When flipping through my copy of Baking, I discovered this recipe for a very French, very classic, pear and almond cream tart. Upon reading the recipe, I was just as surprised as Dorie was to learn that canned pears most often used for these tarts (*gasp*). Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against canned pears (Steven's mom makes the best ones); it just goes to show that delicious and elegant desserts can be made with simple and convenient ingredients. The beauty of this recipe is it's flexibility - it can be made with canned pears, poached pears, or fresh pears. I chose to poach some perfectly firm but ripe Bartlett pears. I'm a sucker for almond flavoring so I added a little almond extract to the almond cream because mmm... mmm... I love the smell of almond extract *takes one last whiff*.
- Make sure your pears are small enough to fit in your tart pan. If your tart pan is 9 inches, your pears should be no larger than 4 inches tall. My pears were too large and I could only fit 4 pear halves on my tart, (actually I probably could have fit 5 halves when thinking about it in retrospect).
- A fun little article written by Dorie Greenspan: When French Women Bake.
French Pear and Almond Cream Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking
6 canned pear halves or 3 small, firm but ripe pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou
Optional Poaching Liquid
3 C water
3/4 C sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 stick/6 Tbsp unsalted room temperature butter
2/3 C sugar
3/4 C ground blanched almonds
2 tsp AP flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 9 inch tart shell partially baked and cooled (I used an 8 inch)
Tart baking instructions:
Bake the crust at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes lined with foil and weighted down with pie weights, beans, or pennies, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the tart pan, keeping the crust in the pan, and cool the crust until it is room temperature.
Optional Poaching Step:
Combine all the ingredients for the poaching liquid in a saucepan, that is just large enough to hold the pears, and bring the liquid to a boil. Meanwhile peel the pears but leave them whole.
Add the pears to the boiling syrup and lower the heat to a simmer. Poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup. Reserve about 3/4 C of the liquid. You can discard the remaining syrup or save it, for up to a week, to poach more pears. I like to boil it down to a thick syrup and add it to tea.
In a bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, flour, and cornstarch. Process the butter with the sugar in the food processor then add the dry ingredients and process until smooth. Then add the extracts and egg and blend until smooth. The cream can also be made with a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer. The almond cream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days or you can freeze it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If you are using fresh unpoached pears, peel and core them. Rub them with fresh lemon juice and then pat them dry. If you are using canned pears, pat them dry.
If you are using poached pears, cut them in half and core them, and pat dry.
Slice each pear half crosswise into thin slices.
Spread the almond cream evenly in the tart crust. Lift the sliced pear half with a spatula, gently press down on it to fan it out, and lay it on the almond cream. The skinny part of the pear should face in. Repeat with the other 5 pear halves. The 6 pear halves will form spokes. Optional: decorate the tart with some almond slices.
Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream is puffy and brown. After baking let it cool until it is warm or room temperature to serve.
Meanwhile, simmer the pear syrup until it has thickened into a glaze. Reserve this to brush on the tart before serving.