I grew up in the wonderful coastal state of Goa where there are two seasons in the year – Monsoon season and what is known as the ‘the rest of the year’, a.k.a ‘off-tourist season’ and ‘peak-tourist season’. October would roll in, signalling the end of the lush monsoon, and the beginning of the most pleasant weather of the year, along with the festival season. The season kicks off with Ganesh Chaturti in late September and is followed closely by Durga Puja and Navratri, festivals that honor the mother Goddess in all her forms and with it, an abundance of feasting, dancing and celebration. And to cap it off, Diwali is celebrated at the end of the month. Yes, Obtober in Goa is a great time of year!
Living as I am in the Northern Hemisphere, where Autumn heralds in shorter days, grey skies and amber tinted trees, I must say, the magic of fall was quite lost to me in my first couple of years here. The only ‘layering up’ I liked was the kind that involved applying layers of sunscreen (provided the humidity in Goa was bearable).
A couple years in, away from the festivities I am so used to, Autumn in Switzerland seems to have grown on me. As my son and I walk the streets, pausing now and then to admire the burnished trees and falling leaves, we have a new-found sense of wonder and amazement. And the feeling comes back ever so often – Whether I am fortifying myself with endless cups of ginger chai (tea) with a dear friend, feeling the nip in the air bundled up in my favorite scarf, or munching away at a slice of warm pear and almond pie straight out of the oven. I now stop and smell the roasting marroni (chestnuts) in the streets, and look at the brighter side. Yes, October in Switzerland is indeed a great time of year!
- 1.5 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 9 tbsp cold (or frozen) butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp ice cold water
- Prepare a tart pan by lightly brushing butter into it
- In a food processor, or with your fingers (working very quickly so that the heat from your hands doesn’t melt the butter), bring together the flour, sugar and butter. Add egg yolks and ice water and mix together, to form dough.
- Wrap dough in cling film and transfer to a freezer to chill, if working in a warm environment. Take out dough, and press gently into the tart pan, forming an even crust. Return to the freezer for ½ hour.
- After ½ hour, take out pan, and prick the base with a fork, bake the tart crust in a preheated oven at 340 F/ 170C for 20 minutes. Take out and let cool completely.
Almond Pastry Cream:
- ¾ cup ground almond
- ½ cup sugar
- 1.5 cup milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cold butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Cook the ground almond and milk together in a heavy bottomed saucepan till the mixture begins to bubble.
- In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch. Once well blended, whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Add in a small portion of the hot milk-ground almond mixture and whisk (This tempers the mixture so that it doesn’t cook the yolks).
- Then add this mixture into the saucepan and whisk constantly, till mixtures comes to a boil. Then turn off the heat.
- Keep the pastry cream aside to cool.
- 6 pear, peeled (I used Birnen Conference, commonly available in Swiss supermarkets)
- 2 cups red wine or grape juice to poach the pears (I used grape juice)
- ¼ cup sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- Put the red wine / grape juice in a pot with high sides, and stir in the sugar and orange zest.
- Add the pears to the pot and turn on the heat.
- Cook the pears on medium heat, turning the pears such that all sides are evenly cooked, every 10-15 mins.
- Cook for around 30 mins till pears are soft.
- Take out the pears and let cool. Reserve the poaching liquid to make syrup.
- Spread the pastry cream over the tart crust evenly
- Slice the pears, remove the pit, and arrange the slices over the pastry cream.
- Prepare the syrup by gently warming the reserved poaching liquid, which would have thickened by now. Pour this over the assembled tart.
Garnish with almond flakes. Serve chilled.