Spiced Cranberry-Pear Tart
by Sandra Lewis    Mon, Jan 7, 2008, 08:03 am
Good things do come in small packages.

Especially the kind that is smaller than a marble, bounces when ripe, and matures to a brilliant ruby color.

It’s the cranberry and it’s packed with more flavonoids per fresh weight than 20 other common fruit.

This means that this tiny jewel of a fruit is an important source of anti-cancer fighting nutrients and antioxidants. Cranberries are also loaded with proanthocyanidins (PACs) that have an “anti-adhesion” effect on bacteria in the body which can help prevent urinary tract infections, periodontal disease, and some stomach ulcers.

Wow, all this without a visit to the doctor or health food store.

Interestingly, the cranberry along with the blueberry and Concord grape are the only commercially-important fruits native to North America. The grapefruit originated in Barbados (sorry, Texas) and the peach is native to China (that one hurts, Georgia).

Of course, Native Americans believed in the benefits of cranberries a long time ago and used them for a variety of medicinal and other purposes.

Glad we’re catching on.

Sadly, cranberry production in the United States still outstrips demand. Not surprising though given our American penchant for food pre-prepared, pre-packaged, or purchased in a drive through.

With a harvest season that begins in September, fresh cranberries don’t last much on the shelves past January so I take full advantage. New Year’s day I whipped up a cranberry-pear tart and fresh cranberry sauce as a part of my celebratory meal for family and friends. There wasn't enough left of either following our mid-day gathering to qualify as "leftovers."

Ocean Spray, the largest producer of canned and bottled juice drinks in North America, calls the cranberry the “Wonderberry” for all its nutritional and health benefits.

I simply call this little dynamo of a berry wonderful.

You still have time to grab a bag of fresh cranberries for this wonderful tart. Frozen cranberries will work as well.

Spiced Cranberry-Pear Tart

Pistachio Sugar
1/2 cup unsalted natural pistachios
1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons powered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Pear Filling
3 cups dry red wine
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
4 large slightly underripe Bosc pears (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, cored, each half cut into 3 long wedges
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1 tablespoon chopped unsalted natural pistachios

For Pistachio Sugar: Combine 1/2 cup pistachios and 1/3 cup sugar in processor and blend until pistachios are chopped.

For Crust: Blend flour sugar, salt in processor. Add butter, pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until mixture begins to clump, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold in and press, forming double-thick sides. Pierce all over with fork. Chill 30 minutes, then freeze 15 minutes.

Position rack in center of voen and preheat to 400 degrees. Back crust until golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack.

For Pear Filling: Combine first 7 ingredients in large skillet; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are tender when pierced with knife, turning occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes depending on ripeness. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish in single layer. Add cranberries to liquid in skillet; simmer until berries begin to soften but remain intact, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to plate in single layer. Cover, chill at least 3 hour. Boil poaching liquid in skillet until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Drain pears on paper towels 10 minutes. Brush bottom of crust with 2 tablespoons poaching syrup; sprinkle pistachio sugar over. Starting at outer crust, arrange pears closely in starburst pattern with stem ends toward center. Arrange remaining pears in center. Brush pears lightly with some of the syrup. Toss cranberries with 1 tablespoon syrup; scatter over pears. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios.

Sandra's Cooking Notes:
- I made this in a pie pan as my tart pan was already occupied by a dark chocolate tart with a gingersnap crust. It didn't affect the taste but I would have preferred to have had more room to fan out the pears purely for presentation.
- Several people commented about how good the crust was. This was the first crust that I've made with powdered sugar. Maybe this was the secret or I'm just particularly skillful at making crust late on New Year's Eve.
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