Pear Tart with PumpkinSeed Crust
You will want to use a tart (also known as a flan) pan. Typically, circular, and only 1-2" high, these pans with their unconnected bottoms and sides allow for easier cutting into individual pieces and give the outside edge a finished, fluted appearance. Unlike regular pie plates, these sides of these pans are set at a right angle, rather than flare outward.
1/2 lb (8 oz) organic and unsulfured dried apricots -- we used the Turkish type,
but the particular type is not critical to the dish; in fact if you can't find
dried apricots you could substitute unsweetened apricot jam
unsweetened apple juice -- quality makes a difference. You will need 1 quart (4
cups) per 10"-12"pie
pears -- 5 will do nicely per pie, we used red Anjou for color and firmness but
others will work
seeds -- 3/4 cup when soaked and roasted will grind to a little over 1 cup
we used flakes, 2 tsp per 1 cup liquid (you will need 6 tsp for this tart, which
is approximately 3 oz)
pinch - no more
amasake sauce or topping such as a "cream" made from tofu, almonds or cashews (optional)
The day before you make the dish:
1. Soak the pumpkin seeds for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight) and then dry roast them. You could actually do this up to a month ahead of time. Some cooks will pan-roast the seeds, which takes limited time with attention (stirring or shaking the seeds) to prevent the seeds from burning at the bottom of pot; others spread the soaked seeds out one layer thick on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and oven roast at low heat. The lower the heat (170 F), the longer it takes (up to 5 hours), so this involves time but not much attention; some cooks like the taste and texture better at lower heat but it is fine to raise the heat and check the roasting frequently. In either case, roast until the seeds become slightly golden. Note: You can change the seeds, and use nuts, such as a combination of ground pecans and walnuts (soak and roast beforehand) for a stronger gustatory response.
The day you make the dish -- several hours before actual preparation:
1. Soak apricots in hot apple juice to cover. It will take a few of hours for the apricots to plump up and get soft.
1. Strain the apricots and reserve the apple-apricot liquid they soaked in.
2. Quickly heat the apricots in a saucepan on medium until mushy, stirring to not burn the apricots. This should take no more that 3-4 minutes.
3. Puree the softened apricots (without any liquid) using a food processor or blender to the consistency of jam. This should yield approximately 1/3 cup. It is unimportant if it is an exact 1/3 cup; it serves as the binder in the seed crust, and typically you will have more than you need.
Grind the roasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor to a fine texture, place in
a mixing bowl, and stir
5. Press the mixture by hand into the bottom and sides of a flan tin. You can use a toothpick to gauge the thickness so that it stays even. It can be very, very thin or it can be moderately thick if your preference is a thickener crust. Note: it is more typical that the mixture is too wet than dry, which is why it is important to mix the puree into the ground seeds or nuts by hand rather than in a food processor.
6. Slice fresh red Anjou pears in half (keeping the skin on), pit and core them. Next, slice each half lengthways into quarters, and trim to make them equally sized and shaped.
7. Bring 2 cups of apple juice to a boil and quickly blanch (30 seconds to a minute, no more) the pear slices. Reserve the juice which will now be a deep maroon hue.
8. Arrange the pear slices close together on top of the pumpkin seed crust (see picture below) in a circular manner, with the skin side showing. You can easily lay this out by initially placing quarts in the four direction on the crust, and then filling the remaining spaces.
9. Mix agar-agar in 1/2 of cold water, stirring well. Combine the pear/apple juice, and the apricot/apple juice the apricots were soaked in, and the remaining unused cold apple juice. This should make approximately 3 1/2 cups. Add the dissolved agar-agar liquid to the apple juice mixture. You should now have approximately 4 cups.
10. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring, then lower heat and simmer for only a few minutes to allow the agar-agar to thicken. Add a pinch of salt as you turn off the heat.
11. Pour the agar-agar/apple juice mixture into the flan tin, gently so not to disturb the resting pear slices. Let sit at least two hours before slicing, although the pie keeps very nicely for several days. Note: using a tart pan allows you to remove the outside ring from the bottom after the mixture has been set and before slicing. If you have leftover liquid, pour that into small dessert dishes for an apple kanten just a hint of pear and apricot.
12. You can plate a slice with amasake, tofu, or cashew cream underneath, or serve as is.