Zenyatta (yada yada) Crostata

SO, what if that actually was the title of the Police Album? Would the tracks be something like, ‘Don’t Stand to Close to Pie’ or ‘Driven to Pears’?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth!
I’m late for yet another challenge, although technically, I finished weeks ago. Explanation coming, but first, this month we were asked to make a crostata, which is essentially a sorta pie or tart with a fancier name. Yes, a crostata is known for being sorta rustic, sorta free-form and is made with a pasta frolla, which is a tender and crumbly shortcut pastry, usually containing eggs and/or yolks and traditionally filled with jams, pastry creams, sweet ricotta and/or seasonal fruits. But, in this challenge, we could fill it with whatever we wanted, so to me, this was a tart; this was a Thanksgiving pie; this was whatever we wanted to call it, as long as we used a pasta frolla.

Pasta Frolla for Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolateI took the easy way out..pasta frolla via food processor. Never let the dough pulse until it forms a uniform ball. Stop and take it out when it’s still crumbly (upper right photo), but moistened, then gently bring it together with your hands, wrap in plastic wrap and chill.  You still want to see pieces of butter in the dough.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

So it all started with roasted caramel quince, apple, pear, raspberry and frangipane. I finished this month’s Daring Bakers challenge at the beginning of the month, the first week in fact. I was absolutely exhilarated as I took the last photo of it because now I could fully focus on my usual 5000 course Thanksgiving dinner! But then, as I skimmed through the photos of slices, I noticed the almond frangipane had blended into the bottom crust, one strip of white on white.

Hmmm..what did I do wrong?

It hit me when I saw the prep photos. I had spread the frangipane on the raw dough. How could I forget to partially blind bake the crust prior to adding the frangipane?

Vanilla Bean Poached Pears for Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate

Although I don’t typically do ‘do-overs’ on this blog. I had to do it over because it looked really gross. Plus, who wants a soggy bottom crust? Fortunately, there were a few who ate the whole pie, err, crostata, not minding the strip of goo that greeted them with each bite. I guess I’ll have to head out to buy some more quinces, pears, apples and raspberries, I thought.  BUT, I have so much time left, I’ll go tomorrow. 

Tomorrow came and went, and so did the next day, and the next week.  When I finally got to the store; BOOM, quinces are now officially out of season. So were raspberries. I immediately shifted gears and decided on apples and figs on top of frangipane. I rushed to the section where they have figs and was greeted with yet another produce guy telling me that figs were also out of season. HUH? Do they all step out at once? Aren’t these Fall fruits? Isn’t it still Fall?

This is where ‘pie block” reared it’s ugly head. Do any of you remember my cheesecake block? These blocks always arise when it’s a common, classic dish or dessert, ones most of us have made many times over and can do in our sleep. I’ve done many a crostata, pie, tart, galette , etc. I’ve played with fillings, and I have recipes up the wazoo..hundreds of them. The unexpected ‘out of season’ announcements had rendered me fruitless and creatively stumped.

At one point, I almost dumped a jar of my homemade pear and fig jam, made the previous summer, into the pasta frolla crust and called it a day, albeit not a very nice day.

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate

After another few weeks of mulling over ideas that never came to fruition, it was now D-day aka a few days before it was time to post this challenge. I sat on my bed one night pondering away, completely blocked, when a  bit of light caught the edge of a book in my bookcase in the hallway. I knew what book it was before I even took a look. You see, I never win anything, but this past year I’ve won two blog giveaways, so now I have won things (although I still can’t help saying “I never win anything”.  It’s programmed into me.)

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate

I digress.

A few weeks ago I won the cookbook Bake! by Nick Malgieri from a giveaway by Meaghan at The Decorated Cookie. Apparently, this book and I were meant to join forces because as soon as I opened it, it landed on the page where this beautiful vanilla bean poached pear tart with a rich walnut filling, lives. This was going to be my crostata; Nick’s recipe, using the pasta frolla  provided to us by the lovely host of the challenge. However, I did make one small change; I added some rich, dark cocoa powder to the filling, making it a poached pear chocolate walnut crostata.

