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When I first tasted Castello Caraway Havarti it immediately transported me back to my first (and only) semester of culinary school. You see, I have this habit of getting into “kicks” with different foods. I’ll get obsessed with one food and eat it non-stop until I can barely even look at it. It drives certain people (COUGH Chaser) in my life crazy, but I just can’t help myself. When I’m into something, I’m really into it. Call it dedication.
At that particular time in my life I was completely enamored with this certain version of a grilled cheese. Which, I mean, it’s grilled cheese; not exactly the hardest thing out there to fall in love with. Every day I’d come home around lunchtime and make what I still consider to be the best grilled cheese sandwich ever: Marble rye bread, a thin schmear of Dijon, and lots of gooey melted cheese – either muenster, mild fontina, havarti or a combination of the three.
On occasion a thin slice of tomato would make an appearance, but generally speaking it was just that simple. I ate that sandwich every. single. day. for almost three months straight. It’s just one of those perfect comfort foods.
It’s the caraway combined with the buttery Havarti that reminds me so much of that grilled cheese. Floral, anisey and slightly sweet, caraway is best known for being those fragrant little seeds nestled within in rye bread. This cheese tastes just like that sandwich, and it fills me with pure joy and nostalgia: two of the best emotions out there.
So when developing this recipe, I took a cue from that grilled cheese and opted to put a thin layer of Dijon mustard on the crust before adding the other ingredients. Why? Mustard has a magical way of making cheese taste cheesier; there’s just something about that spicy tang. When used sparingly, rather than tasting like mustard it just makes the Havarti taste more pronounced.
Rich, flaky pastry surrounds a bed of melty, aromatic Castello Caraway Havarti, then gets topped with sweet pears and a touch of honey. A sprinkling of fresh thyme and crunchy sea salt adds the perfect savory contrast to round it all out.
This rustic tart makes for a lovely appetizer and would wow at any potluck, but I love serving it with a simple green salad as an easy light lunch. It would also make an incredible addition to a post-dinner cheese course or served at an elegant afternoon tea.
Creamy havarti with fragrant caraway, pears and pastry are a match made in culinary heaven. A little bit sweet, a little bit savory and a whole lot delicious.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons very cold butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I prefer non hydrogenated)
- 5 tablespoons ice water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 6 ounces Castello Caraway Havarti, grated
- 2 ripe but firm pears (I used bartlett), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1 egg plus 2 teaspoons water, beaten
- Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and shortening until the pieces become the size of peas. Add in 6 tablespoons of water and mix gently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if needed. The dough should not be sticky, and you should be able to see the pieces of butter and shortening flecked throughout. Be careful not to over knead it.
- Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at last 30 minutes (or up to two days).
- To assemble the tart: roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the dijon mustard in a thin even layer on the dough, leaving a 1-2 inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the grated Castello Caraway Havarti over the mustard, then arrange the pears in a singular layer over top. Drizzle the honey evenly around the pears, then sprinkle the thyme and sea salt on top.
- Gather the sides up around the tart to enclose the filling. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash and sprinkle the edges with a little more sea salt if desired. Place the whole pan with the tart in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Once the oven has preheated, take the tart straight from the freezer and place it into the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the edges have become golden brown and the pears are tender. Allow to cool slightly, slice and serve warm.
- To achieve a tender, flaky pie crust, the dough needs to stay cold at all times. Be sure to start with chilled ingredients and place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes if it's starting to get too warm. Placing the prepared tart in the freezer for a few minutes before baking ensures that the crust will be super flaky.