For the Pastry Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter
6 tbsp. ice water
For the Pear Filling:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 or 4 firm, ripe winter Nellis or Bosc pears (about 2 lb. total weight), peeled, halved and cored
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
To Prepare the Pastry Dough:
In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch chunks and add to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until pea-sized pieces form. Add the ice water 1 tbsp. at a time, stirring lightly with a fork and then rubbing with your fingertips. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
To Prepare the Pear Filling:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Using 1 tbsp. of the butter, grease a 12-inch round baking dish with 2-inch sides, preferably of glass so you can watch the syrup forming. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the dish bottom. Place the pears, cut sides up, in a tightly packed layer in the prepared baking dish. If necessary, slice a half lengthwise and use the slices to fill in any gaps between the halves. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar over the pears. Top with the crystallized ginger and the lemon juice. Cut the remaining 2 tbsp. butter into bits and dot the tops of the pears. Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and the mace, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pears.
To Assemble and Bake:
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough a little larger than the diameter of the baking dish and a scant 1/4 inch thick. Drape the pastry over the rolling pin and transfer it to the baking dish. Carefully undrape the pastry over the pears. Tuck the edges of the pastry down to the bottom of the dish to form an interior rim that will encircle the pears once the tart is turned out of the dish. Prick the top all over with a fork. Bake until the crust is golden brown, the pears are tender and a thickened, golden syrup has formed in the dish, about 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. To unmold, run a knife around the inside edge of the baking dish to loosen the sides of the tart. Invert a platter on top of the baking dish and, using pot holders to hold the platter and the baking dish tightly together, flip them. Lift off the baking dish, gently removing any of the pears that may have stuck to the dish and repositioning them on the tart. Serve warm.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series,Cooking from the Farmers' Market by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999).
Date: September 20, 2003