Last night around five p.m., the time of day at work when I start to get hungry and contemplate my dinner, the taste of pears and brie came into my mind. You know how sometimes poets or songwriters say the poem or song ‘just came to them’? That’s how my best food ideas come. They appear in a dream, they develop into a sensation on my tongue, and I roll the flavors over and over in my mouth while I contemplate how to actually get them there.
This time it was baked brie and pears. Baked brie with pears is one of my favorite food combinations. It makes me go a little weak in the knees to see those limp slices of green tipped pears with the runny cheese. When the brie is baked it evolves into a slightly more salty cheese than the mild one you’re used to tasting. And the pears soften into a creamy smoky flavor, but still retain a sweetness. Somehow a pie crust got involved in my reverie and from there it kept going. I wasn’t sure my hunch of baked brie and pears would really work that well in a large pie. Maybe too much overpowering cheese, so tarts were born. Like an amuse buche of heaven.
After work I went home and roamed the aisles of the Shoppers’ Food Warehouse (which is not the best place to go if you have a gourmet taste itching to get out, but you can make it work). I came away with the kind of pie crust that’s already made and has to be rolled out, and fresh strawberries, frozen mixed fruit since fresh blueberries, rasperries and blackberries weren’t to be found. I had ideas of a fruit tart as well. And of course, a lovely light green pear, with a body to make a painter sigh. And a reasonably priced slice of brie.
Back at home I washed off the muffin tin and started cleaning, chopping and seasoning my fruit. Some honey, cinnamon and sugar for the pear, sugar and more sugar for the mixed fruit.
The difficult part was the pie crusts. I wanted little baby pies but wasn’t sure how to make the crusts quite right. Some of the fruit tarts I left topless. Scandalous, I know! The pear and brie tarts I covered. I pressed the pie crust squares I’d cut into the muffin tins and trimmed off the edges (I think next time I might just lay the dough over the tins and trim them all at once).
After my crust was in place I filled them variously with pears, strawberries, or mixed fruit and fresh strawberries. One I filled with just blackberries. I have a special place in my heart for blackberry tarts from a childhood fairy tale I read once. The pears got a square of cheese on top, like a pat of butter.
The tarts were covered and the edges pressed down. They were ready for the oven. I could hear them sizzling away, the fruit started bubbling and leaking over the edges, out from under the crusts and onto the cookie sheet I’d placed below. But when I pulled them from the oven and smelled that crust I couldn’t wait to taste them. Some of the strawberry or raspberry juices leaked into the crust for the pear tarts, which I was actually happy about since I’d forgotten to buy a sweet fruit jam to try with the tarts also.
I poured a glass of blackberry merlot, picked out a strawberry tart, added a spoonful of whipped cream, picked out a baked brie tart and finally, finally my tastebuds rejoiced. I had another one for dessert today at work, and the smoky brie and lovely pears, along with the light buttery crust was amazing in tart form. I think it could work as a larger pie too. I might even add a layer of a fruit jam, because I love the same elements topped with a red wine reduction, which has flavors of berries and sugar.