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate
I cannot tell you how delicious this crostata, tart, pie..whatever you want to call it, is. The filling is hard to describe, sort of a cross between frangipane and pecan pie goo, and with each slice, you get half a poached pear, glazed with tangy apricot. I love the idea of each pear half pushed into the filling; no fancy, fanned out slices; so rustic and absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving, or any time pears are in season.

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate
Finally, this crostata recipe called for a 10-inch tart pan. I always thought I had a 10-inch tart pan, but when I went through my stack of tart pans, it turned out I only had a few 8, 9 and 11-inch tart pans. I could have sworn I’d bought two 10-inch pans along with the others. Since it was late at night when I put it together, I ended up using an 11-inch pan, I’m telling you this because the filling in this tart should have more depth than my photos show. The pear halves should nestle into the chocolate-walnut filling a little more than they did in my 11-inch pan.


  • scant 3/4 cup (180ml, 90g, 3oz) of powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml, 235g, 8  1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1.  Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

2.  Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture had the consistency of coarse crumbs.  You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

3.  Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the beaten eggs.  Add the lemon zest to the mixture.  Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.  Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball and then shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out the pasta frolla on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cover the base of the tart pan.  Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil large enough to cover the bottom of the crust and extend out a bit over the edges of the pan.  Cover the base with either pie weights or dry beans and place tart pan on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

5.  Remove the weights/beans and parchment paper/foil and continue baking the crostata shell until the border is lightly golden, about 5 minutes

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate

OH, I almost forgot. Keep checking back next week for TWO GIVEAWAYS!

Poached Pear Chocolate Walnut Tart aka Crostata

Poached Pear Chocolate Walnut Tart (Crostata)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 to 10 servings, depending on size of slices
Recipe by Nick Malgieri from the cookbook, Bake!
Chocolate addition by me
Sweet Pastry Dough (or use the pasta frolla recipe from the challenge, above)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
  • 2 large eggs
Poached Pears
  • Ice water
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5 ripe Bartlett pears, about 2 pounds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 two to three-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon pear brandy, optional
Chocolate Walnut Filling
  • 1 cup walnut pieces (I toasted the walnuts first)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butted, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large yolk
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (reduced from ¼ cup due to the addition of dark cocoa. If you don't use cocoa, use ¼ cup flour)
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup walnut pieces, finely chopped (I omitted these extra walnut pieces that are scattered on top of the filling prior to arranging the pears)
Apricot Glaze
  • ¾ cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
Make the Sweet Pastry Dough
  1. To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1 second intervals until the butter is finely mixed into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough forms a scrappy, raggedy ball. You still want to see chunks of butter in it.
  2. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
    I rolled one half of the dough and fit it into an 11-inch (should be 10-inch) tart pan, then blind baked it prior to adding filling and pears. 15 minutes at 350 F with parchment paper and dried beans - remove both, then 10 - 12 more minutes until light golden in color.
Make the Poached Pears
  1. Fill a 4-quart pan with ice water and add lemon juice. Peel and cut the pears in half vertically, using a melon-ball scoop to core and stem the pears. Add each pear half to the ice water. Skim out the ice and pour away all the water except what’s needed to cover the pears by 1 inch. Add the sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and stir gently.
  2. Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper the same diameter of the pan and cut about six 1 inch holes in it. Press the paper down on top of the pears so that it is fully submerged. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a full boil. Cover, remove from the heat and allow the pears to sit in the hot liquid until they completely cooled. If the pears are perfectly ripe, they won’t need any more cooking; if they are less ripe, boil for another two minutes. Once the pears are cool, use slotted spoon to lift and place them in a container. Pour pear brandy over pears, if using; pour enough of the poaching syrup to cover the pears and transfer to the vanilla bean to the container. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
    If you aren't making this crostata and want to poach the pears for dessert, once the pears come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool in the syrup. Refrigerate in the syrup or serve immediately with ice cream, creme fraiche, chocolate syrup or whatever you suits your fancy.
Make the Chocolate Walnut Filling
  1. Before assembling this filling, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
  2. Combine walnut pieces, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Scrape away any mixture stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the butter, egg, and yolk, pulse until smooth. Mix the flour, cocoa and baking powder together and then add the bowl and pulse again until absorbed. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse 2 to 3 more times. Scrape the remaining filling into the crust and smooth the top. Evenly scatter the chopped walnuts on top (I omitted this).
Make the Apricot Glaze
  1. Stir together the apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over low heat. Strain into a bowl, then rinse the pan and return the strained glaze to the saucepan. Reheat the glaze and reduce it (cook down) slightly.
Assemble and Bake the Tart
  1. Drain the pears on paper towels and arrange them on the filling, wider sides close to the edge of the crust, ends pointing toward the center. (Do a dry run on a plate and trim the sides of the pear halves if necessary.) Bake at 350 F until the edge of the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  2. Once cool, Dust the tart well with confectioners sugar, then pour a small spoonful or brush the glaze onto each pear. Unmold and slide the tart to a platter to serve.
* I used the first pasta frolla recipe from the challenge, linked above.

