Winter vacation, I bid thee adieu. I knew I had to bake just one more thing before being condemned to another four months of living in the school libraries, and what better way to end the break than by baking Dorie Greenspan’s French Pear Tart.
French cuisine is probably my favorite cuisine out there. Small portions, yes, and more often than not, rather expensive, but in my opinion, oh so worth it. The flavors and nuances present in french dishes are like no other. Like their dishes, their desserts are just as, if not more spectacular. This French Pear Tart is certainly no exception.
The tart’s taste is simple yet refined. A sweet, crumbly shortbread crust holding an almond cream whose flavor comes from ground almonds and a hint of dark rum (or vanilla), with slices of sweet and tender pears bedded on top. I honestly don’t know who can do sex on a plate better than the French.
French Pear Tart (from Baking From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
For the Pears
- 6 canned pear halves, drained, or 3 ripe but firm medium pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou
For Poaching the Fresh Pears (optional)
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh lemon juice (if using unpoached fresh pears)
For the Almond Cream
- 3/4 stick (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
- 2 teaspoons dark rum or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough, partially baked and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, or 1/4 cup apple jelly mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water, for glazing
To poach the fresh pears: Peel the pears and leave them whole. Bring the water, sugar and lemon juice 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 until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup. When you are ready to use the pears, discard the syrup. (If you want, you can refrigerate the syrup for up to 1 week and use it to poach another batch of pears.)
To make the almond cream: Put the butter and sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the ground almonds and process until well blended. Add the flour and cornstarch and process to blend, then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous. Add the rum and process just to blend. (If you prefer, you can make the cream with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer.) You can either use the almond cream immediately or scrape it into a container and refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours. (The cream can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, defrost before using.)
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment or a silicone pat.
If you are using unpoached fresh pears, peel them now. Cut the poached or unpoached fresh pears in half from blossom to stem and core them. Rub the unpoached pears with lemon juice. Pat the fresh or canned pears dry so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from setting.
Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it evenly 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 and place it over the almond cream, wide end toward the edge of the crust. The 6 halves will form spokes. Put the tart pan on the baking sheet.
Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns. Transfer the tart to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before removing the sides of the pan.
Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar or warm the apple jelly with the water and brush this glaze over the surface of the tart.