Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pear-Almond Tart

I've never made a pear tart before, mostly because pears are not my favorite fruit. They can be very good, but mostly they're failed attempts at the brilliant: too mealy, too starchy, not sweet enough, overripe. At the request of a friend though, I attempted one for a dinner party. It was good, about what I would expect from a pear dessert. Not my preference but edible. However, the almond cream that went in the bottom was gorgeous. That I would love to make into a tart by itself -- it was sweet and nutty, and the texture was properly crunchy with ground almonds.
Recipe was taken from one of my favorite blogs, Our Patisserie.
Pastry Shell:
* 1 1/2 c unbleached flour
* 8 tbs unsalted chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces
* 1 large egg
* 2 tbs sugar
* pinch of salt
* 1 tsp ice water (if required)
Almond Paste:
* 1/2 c (1 1/2 oz) whole almonds
* 3/4 c sugar
* 4 tbs butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 tsp almond extract (check health food stores for oil-based almond flavor)
* 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Filling:
* 1/2 c heavy cream
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 4 large ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears, halved, peeled and cored

For the crust, process flour, butter, egg, sugar and salt until mixture resembles coarsemeal, 10-15 seconds. Pinch; if it does not hold together, sprinkle a few drops of cold water and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Do not overprocess. Gather dough in a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12 inch-circle about 1/8-inch thick. Line a 10-inch quiche pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes before filling.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the almond paste, pears and the cream filling: For almond cream, process almonds and sugar until finely ground. Add butter and pulse 4-5 times. Add remaining ingredients and process 15 seconds to blend. For cream filling, process cream, egg yolk sugar and vanilla extract for 10 seconds.

Before assembly of tart, preheat the oven to 350F. Spread almond paste over bottom of pastry shell and arrange pears attractively, flat side down on almond paste. Pour cream filling carefully over pears. Bake for 1 hour or until filling is set and browned. Cool in pan over wire rack. You can glaze the tart with a little diluted apricot jam if you want. Equally delicious served warm or at room temperature.

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