Super fudgy Vanilla Bean Poached Pear Chocolate Toasted Walnut Tart with a buttery, flaky crust that shatters, then melts in your mouth! #poachedpears #pear #peartart #fudge #walnuts #pastafrolladough #chocolate

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55 Responses to Zenyatta (yada yada) Crostata

  1. Lisa you always amaze me with you DBers creations this one is extra special. Pear chocolate and walnut goo sounds so delicious super work such professional work on this challenge.

    Always a joy to visit your blog.

    Can’t wait for the giveaway.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Rosa says:

    A fabulous crostata! So delicious looking. A great idea.



  3. chef_d says:

    Oh wow! I love the flavors you used! Chocolate yummy!!! Pear yummy! It’s all good. Excellent job and beautiful pictures!

  4. Shelley C says:

    Okay, I think the Police song titles might just be a new hobby of mine, changing the titles to fit food categories… LOL. I am sure that your first crostata was delicious, despite not blind baking the shell, and your chocolate pear walnut crostata looks fantastic!! That must have been amazingly delicious. Great, great work.

  5. Oh my, what a whirlwind story of fruits gone awry. Lucky the pears were ripe! Love the pear chocolate combo so good move there. Looks awesome.

  6. What a story! I always love reading your culinary adventures as there is so much heart and humour in each one! …. and I can completely relate to the perseverance and passion of wanting to get it right! I always find that in your posts, Lisa Michele! And rustic? I don’t think so… this pie/tart looks incredibly elegant to me. The poached pear recipe alone looks fab. Can you include it, too… in comments or in an update?
    (I have never eaten quince in anything other than a paste with cheese. I cannot imagine it’s flavour or taste and have no clue how to prepare it.)
    Hope your 5000 courses went off without a hitch for Thanksgiving and can’t wait to read about that, next!
    🙂 xo

  7. Suz says:

    Aha, my mouth fell open when I saw that & I’ve been muttering “oh my goodness” throughout this post. That looks utterly heavenly!

  8. Laura says:

    Your crostata looks delicious! I am like you with fruit, all of a sudden they are gone and I can’t get over it. This year I didn’t even see quinche at my local store.

    Great job on the challenge! Now I want that book! Did I say I have a hard time not buying new cookbooks? And I like Nick Malgieri’s books.

  9. I love reading your Daring Baker entries – I always marvel at your completed challenges! I can’t wait for the recipe, as I think your version of the crostata would be a wonderful dessert to have on hand when expecting company.

  10. Aparna says:

    So you didn’t have a 10″ pan, so the filling didn’t quite nestle! I don’t mind at all. Your pie/ tart/ crostata (what’s in a name after all?) looks delicious to me.
    If you lived close by, I would have been over for a slice, I promise. 🙂

  11. Zita says:

    Ha..Ha, never mind being late Lis, with a tart looking fabulous like that it’s deliciously fasionable to be late 😉

  12. Mary says:

    “a cross between frangipane and pecan pie goo”
    Umm, can I please come and wallow in that?

