This has become one of my favourite desserts to make since eating it in a tiny restaurant in Turin many years ago – I can still remember how soft the pears were in contrast to the crisp yet tender pastry. It is incredibly simple and comforting, and elegant at the same time. It also happens to be one of the first things I made for my husband Nori when we started dating. I always do feel a little sentimental come Autumn when pears are at their best and I can make this tart. While late autumn and winter doesn’t have the exciting arrivals of things like berries and stone fruit, sturdy and dependable pears made into this beautiful tart is a welcome treat in the colder months.
Traditionally this tart is made with Italian Martine or Martin Sec pears, but Beurre Bosc pears are the next best thing, as they are also a firm dry pear which keeps its shape when cooked. Perfect for this dessert where they are first poached in red wine and spices and then of course baked in the torte in the oven. I’ve chosen a Dolcetto to poach the pears in – I wanted something from the region of Piemonte in Italy, like the torte itself, and of course delicious to drink aswell – since it doesn’t use a whole bottle. If you don’t have any wine on hand, you can also simply poach the pears in a light sugar syrup with the spices, it won’t be the same but it will still work and be delicious.
I poached the pears the night before and let them sit in the liquid in the pot to soak up some more flavour, but this is of course optional. I also made the pastry in advance and let it chill in the fridge overnight. It’s a great dessert to make in stages if you don’t have big block of time, and it can also sit intact in the fridge overnight in its entirety ready to be baked. Usually the red wine poaching liquid is reduced til it’s thick and syrupy and then is poured over the torte. However, I really love a homemade crème anglaise with pears – but either is great. The creaminess is a really lovely contrast to the tender pastry, which has a pleasing sandy texture thanks to the polenta.