December 3, 2019 Makes one 9-inch tart
Ok. This may take some time but it's worth every minute. I tried a few variations of the tart dough, almond cream, and poached pears and finally found what I feel is a wonderful tart. You can break it up by making your tart dough and freezing it and poaching your pears the first day, and then finishing everything else off the next. The result is a tart that is sweet and tender and flaky, with a creamy almond filling (a.k.a. frangipane) and perfectly poached pears. Read through the recipe a few times. There are a number of steps, it could take some planning, and some parts of it can be made ahead of time.
This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Dorie Greenspan, David Lebovitz and a great site called justonecookbook.
Tart Dough Ingredients:
1 ½ C AP flour
½ C confectioner’s sugar
¼ t salt
1 stick plus 1 T very cold/frozen unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1 t vanilla powder (optional)
3 T apricot jam plus 1 T water
Tart Dough Instructions:
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times until combined. Add the butter and continue to pulse until there are some pieces the size of peas and some the size of oatmeal flakes. Stir the egg a bit and add to the bowl a little at a time.
Once all the egg is added, pulse for 10 seconds at a time. After a few of these 10-second pulses, the sound of the machine working the dough will change and the dough will form into clumps. Stop at this point and turn the dough onto your counter. Knead the dough just to incorporate any dry flour bits, gently and sparingly. Pat the dough into a flat disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling.
When you are ready to roll the dough, preheat your oven to 375°F. Have a little flour ready to sprinkle on your counter in case the dough starts to stick. Roll the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. (This is where a rolling pin with guides comes in handy). Place the dough carefully into your 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, push the sides down so that there is almost a crease where the sides of the pan and the bottom meet. You want the sides and bottom of the tart pan to have an even layer of dough, with about a ½ inch overhang. (If there are any cracks in the dough, don't panic, just piece and mend them together. This dough is very forgiving). Take the overhang and turn it down onto the sides of the tart, so that the sides now have a “double” layer of dough. Prick the dough a few times all over the bottom with a fork and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will help the tart maintain its shape and not shrink. Check out justonecookbook for really great instructions on rolling out and prebaking the tart dough!
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit it tightly into your tart pan, buttered side down. You don’t need weights!! Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes until the bottom is dry to the touch and just starting to turn golden.
Microwave the jam and water together for 10 seconds until liquified. Brush some of this over the bottom of the tart shell and set aside, you will use more of it later. Now it’s time to poach some pears. I turn to David Lebovitz for this one.
To poach is to just barely simmer, you should see a bubble or two rise to the surface. It's a way to just barely cook something, a way to infuse flavors into an otherwise not so flavorful item, such as a "not so ripe" pear. There's not much to it, BUT, there is a fine line between undercooking the pears and overcooking the pears. You also have to keep in mind that they will continue to cook in the oven so you want to try to cook them just enough in the poaching stage that they will still have some structure and shape to them after the baking in the oven stage. Another note to make is this. All the recipes I looked at called for three pears because you will peel them, slice them in half, core them, and then fan them out in rows, six rows each, on top of your tart. I could never, ever fit six rows of pears. Maybe my pears are too big? So, I did five and that was ok too. Here you go:
Poached Pears Ingredients:
3 Bosc Pears, not too ripe (Comice and Bartlett are tasty but could fall apart while cooking), peeled, cored and halved
1 1/3 Q water
1 1/3 C sugar
1 star anise (add what you want for flavor, or nothing at all)
* 1 piece of parchment paper cut into a circle that will fit snuggly into your pot of choice, with a small hole cut in the middle so the steam can vent.
Poached Pears Instructions:
Heat the water and sugar in a large saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Slide your pears and star anise into the water, adjust your heat for a gentle simmer, cover with your parchment circle and cook for 15 - 25 minutes. I think my pears took even longer than that. The cooking time will depend on how ripe your pears are, so start checking them at 15 minutes. You can pierce them with a toothpick. You want the toothpick to slide in pretty easily but with SOME resistance. If they end up being overcooked or undercooked, don't fret. It will all still taste delicious, it's just a tart for goodness sakes! When the pears are done, set them aside and let them cool in their liquid. Or if you are making them the day before, just let them cool in their liquid, cover and put in the fridge.
Let's continue, shall we? Time for Almond Cream. There are so many recipes for this but I chose the one from justonecookbook.
Almond Cream Ingredients:
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temp
1 C confectioner's sugar
1 C blanched almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
2 T AP flour
1/4 t salt
2 large eggs, room temp
1 t vanilla extract
1 T dark rum (optional)
Almond Cream Instructions:
On medium speed cream your butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or handheld mixer) until pale yellow, light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl at least once while mixing.
Add the almond flour, AP flour and salt and mix on low speed until well incorporated. Then, add your eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Don't forget to scrape the bowl! Lastly, add your vanilla extract and rum, if you are using. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Assemble and Bake:
Preheat oven to 375° F
Add the almond cream to the prebaked tart shell, spread evenly. Slice each pear half crosswise horizontally into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices, keeping each half intact. Take your hand and gently push down and upwards so that the pear half fans forward/outward, carefully slide a spatula underneath and place the fanned out pear on your almond cream. You want 5 - 6 rows of pears. It doesn't have to be perfect. Mine definitely wasn't. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is a beautiful, golden brown. Remove and let cool a few minutes before brushing the top with the remaining apricot jam and water mixture. This would be lovely served alone, with vanilla ice cream, or some whipped cream.