    Your tart looks gorgeous, and I’m glad you finally found some seasonal fruit to put in it. I don’t think quince even bothered to make an appearance here, as I was on the lookout for some. I went completely unseasonal/unlocal with mine for the most part, cause I was missing summer fruit already.
    I’ll try to get back to check out your giveaway, but I really never win anything!

  13. MandyM says:

    And I’ve missed another challenge *sigh* And I even had it planned out. Bad time of year with so much baking to do!

    Your pie/tart/whatever 😉 looks fantastic. I absolutely agree, the whole pears look rustic and I love it! I’m not really a cooked fruit person, but I would definitely try this recipe (possibly because it looks rustic and not stupidly sweet, if that makes any sense!)

    Nice job on getting the challenge finished in the first week (and then doing a remake ’cause you weren’t happy! 🙂 )

    We must chat again!

  14. Renata says:

    Wonderful post! Stunning photos, adorable and yummy Crostata! Love that each slice comes with a half pear! Very clever!

  15. I’ll pretend with you, because that’s what my vision is..”a Thanksgiving in the mountains..in a log cabin, with a roaring fire flickering over the beautifully set, food laden table…”

    Gorgeous tart and flavor pairings. Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

  16. pragmaticattic says:

    Faaaaaaabulous dahling!!!!! Love it! Seriously, that crostata looks so luscious I can’t stand it–I want to make this. Truly inspired to add the cocoa. I love Nick and now I have to get my hands on his latest (although I am still working on The Modern Baker–I can’t keep up). I love the photo of the poached pears covered with vanilla seeds and the one of the pears next to the tart with the rich chocolate filling–actually, all the pictures are great. Wonderful job.

  17. Valérie says:

    Lisa, it’s beautiful! Pears are also my go-to fruit these days – and apples. But pear and chocolate is just one of those combinations that make my mouth water!

  18. shaz says:

    Oh LIsa, you always rise to the challenge and produce stunners. this one was no exception. I love the sound of it and will definitely keep this up my sleeve when our autumn rolls around again. Yummo.

  19. Sue says:

    Oh Lisa, I would LOVE to have a wedge of your crostata! So delectable and beautiful! It really belongs on the cover of “Gourmet”. Your DB posts are always worth waiting for:) Mine won’t be posted until tomorrow…oh well. Thanks for the tip about the dough!

  20. claire says:

    Looks great! The dark chocolate and pear sounds like a wonderful combination.

  21. Hey! This is very similar to one of my crostatas for this times challenge. I love the gooey looking chocolate layer in yours though. Mine got a bit too set I think because of all the yolks and cream I used. And adding walnuts! Brilliant!!

  22. crumbsoflove says:

    Your photos are amazing!! What a beautiful job you did this month

  23. Dan says:

    What a beautiful pear! Looks very very tasty. Your writing really brings out the frustration you went through makes me feel like I was part of it. Nice work and the photos are fantastic. Can’t wait to see what holiday season creations you come up with.

  24. marcellina says:

    Ooooh pear and chocolate! YUM! Your crostata looks fabulous!

  25. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Wow, the tart is sooo pretty with the pear halves! And of course it must be heavenly delicious!!!

  26. Lisa, my salutes to you for such crostata perseverence. I would have stopped on the first caramel quince apple frangipane crostata attempt and get by, but you (come to know you have a high level of perfectionism in you) just had to make it right!!

    And the outcome is this wonderful luscious poached pear chocolate crostata, which I am sure double delicious from your first attempt, am I right?

    So cheers to you Lisa for having such strong will, you go girl 🙂

  27. Cherine says:

    A fabulous crostata!

