Pear Tart

Torta di Pere

When I visited my friend Vitti Gabrielli in Vattaro, near Trento, during the filming of the television series Italian Regional Cookery, she made this delicious pear cake to a traditional local recipe. The whole region is covered in fruit trees, mainly apples, pears and cherries - quite different in appearance from the citrus-fruit-clad fields of the south.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz (250 g) plain white flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 4 oz (100 g) caster sugar
  • 4 oz (100 g) unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • about 4 tablespoons grappa or brandy
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
  • 3–4 tablespoons apricot jam
  • jam 2 oz (50 g) amaretti biscuits, crumbled
  • about lb (750 g) ripe pears (preferably William), peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 oz (100 g) sultanas
  • 2 oz (50 g) pine kernels
  • 2 oz (50 g) caster sugar
  • milk sweetened with sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (160°C).

Pile all the flour on the centre of a clean work-surface, make a hole in the middle with your fist and add the sugar, butter, egg and egg yolk, baking powder, vanilla, grappa or brandy and salt. Knead everything together with your hands to make a soft dough and roll it into a ball. Remove one quarter of the dough and set it aside.

Butter an 11 inch (28 cm) shallow cake tin, dust with flour and breadcrumbs then cover with the apricot jam and crumbled amaretti. Roll out the larger piece of dough to line the base and sides of the tin. Cover it with the pears and scatter over the allspice, sultanas, pine kernels and caster sugar. Roll out the reserved dough into sausage shapes and place one round the edge of the flan. Flatten the rest to a thickness of about ½ inch (5 mm) and lay them on top to form a lattice pattern. Put the tart in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until cooked through and browned on top. About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove it from the oven and brush the top very generously with sweetened milk: this will keep the cake softer. Serve cold.

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