for us to change our minds and start building a friendlier relationship with this funny looking fruit. It did not take me long to convert back to my pear-loving self. I was surprised, though, at how juicy, succulent and tasty they actually are. I kicked myself for not wanting to eat them all this time. Darko was a tougher nut to crack, but I soon noticed that he will eat and even like pears if they’re cooked, roasted, baked or sautéd.  He actually grew fond of them, just as long as they weren’t raw. Mission accomplished.

Pear and Cheddar Tarts

Since then, we’ve experimented with lots of  pear recipes, both sweet and savory, and loved each and every one of them. I particularly love them paired with a sharp flavored cheese and some fresh thyme. It might seem as an odd combination at first, but it is in fact a match made in heaven, especially when served in a lovely wholesome cornmeal crust.

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Pear & Cheddar Tarts With Cornmeal Crust

Yields 12 small tarts
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Difficulty: Intermediate

Category: Tarts & quiches, Vegetarian
These tarts are a great party food or lovely appetizers. Prepare the tart shells ahead and refrigerate them. When you’re ready, top with cheese and pear slices and pop them in the oven. They are lovely served with some prosciutto and a glas of wine. Instead of making small tarts, you can also make one regular sized tart and serve it as a no-fuss weekday meal.
For the cornmeal pastry crust:
150g all-purpose flour
100g cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
125g cold butter
100g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder and pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cream cheese and beaten egg. Process just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and shape into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Butter twelve 10cm tart rings. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out in between two sheets of plastic. Cut out circles slightly bigger than your tart rings, transfer and press the dough gently with your fingers into the bottom and sides of the tart rings. Scrape the remaining dough, knead it until it comes together, roll out and repeat the process. Prick the bottom of each tart with a fork and refrigerate for 15 minues. Remove from refrigerator and blind bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before filling the tarts.
For the pear and cheddar filling:
1 tablespoon butter
3 small pears, sliced
6 thyme sprigs
3 teaspoons wholegrain Dijon mustard
200g cheddar cheese, grated
generous pinch of chili flakes
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
On medium heat melt the butter, add pears and saute for 5 minutes. Add thyme springs and cook for 2 minutes, gently tossing the pears around the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Spread about 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on bottom of each half-baked tart shell. Top with a generous amount of cheddar cheese and pear slices. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and add a pinch of chili flakes on each tart. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry is crispy and goldenbrown and the cheese is bubbling.
Serve immediately sprinkled with some fresh thyme leaves.

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