On my days off, I follow a strict regimen. First I roll out of bed at some juvenile, ungodly afternoon hour, and then I make pancakes. Then I eat the pancakes. Then life is good and I can go about my business.

It just doesn’t feel like a day off unless I make myself pancakes. They are, in fact, my favorite comfort food/indulgence/reward treat, which is why I put in the effort to research and make all different kinds. Maybe I’ll do a pancake post every Tuesday? Or just a breakfast post?

Anyways, this particular morning was dedicated to buckwheat flour, because I found some in my freezer, and, well, I lurve buckwheat. It’s different, to be sure, on account of it’s distinctive gray brown color and strong smell, and I can’t get enough of the bold flavor in sweet combinations. Luckily for me, I found a recipe not only using buckwheat flour, but also using pears. I had some extra canned pears in the pantry and wanted to use those before forgetting.

Although it’s freezing in my kitchen, and the Boston sky is a lovely shade of winter gray, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my day off!

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

(Adapted from Good to the Grain)

Yields 8 to 10 large pancakes (using a heaping serving spoon to portion the dough into the skillet)

Ingredients:

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose, or whole grain pastry flour)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 ¼ cups milk (the recipes suggests whole milk, but I used 1%)

1 egg

2 medium pears, or four halves from a 15 oz can (containing, usually, six halves)

Method:

1. If using a cast iron skillet, start heating it up over medium heat. You’ll know it’s ready when you sprinkle water over it and the water sizzles. If you aren’t using cast iron, you can preheat your skillet over medium heat a few minutes before dropping batter.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. If you sift the ingredients together, throw the grains left in the sifter back into the bowl with the ingredients.

3. Melt the butter, then whisk it with the milk and egg until completely combined.

4. Peel and grate the pears into the wet ingredients. If you are using canned pear halves, drain them and reserve the syrup, then cut them into very small pieces. You’re basically mincing the pears.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and fold together. Please be careful not to over mix, the batter will be thick!

6. Grease your skillet (either with butter or cooking spray), and start dropping batter!

7. Use your pancake skills until all the batter is gone. Wait until bubbles form on the top of the pancakes and the edges look dry, then flip the pancakes and cook until browned. Make sure to keep the heat consistent in the skillet, and to be patient!

8. Serve after removing from the skillet!

Pear Butter Syrup (if you are using canned pears)

Ingredients:

Reserved syrup from drained pears

1 tablespoon butter

A generous splash of whiskey, scotch, or bourbon

Method:

1. Place the reserved syrup into a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce the liquid until it appears to be halved in quantity. This will take a good amount of time, 15 minutes or so, so you can keep an eye on it while you make the pancakes.

2. When the liquid is sufficiently reduced, add the tablespoon of butter and keep heating until it melts, swirling the pan. Then add the splash of your chosen alcohol.

3. Keep it on the heat for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and serve over pancakes.

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Whisky Pear Tart

January 4, 2011

There’s no denying it, I love a project. So when my roommate, who loves to eat and loves to cook, proposed a fancy, schmancy roommate dinner, I jumped at the chance to make dessert. It was just the justification I was looking for that would allow me to spend my two days off preparing a dessert!

This recipe was flagged under the category of “Wishful Thinking, Colleen” with the subtitle “Where do you suppose you’ll get the time to make that?” My patience paid off, the opportunity arose, I did the legwork of making the tart (and by “legwork” I mean waiting patiently between steps), and it was worth it. My roommate, who doesn’t normally like desserts, ate her piece with rare enthusiasm, and it absolutely made me warm inside.

It’s a behemoth of a recipe, but yummy and fancy and DEFINITELY appreciated by those fortunate enough to wrangle a bite!

I did not have the foresight to take pictures of the whole thing. By the time it was made and glazed, I was ready to slice and devour it. Sorry.

