Today was supposed to be set aside for Christmas shopping. Well, I’d like to just tell you now that I went out to buy presents this morning and couldn’t find a single thing. It might help if I enjoyed shopping. But I don’t. I found myself nearly falling asleep in the bookstore as I tried to decide whether or not to get my youngest brother a map of the world for his room.
Perhaps I should modify the last paragraph to say that, I enjoy shopping for Christmas presents, but I don’t like buying things thta aren’t meaningful. Just as well, there is no snow here, in Bangor, Maine, and, and in order to go shopping willingly, there needs to be snow. Today, while out at the mall, it was gray, and bleak, and cold. Everyone was just going about their business, doing as they pleased.
When it snows, and the traffic slows down, and people all have to get up early in the morning to shovel their driveways, everyone is united by their common problem. Everyone’s bound together by the weather and all it brings with it. Without snow, the season seems less personal, and so much more like an average day, when everyone races through each task at hand to save time.
We haven’t even had a snow day yet, and it’s nearly Christmas. We always have had at least one snow day before Christmas! Climate change anyone?
Now, I’ve tried to bring the feel of snowy weather back with this croustade, which is quite good, even though I made it gluten-free, and gluten-free dough isn’t very forgiving. It is made with pears, a very autumn fruit, and backed with lemon zest and crunchy almonds. I decreased the sugar to 3 1/2 tablespoons from 5 tablespoons after reading a review about its sweetness level. The crust alone is very much like the dough for a scone, minus the leavener and some liquid. The only liquid in this crust is cream! So, definitely make this, especially if you’re feeling like I am about our unfortunate lack of rough weather!
Pear Croustade with Lemon Pastry and Almonds
Adapted from Bon Appetit October 2007
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (You can use a gluten-free flour mixture with 1/2 teaspoon xantham gum to replace the gluten flour. It is a little difficult to work with but still tastes fine if you use flours that don’t have very pronounced tastes on their own)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup (or more) whipping cream
Whisk together dry ingredients, then cut in butter by hand, or through using a food processor. You will likely get a more flakey texture if you cut the butter in by hand, because the butter will stay in larger pieces. Fold the cream in until the mixture begins to clump together, you may need more cream. Form the dough into a flattened ball and chill an hour or up to a day. Before you prepare the croustade, let the pastry sit out for half an hour.
1 pound firm but ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (I didn’t peel, but I think they might have cooked down better had I done so)
1 pound firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground nutmeg
Whipping cream (for brushing)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix together the pears, and all other ingredients but for the cream and almonds. Then roll out the dough on a well-floured surface, or on parchment paper with flour. If you roll it out on parchment paper, you can bake it on this too. Get the pastry to be about 14 inches in diameter and then transfer to a baking sheet. Place the fruit in the middle so that two inches all around are left empty. Fold those edges in onto the fruit, brush with cream, and press in almonds. Bake for one hour or so.