Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pear & Almond Tart

Last year around this time I went to a very formal dinner with friends. We were served an individual pear tart made with an almond crust and topped with cinnamon ice cream for dessert.  It was ah-mazing. Its only flaw was that it was the tiniest serving and I wanted at least two more tarts to feel satisfied.  Call me greedy--I'm okay with that.  Apparently I raved about it so much that a dear friend troubleshot recipe after recipe in an attempt duplicate that evenings dessert to serve for my birthday. How I love her.

Just recently thoughts of the pear tart resurfaced and when I found myself wanting to duplicate this delectable dessert, I went to straight to Cook's Illustrated. The recipe I found was not made in individual servings, but could be easily adapted if that is what you are desiring.  What I love about this Pear & Almond Tart is that it is a perfect entertaining dessert. Each component can be made a day ahead of time, leaving minimal work for the day it will be served. The pears can be poached and left overnight in their brine. The almond filling can be mixed and easily stored in an air-tight container for up to 3 days and the crust can be refrigerated in a tart pan unbaked overnight.

I substituted a store bought frozen puff pastry as opposed to making tart pastry from scratch. I did so out of convenience and although the crust baked wonderfully and was perfectly flaky (as puff pastries are), it admittedly was not a pretty as Cook's crust would have been. I was okay with that since in general I am not striving for perfection or a Martha-like presentation, however, I would recommend making the crust from scratch if that is your goal.  I highly recommend serving it with cinnamon ice cream.  Highly.  Recommend.


Poached Pears
1 bottle (750 ml) white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon plus 4 or 5 large zest strips removed with vegetable peeler
3 inch piece cinnamon stick
15 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 vanilla bean
4 ripe but firm pears, preferably Bosc or Bartlett

Almond Filling (Frangipane)
4 ounces blanched slivered almonds (1 cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces and softened to room temperature

1/4 cup apple jelly

1 frozen Puff Pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms)

1.  Combine wine, sugar, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and salt in large saucepan.  Make a lengthwise slit in the vanilla bean exposing the seeds.  Scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod and then add both seeds and pod to saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

2.  Meanwhile, halve, core, and peel pears. For more detailed instructions, look here.

3.  Gently place pears into saucepan with simmering wine; increase heat to obtain simmer.  Once simmer is reached, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer in covered saucepan for about 10 minutes or until pears are tender.  Test pears by inserting a toothpick into pear. If done, toothpick should slide into pear with very little resistance.  Gently turn pears in liquid halfway through poaching time using wooden spoon or spatula.

4.  Remove saucepan from heat and allow pears to cool in liquid, partially covered for 1 hour or until pears have turned translucent and are cool enough to handle. (Pears and liquid may be transferred to nonreactive bowl or container, cooled to room temperature, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Pulse almonds, sugar, and salt in food processor until finely ground, about 25 two-second pulses; process until as finely ground as possible, about 10 seconds longer. Add egg and egg white, almond and vanilla extracts; process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add butter and process until no lumps remain, about 10 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula and process to combine thoroughly, about 10 seconds longer. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container up to 3 days. Before using, let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes to soften, stirring 3 or 4 times.)

Remove puff pastry from packing and allow to thaw at room temperature for 40 minutes.  Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface.  Roll to even thickness to circumferance larger than tart pan.  Press dough into fluted sides of pan. If necessary, patch any breaks or cracks. Run rolling pin over top of tart pan to remove excess dough and then set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet or large plate. Freeze for 30 minutes. (Frozen dough-lined tart pan can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 month.)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and adjust rack to middle position in oven. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet; lightly spray one side of 18-inch square heavy-duty extra-wide foil with nonstick cooking spray. Press foil, greased-side down, inside frozen tart shell, folding excess foil over edge of tart pan.  Fill with metal or ceramic pie weights.

2.  Bake until dry, pale gold, and edges have just begun to color, about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Set baking sheet with tart shell on wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Spread almond filling evenly over baked and cooled pastry using knife or spatula. 

4.  Pat pear halves dry with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture (I forgot this step which is why you can see liquid pooling on my cutting board.)  While holding each end of the pear with light pressure, cut one pear half into parallel 3/8 inch slices keeping pear together.  Discard the 4-5 smallest slices from the narrow end and then carefully transfer pear with a flat spatula to the center of tart.

5.  Continue to slice and transfer each of the pear halves, placing each addition with the narrow end of the pear in the center until all the pears are placed in the tart.

6 Bake tart on baking sheet until crust is deep golden brown and almond filling is puffed, browned, and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Cool tart on baking sheet on wire rack 10 minutes.

7. Bring jelly to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to smooth out lumps. When boiling and completely melted, brush glaze on pears. Cool tart to room temperature, about 2 hours. (Tart can be kept at room temperature longer but should be served the day it is made.)
8. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between bottom of crust and tart pan bottom to release.  Slip tart onto cardboard round or serving platter; cut into wedges and serve alone or with cinnamon ice cream.

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, September 2002


Nisrine|Dinners and Dreams said...

Yum! Pear frangipane is one of my favorite tarts. It looks fabulous!

Mamahollioni said...

Thanks! It's one of my favorites too.

keri said...

This looks wonderful! May give it a whirl for Valentine's Day! Got to your sight by way of my sister on FourforFrance! Thanks for sharing!

Mamahollioni said...

Thanks for stopping by...I don't know if you remember, but we met at Jenn's commissioning at Mt. Park. I've heard so much about you and your family:-)

Let me know how it turns out if you decide to make it for Valentine's Day. I'd love to hear!