Pear Tart Bars with Goat Cheese Crumble
October 1, 2020
Pears are underrated and underappreciated, but I can’t help but love them. Let’s make an agreement to normalize pears, so they are no longer the forgotten fruit of fall. Around here, I can pick apples every day for three months, but there isn’t a single farm to pick pears. Ridiculous. Let’s start celebrating this sweet, soft fruit with these pear tart bars with goat cheese crumble.
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I was really excited to use goat cheese for these pear bars. It has this unmistakable tangy bite that just pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the pears, a buttery shortbread, and fragrant cinnamon. These bars exude flavor and fall, without an apple or pumpkin in sight.
What You Need to Get Started
- Pantry: All purpose flour, Sugar, Brown sugar
- Spice Rack: Salt, Cinnamon
- Fridge: Unsalted butter, Goat Cheese
- Produce: Pears
- Equipment: Mixing bowls, 8×8 Baking dish, Parchment paper, Sauce pan, Wooden spoon
How to Make Pear Tart Bars
There are four pieces to these bars, but don’t let that overwhelm you. They come together quickly, have only nine ingredients, and nothing is particularly difficult. The result, however, is a fantastic fall treat.
The first step is to make the shortbread crust. I love using shortbread for anything that needs a nice sturdy base. It’s easy to make, is super versatile, and has a fairly neutral, buttery flavor. Begin by preheating your oven and lining an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, hanging over the edges.
Then, you will start by whisking together the dry ingredients for the shortbread: flour, sugar, and salt. The mix is mostly flour, for structure, and the sugar and salt both help with flavor.
Then add in the melted butter. I like to heat mine up in the microwave in ten second increments in a small dish. When there is just a small piece left, swirl the dish around to melt that last little bit, then set it aside to cool slightly.
You’ll want it cool enough to handle, since after you add it to the flour, it’s easiest to use your hands to mix up the shortbread dough. You can use a spoon to start, but I really think getting in there with your hands gives you the best results.
Once it’s uniform, transfer it to the prepared pan, and spread in an even layer. Use your four fingers to press the dough into the pan, getting into the corners, and filling in any gaps. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until it appears dry, and the edges are starting to brown. Set it aside to cool on a wire rack.
While the crust is baking and cooling you can prepare the pear filling. These bars feature pears used in two different ways: sliced and mashed. For all the pears, remove the seeds. I like to cut the pear in half, and then use a melon baller to easily scoop them out. You can also use a small spoon or grapefruit spoon.
Slice two of the pears, and set the slices aside. It’s okay if they oxidize a bit, since they will be baked anyway. The other two pears, cut into chunks. I did fairly large chunks, about an inch. But you can make yours smaller if you’re worried about large skin pieces.
Or you can peel them, but I would not suggest peeling the sliced ones, since the baked peels add a nice color.
Add the pear chunks into a small saucepan, and add the water and plenty of cinnamon. Mix it all up to coat the pears, and cook on medium, covered for about four minutes. Covering will let the steam collect in the pot and helps soften the pears faster.
Uncover the pot, and continue cooking for another five or six minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir frequently, and mash the pears against the bottom and sides of the pot. You’ll know it’s done when the pears are mushy and smashed. Small chunks are fine, as long as they are soft.
There’s no need to let the pear mash cool for too long, just let it sit until it stops steaming. Then dump it onto the cooled shortbread crust, and spread it into an even layer.
The mashed pears will create a nice base layer for the sliced pears to rest on, which means you’ll be able to arrange them nicely, and they will stay in place. It will also continue to thicken in the oven, making a soft, chewy, sweet cinnamon layer.
Now it’s time to get those sliced pears back! I cut mine about a quarter of an inch thick, but you can make yours thinner and have them overlap more, or make them thicker and leave extra space between.
When you arrange them, scallop the pears with the skins up. These will brown up in the oven and make a nice contrast with the white flesh. It also helps to cut the slices in half vertically if your pears are particularly tall.
These will be mostly visible, so it’s worth it to place the pear slices intentionally to create a pattern. I arranged mine in four rows, alternating the direction of the scalloping.
A benefit to the rows is that you can use them as a guide when slicing to easily create the bars. However, feel free to make any pattern you want. It will still taste amazing no matter what these end up looking like.
