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August 2

Blessed Jane of Aza

The Story of Blessed Jane of Aza

Blessed Jane of Aza (12th c.), also known as Joanna or Juana of Aza, belonged to the Spanish nobility. At a young age she married a nobleman and together they had five children. She was a pious woman known for her life of prayer and generosity to the poor. When her two eldest sons were given to the priesthood, she went to the nearby church of St. Dominic Silos, a miracle worker and a patron saint of pregnant women, to pray earnestly for another son who would carry on the succession of the family. In a dream the saint appeared to her and said that she would bear a son who would be a shining light to the Church. She also dreamed of a dog that leaped from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth, lighting all the world on fire. She gave birth to a son in answer to her prayers, and in gratitude named him Dominic. She brought her son to the altar of St. Dominic Silos and there offered him to God. At the child's baptism his godmother saw a star shining from his forehead. All of these signs were taken to mean that the child would be great. Jane brought her son up with the utmost care, and as the child grew he evidenced uncommon sanctity and virtue. When Dominic turned age seven Jane generously gave him to be educated as a priest, leaving her family without a male heir. St. Dominic went on to found the famous Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, who became known as the "Hounds of the Lord", a great preaching order against heresy and in defense of the Catholic faith.









Iglesia-Convento de San Pablo

Penafiel, Provincia de Valladolid, Castilla y León, Spain

Plaza San Pablo, 2, 47300 Peñafiel, Valladolid, Spain





Spanish Pear Tarts with Sherry Syrup


  • 1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour

  • 100g chilled unsalted butter, chopped

  • 1/3 cup (30g) almond meal

  • 1 teaspoon ground aniseed (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (75g) icing sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup (250g) mascarpone cheese

  • 1/4 cup (70g) thick Greek-style yoghurt

  • Melted chocolate, to drizzle (optional)

Pedro Ximénez Pears

  • 6 small pears (such as corella)

  • 1 lemon

  • 150g caster sugar

  • 1 cinnamon quill

  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) Pedro Ximénez sherry


  1. For pears, peel, halve and core fruit, leaving stems intact. Pare 2 strips of rind from lemon and set aside, then halve lemon and rub over the pears to keep them from browning. Place sugar, rind, cinnamon, vanilla pod and seeds in a pan with 1 1/4 cups (310ml) water. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add sherry and pears, then cover surface closely with baking paper cut to fit. Increase heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes (depending on ripeness) until pears are tender. Chill pears in the liquid overnight.

  2. The next day, place flour, butter, almond meal, aniseed and 2 tablespoons icing sugar in a food processor with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg and vanilla and process until it comes together in a smooth ball. Enclose pastry in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

  3. Grease six 10cm loose-bottomed tart pans. Divide dough into 6 pieces, roll out to 3mm thick, then use to line the pans. Chill for a further 15 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice, then blind-bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights and cook for a further 3-5 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden. Allow to cool.

  5. Meanwhile, remove pears from syrup and transfer syrup to a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until thick and syrupy. Cool. Slice each pear lengthways almost to the top, leaving stem-end intact.

  6. Combine mascarpone, yoghurt and remaining 1/3 cup (50g) icing sugar, then spread into tart cases. Place 2 pear halves on top, fanning out slices, then brush with the reduced syrup just before serving. If desired, drizzle plates with chocolate.

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