French pâtisserie is a thing of great beauty. Dorie Greenspan‘s tarte aux poires – published on her blog and her brillant book Baking: From My Home To Yours – from is one fine example that would trick even the most determined diet freak into submission. This freshly baked tart lasted barely 4 hours on my kitchen counter till I gave in to the temptation of having just one small bite. One tiny slice, and then one more… nibbling my way through almost a third of this most irresistible tart. Well, so much for my ‘Eating Healthy’ resolve 😦

While you can easily use canned pears for the filling, I highly recommend you to make your own poached pears. Instead of the elegant topping of fanned pears, you have the choice of poaching apples, plums, peaches or apricots, all of which are gonna be in perfect harmony with the very fragrant frangipane. And there you have a beautiful french tart, no less than the gorgeous creations you would drool upon with your nose pressed against a pâtisserie window.

FRENCH PEAR TART

Ingredients:

For the Tart Shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

For the Pears

6 canned pear halves or 3 medium pears, firm but ripe

1 lemon or 1 cinnamon stick

4 cups water, optional

1 1/4 cups sugar, optional

For the Almond Cream

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup ground blanched almonds

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons dark rum or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, or apple jelly for glazing

Method:

  • To make the dough, put the flour, sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  • Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely.
  • Add egg a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses about 10 seconds each.

  • The dough, which looked granular after the egg was added, will now form clumps and curds.
  • Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
  • If you want to chill the dough, gather it into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap well and chill for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.

  • Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  • You want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

  • To partially bake the crust, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust. Bake the crust 25 minutes.
  • Then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

  • Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.
  • If you are using fresh pears and want to poach them, peel them and leave them whole.
  • Bring the water, sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears.

  • Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears for about 15 minutes.
  • They should be tender when pierced with a knife. Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup and set aside.
  • To make the almond cream, put butter and sugar in the workbowl of a food processor. Process till mixture is smooth and satiny.

  • Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended. Add the flour and cornstarch, process, and then add the egg.
  • Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous. Add the rum or vanilla and process just to blend.
  • Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours.

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Have a lined baking sheet ready. Cut the poached pears in half.
  • Core them and make sure to pat them dry so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from baking.
  • Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula.

  • Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly.
  • Place it, wide-end toward the edge of the crust, over the almond cream. The halves will form spokes.
  • Put the crust on the lined baking sheet, slide the sheet into the oven and bake the tart 50 to 60 minutes.

  • The almond cream will puff up around the pears and brown. Transfer the tart to a rack to cool to room temperature.
  • Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar or brush the surface with apple jelly glazing.
  • The almond cream is a great companion for a variety of fruits, like apricots, peaches and autumn’s apples.

Thank You Dorie!

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