Recipe: Pear and Almond Tart

This is a very French tart recipe that is utterly delicious.  It’s a popular tart among Parisian women, who sometimes cheat and use canned pears and a prepared tart shell.  But you’ll get far better results from the recipe below. The poached pears are surrounded by a not-too-sweet almond paste in a buttery crust. In my preferred variation, the pears are poached in red wine and honey, giving the tart an added depth of flavor as well as color contrast.  Recipes for both versions are included below.

Standard recipe: 10-inch tart

Ingredients

Pears

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3-4 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled

Crust

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • zest from a lemon
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Almond Filling

  • 3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg

In this version, the pears are poached in red wine and honey, adding to the taste and visual appeal of this delicious tart. See the recipe at the end.

Preparation

For pears:
Bring 4 cups water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) See red-wine-poached pear variation below.

For crust:
Blend powdered sugar, almonds, and salt in processor until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and zest and blend until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Mix in egg yolk. Add flour. Using on/off turns, blend until dough comes together in clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

For almond filling:
Finely grind almonds and flour in processor. Mix in sugar, then butter, blending until smooth. Mix in egg. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. Using paper as aid, turn dough into tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze crust 10 minutes.

Alternative (this is an easier approach): After mixing tart ingredients, press them evenly into the tart pan with your fingers. Freeze until ready to bake.  Pierce bottom with tines of fork and fill bottom with pie weights placed over waxed paper. If the edges start getting too dark, cover them with strips of foil.

Line crust with buttered foil, buttered side down, or waxed paper, then fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil/waxed paper and beans. Bake crust until sides are golden and bottom is set, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Cool crust in pan on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. If the sides start getting to dark, cover with thin pieces of foil.

Spread almond filling evenly in crust. Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear half to fan slices but keep slices tightly overlapped. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling like spokes of wheel with narrow ends in center.  For a 10-inch tart, 3 1/2 pear halves are ideal so you’ll have one half left over. You can include it in the tart if you prefer; just squeeze the pear halves together and don’t push them into the filling.

Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. But if the tart seems to be getting too dark, put foil over the top and edges to stop the browning. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges and serve.
Alternative approach to poaching pears:

Peel, cut in half and core.  Put in a fry pan big enough to hold them and pour red wine into the pan until the pears are mostly covered.  Add approximately 1/2 cup of honey or sugar and poach for about 30 minutes on low-medium heat, turning occasionally.  Option: add fresh or candied ginger. The remaining liquid can be reduced and used as a delicious syrup.

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