Whiskey Pear Tart

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)

Yields one tart in an 11 inch diameter pan, or one tart in a 14 by 4 inch pan

Ingredients

For the pears and soaking juice:

One 15 oz can of pear halves in heavy syrup (or 6 halves, if you want to poach your own pears)

1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons whiskey

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the dough:

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup, or 1 stick, unsalted butter, cool but not cold (if you take the butter out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before using, you’ll get cool but not cold butter)

1 large egg, beaten

For the almond filling:

¼ cup, or ½ stick, unsalted butter, cool but not cold

4 ½ ounces almond paste (the tube I found at the grocery store was 7 ounces)

1 large egg

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon whiskey

For the glaze:

Drained syrup from the canned pears

Soaking juice drained from marinated pears

1 teaspoon whiskey

¾ teaspoon cornstarch

Method

Day One…

For the pears and soaking juice:

1. Strain the pears, making sure to keep the heavy syrup. Put the heavy syrup in a covered container in the fridge until you need it for the glaze.

2. Whisk together the wet ingredients (lemon juice, whiskey, sugar, and vanilla extract), until the sugar is dissolved.

3. Combine the strained pears and the whisked mixture (your soaking juice) in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge overnight.

For the dough:

4. Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt until combined.

5. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes, then added to the flour mixture. Cut with a pastry cutter, or use two butter knives, until the mixture is sandy looking.

6. Add the egg, and mix with your hands until the dough comes together.

(If the dough is not coming together, as mine didn’t, add a tablespoon of cold water, mix, and try to form the dough into a ball. Repeat as necessary; however, try not to over mix the dough. This part was tricky because you still want to see lumps of butter.)

7. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge overnight (or at least an hour).

*** I’m going to copy the instructions for this part of the recipe verbatim, because if you have a food processor, you should follow these instructions instead.

“Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses). Add the egg and pulse until the dough begins to form a mass. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least 1 hour).”

Day Two…

To bake the crust:

8.  Take the dough out of the fridge and place it on a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour. If you left the dough in the fridge overnight, let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling.

9. Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, in a circle (or in what ever shape pan you have) one inch larger in diameter than the tart pan. The dough is a bit sticky, so make sure to run a butter knife underneath the dough to un-stick it while you are working.

10. Glide the rolled dough into the tart pan, and press it to shape the pan. Trim the excess dough from the sides. At this point, I usually reinforce the sides with the scraps, but it’s not necessary.

11. Place the molded tart shell in the freezer for at least thirty minutes.

12. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

13. When the oven is preheated and your tart shell is sufficiently chilled, line the shell with foil and place pie weights or beans over it. You need to weigh the crust down enough to prevent puffing.

14. Bake the shell for 15 minutes with the pie weights, then remove the foil and pie weights to bake the shell for another 7 to 10 minutes, until it is light brown in color.

15. Move the shell to a cooling rack, and leave the oven on.

For the almond filling:

16. Cream the butter and almond paste until the mixture is light and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes if you have a mixer. To facilitate the process with cool butter, I cut the butter into more manageable pieces (thin slices, or you could do small cubes).

17. Add the egg and beat until combined.

18. Add the cornstarch, sprinkling it or sifting it into the mixing bowl, then mix to combine. If you are using a mixer, turn the speed to low.

19. Add the whiskey and beat until everything is combined and cream-like.

To assemble the tart for baking:

20. Spread the cream evenly in the baked tart shell.

21.Take the marinated pears out of the fridge. Drain them and reserve the juice (I added it to the extra pear syrup right away).  Arrange the pears in the cream spread on the tart shell.

22. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated, 375 degree F oven. Watch it after 30 minutes, though, as mine started to dangerously brown after 32 minutes.

To make the glaze:

23. Place the pear syrup and soaking juice together in a medium/small saucepan over medium heat, boiling the mixture until it is reduced to ¾ of a cup.

24. Remove from the heat, and whisk until the mixture stops steaming (a minute or two).

25. Add both the whiskey and cornstarch, whisking until smooth.

26. Put the pan back on the heat, but this time over medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook at a boil for a minute.

27. Use a pastry brush to generously apply the glaze to the tart.

Serving the tart as soon as possible is highly recommended, but it can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.