It is hard to come up with pear desserts even at the height of pear season, which this is not. But I did go to Costco and surprised myself by buying a whole case of pears. I scouted around for a recipe and this pear almond tart (in Bon Appetit) caught my attention because it used both pears and almond paste. I had a log of almond paste (Odense, available at Whole Foods) at home, so I did not have to make the paste from scratch. I scouted around for additional recipes so I could get the proportions of paste eggs etc right. The final adaptation is from Bon Appetit, David Lebowitz’ website (for the tart shell, which used melted butter and caught my eye) and Smitten Kitchen. The result is a lovely tart, but not one that overwhelms the taste buds. But it is very satisfying. The best part is the liquid in which the pears are poached. I reduced it by half, until it got syrupy and stuck it in the freezer for a future jam tart or mojitos.
Poached Pears (Adapted from Bon Appetit and Smitten Kitchen)
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled (You can fit 4-5 pears into the liquid, if you want to make a couple extravand save for another use)
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean + pod (optional)
1.Bring 4 cups water, sugar, vanilla seeds (you can throw in the pod as well), and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Add pears and reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. (Cover and refrigerate).
Brown Butter French Tart Dough (Makes One 9 tart shell. Source David Lebowitz). This tart dough is made with butter melted and browned in the oven. It is very easy to make and does not require refrigeration prior to rolling out. In fact, it does not require rolling out at all, you just press the dough in place in a tart pan. It is every bit as good as any other tart dough that I have made.
6 tbs. (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 slightly-rounded cup flour
Preheat the oven to 410º F.
1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.
2. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.
3. When done, remove the bowl from oven (and be careful, since the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.
5. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks (I didn’t do this.)
6. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.
I find it best to pinch off a small amount of the reserved dough, roll it gently between your fingers to soften it, then wedge it into the cracks, smoothing it gently with your pinky.
8. Let the shell cool before filling.
6 ounces (170 g) almond paste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour
6 tbs butter, salted or unsalted, cubed, at room temperature
1 large egg, plus one egg white, at room temperature
a few drops almond extract, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons rum, Calvados, or Kirsch (I omitted)
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Set the pre-baked tart shell on a baking sheet.
2. In a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the almond paste with the sugar and flour, until smooth.
3. Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth, then beat in the egg and the egg white, the almond extract, and the liquor, if using.
1. Spread the almond filling evenly over the cooled tart shell (should be at room temperature).
2. Cut each pear half cross-wise into thin slices. Fan the pears slices as shown in the pictures, pressing gently into the almond filling, Leave some space between the slice rows.
3. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the almond filling between the pears has browned.
4. Cool slightly before serving, or serve at room temperature.