  28. Carine says:

    Hey this reminds me of Nigella Lawson’s chocolate pear pudding! I’ve never tried the combination of chocolate and pears…I think I will………….soon…

  29. Beautiful! And it sounds so decadent. I made a pear and cranberry pie for Thanksgiving and I wish I could have had this recipe. My pie was only OK… it couldn’t really stand up to the other three pies we had. And the chocolate… there was very little chocolate this year… I should try this soon to console myself. Fabulous baking again 🙂

  30. Jamie says:

    How is it that everything happens to you? But no matter what the fates keep in store for you you always manage to create something stunningly perfect! And this is! I must say that I’m no pear kinda girl but snuggled down into cocoa or chocolate anything and I’m all for it. And I want to come to one of your 5000 course Thanksgiving meals. How many months do you have to start preparing in advance? Happy Happy Hanukkah, darling Lisa.

  31. Simone says:

    Thaat just looks so beautiful! I completely forgot to make the DB this month… Pfft, talk about silly… But you nailed it again even though maybe slightly late! Love that pear chocolate combo..!

  32. Jenni says:

    Wonderful job!! I am simply speachless by your beautiful crostata! You blew this challenge out of the water! Any left?!

  33. Alex G says:

    LOL, not the dreaded “strip of goo”! I’ve done that before as well, blegh.

    You’ve managed to turn something rustic into a thing of beauty! I’ll have to try making this over the holidays, it looks like a perfect, fragrant Christmas treat.

  34. FOODESSA says:

    I’m with you about thinking the ‘pasta frolla’ to be an Italian pie crust…it is what it is, but with a somewhat fancier name ;o) Speaking of fancy…this crostata of yours is on the border of rustic going towards the elegant…very well done Lisa.
    Also in agreement…is to partly use the food processor…why not ;o)

    Have a wonderful week and hope that your crazy 5000 course meal was a mis-type?!? LOL

    Ciao for now,

  35. Simona says:

    I am not sure I chose the right time to read your post. How am I supposed to fa asleep when my eyes are full of your crostata? Great idea to add cocoa to the filling.

  36. Diana says:

    I had to come here and see this amazing looking tart which I saw on Foodgawker, This is definitely going to be on my Christmas dessert list!!

  37. Tony R. says:

    Stunning tart….just rustic, but definitely elegant.

  38. It looks lovely, the flavour combination sound heavenly. You had me at the filling description when you mention frangipane and pecan pie……….yummy!

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  40. I’ve seen this kind of tart with an almond creme – it’s a classic French combination. But with a chocolate creme with the pears really ups the ante. Nice job.

  41. Juliana says:

    Wow, wow and wow, this is a perfect dessert that I’d like to end with a nice meal…looks delicious this crostata of yours…pear, walnut and chocolate, again SO perfect!

  42. Adding chocolate to the filling was inspired! It looks delicious with the poached pears and their pretty, apricot glaze. And so true, figs disappear all too quickly in the fall!

  43. suezumout says:

    That is just beautiful!! So many of your dishes look too good to eat… but I think I could manage it. Haha!

  44. tiedwithblue says:

    Whoa! THat looks so yummy and beautiful! great job with the challenge, and i love your pictures 🙂 Chocolate, walnut and pear, mmmm!

  45. Elle says:

    Gorgeous crostata! Chocolate and pears go so well together.

  46. ingrid says:

    You’re such a nut! But we luv ya! As usual you did a stellar job with this challenge and your photos are lovely.

  47. Love your interpretation of the tart from bake! Meaghan forwarded your post to me… FYI, the pear and chocolate combo first appeared late in the 19th century in a French ice cream dessert called Coupe Belle Helene, strangely named after Helen of Troy. It is made from vanilla ice cream, a poached pear half, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream.

    • lisamichele says:

      I’m speechless. I’m not worthy. Love, love, love you, Nick! Been a huge fan since your days guest hosting Cooking Live. Great info on the origination of the now ubiquitous pear and chocolate combo (Helen of Troy?? Very strange, indeed! However, I think a good dessert could launch a thousand ships lol)! Can’t wait to tackle the rest of your beautiful book! Thank you so much for stopping by, totally made my day!

  48. Chef Jay says:

    The pears used for this tart would be great if they were freshly preserved. Canning your own fresh fruits and veggies is a great way to have fresh ingredients for any dish. For more information on canning your own foods to use for meals please visit my website.

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  52. Medeja says:

    Pear, chocolate and walnut.. It sounds so good!

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