Set aside the pan with the pears, and it’s time for the final layer: the goat cheese crumble. I suggest using a goat cheese log, which is dry and crumbly, as opposed to a creamy spreadable version.
If you can’t find goat cheese or don’t enjoy the taste, you can try using a different crumbly cheese like feta or queso fresco. This will have a slightly different flavor, and may end up adding extra salt depending on the cheese you use.
Whisk flour and sugar together in a small mixing bowl until they are thoroughly combined. Then, before adding the goat cheese, use your fingers to crumble it into smaller pieces. It may be a bit wet and stick to your hands, so feel free to coat them lightly in flour first.
Toss the cheese pieces into the flour, and continue using your hands to mix it all up. As you add the flour into the cheese, it will become easier to crumble. Once everything is combined, scatter the crumbles over the top of the pears.
There’s not enough crumble to cover the entire pan, so you can be strategic about filling in gaps between pears. Or you can just randomly toss the goat cheese crumbles around the pan. Either way, make sure you are spreading it fairly evenly across all sections, so each bar gets some.
Bake the bars for about 15 minutes more. This is just enough time to brown up the exposed pear skins and dry out the crumbles a bit. They will be a light golden brown when the bars are done. Set the pan aside on a wire rack to cool.
Sweet pears, tangy goat cheese, buttery shortbread, and fragrant cinnamon all come together in this tasty fall treat: pear tart bars with goat cheese crumble!
How to Serve
Once your pear tart bars are cool, use the parchment paper to carefully lift them out of the baking dish, and onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into twelve pieces. Try not to cut through the pears if you can help it. Instead, use the rows as a guide, and slice between them. Then gently lift up scalloped pears to cut underneath.
These taste best cool or cold, so I suggest letting them fully cool to room temperature, and then chilling in the fridge if you prefer. You can also bake these a day or two in advance, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
The savory goat cheese makes these a fun brunch treat, so you should pair them with a flavorful cocktail. I love the idea of playing up the cinnamon in these, and would love to try them with this cinnamon frosty, featuring Fireball. For something sweeter, the pear works well with the caramel in a chocolate turtle martini.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Mix up a fun drink with your extra pears, by making a cinnamon, pear, and rum cocktail.
- Add extra goat cheese into another brunch treat, with a savory caramelized onion cheesecake.
- Cinnamon is a great addition to anything, but I love what it adds to brown butter banana bread.
- Pears: If you don’t have access to pears, you can use a soft baking apple, like McIntosh or Cortland.
- Goat Cheese: If the flavor of the goat cheese is too tangy for you. you can try adding feta, cotija, or queso fresco.
- Flour: I have not tested alternative flours in this recipe. However, you can usually swap out white whole wheat with little trouble. If you try something else, let me know how it goes.
- Sugars: I have not tried using low-carb sugar alternatives in this recipe. I think it would work well in the crumble topping, but I’m not sure about the shortbread. If you try it, let me know!
Pear Tart Bars with Goat Cheese Crumble
- 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter Melted and cooled slightly
- 4 Pears 2 sliced, 2 chopped
- ¼ Cup Water
- 1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
Goat Cheese Crumble
- ¼ Cup All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 2 oz Goat Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle, and line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, hanging over the edges.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the melted butter, and use your hands to form it into a dough. Press the dough into the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the shortbread appears dry, and the edges are starting to get golden-brown. Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on.
- Set aside the sliced pears. In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped pears, water, and cinnamon and stir. Cook over medium heat, covered for 4 minutes. Then uncover, and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently and smashing the pears with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the mashed pear filling over the slightly cooled shortbread crust, and spread into an even layer. Add the pear slices on top, arranging in a scalloped pattern.
Goat Cheese Crumble
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and brown sugar until combined. Add the goat cheese, and use your hands to mix and then crumble into smaller pieces. Add the crumbles over the top of the sliced pears.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crumble is lightly browned, and the pears are fork tender. Let cool to room temperature, and then slice. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
- Soft, ripe pears, but not over-ripe are the best to use in this recipe. I used Bartlett pears. You can also substitute soft baking apples, such as Cortland or McIntosh.
- Make Ahead Tip: You can bake the entire dish up to 2 days in advance and store in the fridge. These are best served chilled or at room temperature, so no reheating is needed.