Pear and Hazelnut Torta
Most of the time, recipes tend to be painfully simple. Most of the time, recipes give an estimation of the total time needed to putter around the kitchen. Most of the time, one ends up spending half a day tripping over kitchen stools and knocking over bowls. I’ve come to accept that whatever I spill, it is always sticky, and it is always liquid.
As they say: All inanimate objects will move just enough to get in your way.
Today, while digging through my treasure trove of fruits in the fruitbox, I chanced across the three Bosc pears that I had chucked into the grocery trolley during my last grocery spree with my dad – two weeks ago. I’d forgotten all about them. It’s not unusual to unearth wrinkled and dented fruits from the depths of my fruitbox, and oftentimes when I delve deeper into the chilly recesses of the fridge, I find things like fruit preserves from Jones the Grocer and bundles of dark chocolate-coated macadamia slivers from Perth. Here’s why:
“Chris, you got anything to buy from NTUC?”
“I want strawberries.”
And Dad would grunt in acknoledgement. And he would leave for the week’s grocery shopping. And he would return with four.
My family operates strictly by the Rule of Doubles, I have realised. Either that of The Rule of Buying-More-Since-We’ve-Already-Made-The Effort-To-Buy-One. It applies to everything.
So what do I do with three dimpled, mushy pears? I made a torta from a recipe I have been dying to try ever since I forked out $20 for 6 issues of Delicious magazines at a Times bookstore sale outside Plaza Singapura. You can’t blame me. It was a steal. And it just so happened I have hazelnuts.
Now, a torta is not a cake and neither is it a tart. I would hazard a guess and say it’s a hybrid between both. Or at least this one is. Like it really couldn’t decide to fluff up beautifully like a cake or to lie low and inconspicuous like a good tart should, barely peering over the edge of the pan, as though it was terrified of something. Like it was terrified of me.
You see, one glance at this line in the recipe ‘This torta is a breeze to make and is just the sort of thing to whip up when you want a fabulous dessert in a hurry’ and I was sold. Wouldn’t you? This is my kind of dessert, the sort I would designate a portion of my day to – the few times that I yield to temptation that is, and I would like to keep it that way. It truly looks simple, and it would have been so if I hadn’t spent a good ten minutes scouring the kitchen for the base of my tart pan (because just as there exists a high probability of discovering the Templar Treasure in my fridge, there exists the equal probability of losing something in the kitchen), burned off another ten heating the damned butter mixture over the stove because I forgot melt it, and another fifteen scampering around the house for a two-pin plug adaptor for my mini food-processor.
Come to think of it, of all the times that I have baked, I pretty much send the kitchen into cowering submission because of my good mood turned sour. And of all the times that I have baked, it has a way of apologising with puppy-dog eyes in the form of this.
If everyone apologised in this manner, the world would be a happier place, wouldn't you think?
Perhaps that’s the sole reason why I fold up my sleeves time and again and throw myself into the fray of baking.
Pear and Hazelnut Torta adapted from Belinda Jeffrey of the May 2009 issue of Delicious
- 100g toasted hazelnuts (skins removed)
- 1/3 cup (110g) caster sugar *
- 1/3 (50g) plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 free-range eggs
- 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
- 1tsp vanilla extract **
- 80g unsalted butter, melted, cooled2 ripe pears (such as buerre bosc) ***
- Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 170C.
Lightly grease a 26cm round loose-bottomed tart pan or a flan dish.
Place hazelnuts, caster sugar and 1 tbs flour into a food processor (or anything that is able to whiz up the ingredients) and grind them until rather fine. You want little chunks of hazelnuts still for a better texture. Don’t overdo the whizzing, check every few pulses or so because if nuts are ground too much, they form a paste (like peanut butter). Pour mixture into a large bowl.
To the nut mixture, sift remaining flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and whisk until well combined.
Beat eggs in a separate bowl until just frothy and then whisk in milk vanilla and cooled butter (I used a whole vanilla pod). Pour the egg mixture into the nut mixture and incorporate well. Tip the batter out into the prepared pan.
Peel and core the pears (although leaving the peel on gives a more rustic feel to the torta). For each quarter, slit the pear into 5mm-thick slices but do not cut all the way through. Start a little from the thin, tapered tip of the pear and slice through cleanly till the base. Do so for all the quarters. The idea here is that when you press down gently on the quarters with the palm of your hand, they should fan out nicely and not completely separate from each other. Using a knife (the broader the better) slide it under a quarters and carefully transfer it to the batter but do not press it in. Do likewise for the remaining quarters, in whatever manner you wish to present them. I chose to do so rather haphazardly.
Bake the torta for 30 minutes and if it hasn’t browned sufficiently to your liking, raise the temperature of the oven to 190C for another 5 minutes. Or if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
Let it cool once done and sift the icing sugar on top.
* The amount of sugar was what I used and I found the sweetness just right. If you would prefer it sweeter, add 1/2 a cup of sugar or sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on a slice of warm torta or drizzle on some maple syrup.
**Instead of vanilla extract, you may want to use a vanilla pod for better flavour. For those living in Singapore, there are some rather cheap ones at Mustafa Shopping Centre.
***If you are able to get your hands on buerre bosc, do use them. Mine were just the regular, rather leathery-skinned bosc pears.
Hopefully this recipe would truly be simple for you. Cheers!