The idea for our holiday tart baking party started when the UPS guy dropped off my first-ever Besh Box — the new subscription-based monthly deliveries full of cooking tools, special ingredients and recipes hand chosen by superstar Louisiana-based chef John Besh to help subscribers build (and play in!) their ultimate kitchen. As I sorted through the contents of my December box (Inglewood Pecans, dough scraper, recipe for Besh’s spiced wine and a spot-on holiday playlist to name a few), it dawned on me that this box included all the makings for a cozy holiday get-together with a few friends. I’ve honestly never been the best pie baker in the world, so I figured – what better time to tackle it than armed with Besh’s apple, pear and pecan tart recipe and a few game gal pals? Click through for all the yummy details shot by Buff Strickland, and be sure to hop on over to the Besh Box site to learn more about how to get or gift a monthly delivery of your own culinary kit. Today’s special offer? Buy any 3 subscriptions or gifts and receive this Holiday Box for yourself!

Chef John Besh’s inspiration behind the Besh Box is that, since he can’t physically visit each of our houses to cook with us (as he’d love to do!), we can feel a bit like we’re cooking side-by-side with a master chef as we prepare our own meals at home. Besh says he gets asked every day, “what would you use in ____”  how should I ____”   what kind of ____ is best?” So he’s filling these boxes with his very favorite tools and products meant to spark creativity and get cooking with our friends and family!

A short-and-sweet message inviting my guests to “Get Cooking!” is tied to the fab little dough scraper that came in this month’s selections. And as a cook who’s slightly obsessed with great dishtowels, this red and white one was perhaps my favorite thing in the box (and if it’s good enough for Chef Besh to use at home… ’nuff said!) One thing I love about the assortment is that everything is meant to be used over and over again, to teach you how to become more comfortable in the kitchen, learn something new and keep coming back for more. For instance, I’ll use the dough scraper for this tart recipe… and then I’ll use it again for making biscuits on Saturday morning!

And the pastry rolling begins! As I mentioned, I’m no expert in the pastry department, and the beauty of a freeform tart like this is that it doesn’t require perfection. When working with dough, it’s helpful to remember a few things:

  • Keep everything as cold as possible — if your dough gets too warm, it’s more likely to overstretch and leave you with holes and tears.
  • Use plenty of flour, but not too much. Lightly sprinkle your dough, rolling pin, board and hands with flour, but you want to use as little as possible to get the job done so as not to end up with a flour-y taste.
  • After rolling over the surface a few times, I find it helpful to pick up the round of dough and flip it over to prevent sticking to the board.

What to do with dough scraps? Cutout pretty little shapes to decorate your tart, of course! We used a snowflake cutter, then brushed the dough with egg wash and sprinkled with sparkling sugar. Just remember that the little shapes will take much less time to bake than the tart itself — these took about 15 minutes.

The key to throwing a successful party like this is making sure that everyone has a specific job to do. Jenn peeled all the apples and pears, while Kate chopped the fruit and mixed together the filling.

This tart is brimming with seasonal ingredients that filled my kitchen with the scents of the holidays: apples, pears, pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar. Make sure to add lemon juice as soon as you’ve cut up your apples and pears to prevent the fruit from turning brown.

There are pecans…and then there are really GREAT pecans. The huge bag of Inglewood Pecans that I found in my Besh Box will keep me stocked through the holidays, and they put such a delicious twist on this fruit tart. Be sure to toast them first, as it really enhances the flavor of the nuts. Spread them out on a baking sheet and pop into a 375 degree oven until they start to smell toasty, about 8 minutes.

Chanel and Claire get in on the dough rolling action. They make a few more snowflakes to garnish the tart (though most of them are devoured straight out of the oven.)

So what’s a group of girls supposed to do while they sit around and wait for the tart to bake? Drink cocktails, of course! We mixed up the recipe for Chef Besh’s Hot Spiced Wine, and its citrus fruit, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves made the entire house smell like Christmas.

There’s nothing like a hot drink to warm up chilly hands just in from the cold, and a long cinnamon stick makes the perfect fragrant stirrer.

Tart’s done! I garnished ours with a simple wreath pieced together from fresh bay leaves.

To round out our spread of sweets, I set out a plate of Christmas cookies; at the holidays, you might as well go all out! It’s way more fun to serve up slices of pie when everyone around the table can take some credit for making it.

Warm apples, pears and pie crust just cry out for a little vanilla bean ice cream, don’t you think?

The girls enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The best part about a baking party is that you can keep it simple — your guests already have a built-in activity, and since they’ll be pitching in with the menu, there’s little that the hostess needs to prepare in advance! Especially at this crazy-busy time of year, a no-prep party is definitely something I can get behind.

Thanks to Samantha at Bricolage for putting together these to-die-for holiday blooms for our table. Dripping with peonies, lilies and dahlias in deep jewel tones, I just wish I could have them on my table all season long!

Chanel goes back for seconds.

One things’s certain: your guests will want leftovers. Have a few sturdy boxes and some trimmings like wrapping paper scraps, greenery and yarn at the ready. There’s something special about sending everyone home with a pretty package full of handmade sweets.

Such an unforgettable way to kickoff the holiday season! Now I’m just waiting on pins and needles to see what’s inside my next Besh Box! Wondering how Chef Besh will kick off the new year… all I know for sure is that it’ll necessitate another fun gathering! Stay tuned to see what we do with our box next month, and be sure to check out the Besh Box site to receive one of your own… and don’t forget: Buy any 3 subscriptions or gifts and receive this Holiday Box for yourself!

To see more of Buff’s work, click here.

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