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Pear Crostata with Spiced Caramel and Candied Pistachios

Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen, authors of the cookbook Sorella, call this tasty crisp (or crumble) a crostata, a term more traditionally applied to an Italian fruit tart. It can be made with other fruits, is great served warm, begs for a scoop of cool, creamy gelato alongside and includes a decadently rich caramel topping. This flavor combo is a perfect selection for a fall dessert or holiday offering. The spiced caramel syrup can be made in advance; let it cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

Ingredients:

For the candied pistachios:

  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) pistachios
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

For the streusel:

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the filling:

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground allspice
  • Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Dash of grated orange zest
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Dash of Grand Marnier
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the spiced caramel syrup:

  • 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) granulated sugar
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper

  • Gelato for serving

Directions:

To make the candied pistachios, preheat an oven to 200°F (95°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the pistachios, sugar and salt and stir to mix well. Spread the mixture on the prepared pan in a thin, even layer. Place in the oven until the mixture dries, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, pour the nuts onto a cutting board and let cool. Chop roughly and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C).

To make the streusel, in a small saucepan over medium heat, begin to melt the butter. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and toss in the pod. While the butter is melting, in an electric stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir to mix well.

Remove and discard the vanilla pod from the pan. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the vanilla-scented butter into the flour mixture. Continue to beat until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a wide saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove from the heat, add the pears, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and orange zest, and stir and toss to coat the pears evenly. Add the lemon juice, salt and Grand Marnier, stir to mix and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring as needed to prevent scorching, until the pears are tender but the mixture still has lots of texture, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool.

To assemble: In a medium square or rectangular baking dish or individual ramekins, spread the pear filling in an even layer. Crumble the streusel in an even layer on top. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the spiced caramel syrup: In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, lemon juice and 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) water and stir to moisten the sugar evenly. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring just until the sugar melts. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup thickens and turns amber brown. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) water; work carefully, as the mixture will bubble up vigorously. Stir with a heat-resistant rubber spatula until smooth, scraping down any sugar crystals from the pan sides. Add the cinnamon and white pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. The recipe makes about 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) syrup.

Remove the crostata from the oven and sprinkle with the candied pistachios. Let cool slightly, then cut into squares and place each square on individual plates. Top each serving with a scoop of the gelato. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Sorella, by Emma Hearst & Sarah Krathen (Olive Press, 2013).