Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Fold-Over Pear Torte

This may not be widely known on the internet, but anyone who knew me in high school will confirm that I am a recovering anglophile. My addiction was less to footballers and crusty punk and the Royal family than to the comedians, the cottages, and above all the literature. I remain a Shakespeare addict, a serious Caryl Churchill fan, and a Jane Austen evangelist, but I no longer dream about a 19th century estate or little rose covered cottage of my own (ok, I do, but it doesn't have to be in England, karma...anywhere would do...).

The British addiction, which coincided with and was partly fueled by a furious crush (pash?) on Emma Thompson, was enhanced by much early reading of Britsh children's books, from the better known novels of C.S. Lewis, Noel Streatfield, and Frances Hodgeson Burnett to the slightly more obscure works of folks like Rumer Godden. These were complimented by many books from the era when American children's books were rather like some of their British counterparts, especially the mildly Transcendentalist 'moral pap for the young' written by the great and underestimated Louisa May Alcott, and the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery (a slightly different but no less urgent nod to Laura Ingalls Wilder, of course). I loved the dresses, the farmhouses, the emotional honesty, the earnest love affairs, and the food. Blancmange, hotcakes, raspberry cordial, and yorkshire pudding, custard and cold chicken and jelly. One item that always made an appearance was mince pies, a Christmas must-have (not being Christian, I never really knew that they still are).
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection, a crusty roly-poly filled with custard, chopped pears, almond extract, raisins and nuts, took me right back into that world of stodgy puddings and flaming mince. In this, it's a very uncharacteristic Dorie dessert. Usually, she leans toward the modern all-American or the classic French, but this Fold-Over Pear Torte is, at least in my version, right in the center of the British/American post-colonial camp.

Due to a momentary measuring brain-blip (unsurprising given my exhausted mental state for the weekend), I made half the filling in a full crust. It was presumably less wet and fruity than it was meant to be, but that spicy, almost Christmas-y taste was great, and the abundance of crust made it much easier to transport to rehearsal, where it was entirely consumed, although not with as great avidity as next week's Caramel Pumpkin Pie.

"Shut the lower draught of the stove, so that the oven may heat. Then wash your hands and get out the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cinnamon. See if the pie-board is clean, and pare your apple ready to put in."

"I really don't know how to measure for such tiny pies; I must guess at it, and if these don't succeed, we must try again," said Mrs. Jo, looking rather perplexed, and very much amused with the small concern before her. "Take that little pan full of flour, put in a pinch of salt, and then rub in as much butter as will go on that plate. Always remember to put your dry things together first, and then the wet. It mixes better so."

"I know how; I saw Asia do it. Don't I butter the pie plates too? She did, the first thing," said Daisy, whisking the flour about at a great rate.

"Quite right! I do believe you have a gift for cooking, you take to it so cleverly," said Aunt Jo, approvingly. "Now a dash of cold water, just enough to wet it; then scatter some flour on the board, work in a little, and roll the paste out; yes, that's the way. Now put dabs of butter all over it, and roll it out again. We won't have our pastry very rich, or the dolls will get dyspeptic."      ~Louisa May Alcott, Little Men


Cakelaw said...

I love Brit literature - from Jane Austen to Harry Potter, it's good value.

Your torte turned out well! I don't think it suffered because of the ratio of crust to filling, and in fact, looks just like I had hoped mine would - before the custard baked over the top of my ruffles. Thanks for baking with me this week.

Vicki said...

I speak your Anglophile language! This rustic pear tart looks divine.

Hindy said...

Exactly! It's just like one of those hearty English "puddings".

Catherine said...

Not knowing that it was not supposed to have that ratio of filling to crust, I attributed it to your genius. I love crust. It was delicious. I snuck another piece before everyone had gotten a chance.

Flourchild said...

Cool...nice torte!

Tia said...

i love your descriptions. roly poly custard :)

Unknown said...

Katya, your torte looks lovely and delicious! Thanks for sharing the pear love! If you ever need additional ins-pear-ation, check us out at www.usapears.org.

happy baking!
your friends at USA Pears