Culinaria Cooking Class, Tart Style

I wanted to do something different for Mother's Day this year (as opposed to my normal not doing much of anything at all). At an event earlier this year, I met an instructor at a cooking school in Vienna near my parents' house and that seemed like it would be a fun thing for my mom and I to do together. Mom chose the "Luscious Tarts" class, so last week we headed to Culinaria Cooking School to learn how to bake some tarts.

It was an ambitious class: we made little blue cheese tartlets with a Roquefort-candied walnut topping, a caramelized onion, leek, and bacon tart, and a pear tart. That's a lot of tarts! I love the idea of making your own crust, and now I feel more confident about doing so. Just need to get some pie weights and I'll be in business. A fun tip: for the tartlets, we rolled aluminum foil into balls and wedged them into the crust during blind baking so the little cups would keep their shape without puffing up. 

Mom and I had to pair with two other ladies and work together on the recipes. At first, it was kind of awkward deciding who would do what. I bake occasionally at home, but there I felt a little pressure to do everything just so. "Everyone is watching me as a I scrape this bowl," I thought. That's why I like cooking by myself, you can take your time and do things the way you want. But it was nice to work in a group as well. Brought back home-ec/teen-living memories from my middle school days.  

Here are the fruits of our labor. Everything here used lots of butter and cheese and was decidedly tasty: 

Culinaria-class pic.jpg

It was a lot of fun, our teacher Marilena was a calming presence, and the really cool part is that assistants kept swooping in to clear away our dirty bowls and utensils. If only they were in my kitchen all the time, things would run a lot smoother.

Here's our class! There were a few male students there, but they ducked out of the picture. Image via Facebook

I wanted to share the recipe for our dessert tart. This was my favorite. It was kind of like a giant cookie. Chewy and flaky and delicious! Aside from the time chilling in the fridge and baking, the actual prep goes really quickly. You could use pears, or plums, or peaches. Any fruit but berries, according to Marilena, who graciously allowed me to post the recipe here.


Marilena Leavitt's Divine Pear Tart

1/2 med. lemon (juice only) divided

1 lb. pears (Concorde or Anjou), cored and sliced 1/2" thick

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 medium eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1. Butter a 9" springform pan. Slice the pears to 1/2" thick, place them in a bowl and squeeze half the lemon juice over them. 

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

3. With an electric mixer, cream 1/2-cup butter and 1-cup sugar together on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture (on low), until the batter just comes together. 

4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes. 

5. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. 

6. Remove the chilled pan from the fridge and arrange pears in tight concentric circles on top of dough. Squeeze remaining lemon juice evenly over the pears. 

7. In a bowl, mix the cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle over pears. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is set. Cool the tart in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge and then remove the sides of the pan. The tart can be served warm or at room temperature.