Monday, December 14, 2009

Sweet Tart - Pear & Almond Tart

It may look pretty, but I have to say I'm disappointed in myself. The recipe calls for three pears. I don't know how, but I forgot to add a whole pear to this dessert. There should be six fans of pear in this tart, as you can see, I only have four. I don't have much to say for myself, other than that I've been a tad forgetful as of late. And I can promise you, it would have looked even better with the correct amount of pear.

But I pulled it together last minute, and served the remaining pear as a compote on the side. This dessert was the first thing to disappear from the Thanksgiving dessert table, and I can't think of why it should make a repeat appearance this Christmas. The natives are getting restless. They want this tart.

There are those in my family who are crazy about marzipan. For me, it's become an acquired taste. Years before, I found it too be too sweet and cloying for my taste, now, I realize just how delicious it is as long as it's served with something acidic to offset the sweetness. This tart is a delicious combination. It looks and tastes absolutely festive.

It does requires a good deal of assembly and patience, but as they say, good things come to those who wait. The crust, pears and almond filling can all be made the day before, for easy assembling and baking the day of serving.

Pear & Almond Tart
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appetit

Sweet Tart Crust
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp very cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the pieces of butter, scattered through the mixture, and pulse until the mixture is well combined and almost flaky looking. The pieces should be the size of small peas. Stir in the yolk a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Turn the food processor on for about 10 seconds until the mixture is well combined. Turn the dough out and knead to incorporate any dry ingredients that haven't been added in. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before rolling.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out the chilled dough on a floured piece of parchment paper, lifting and turning while you work to be sure it doesn't stick to the paper. Using the paper, turn the dough over into the tart pan. Peel off the paper and seal any cracks in the dough. Trim off the overhang (should be about 1/2 an inch) and fold the remaining overhang in making the tart sides thicker. Pierce all over with a fork.

Freeze the crust for about half an hour before baking.

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and press the buttered side down tightly against the crust, smoothing it out to fit the crust. You can now bake the crust without any weights. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the foil, if the crust has started to puff it up, gently press it down with the back of a spoon. Bake 5-10 minutes longer, until the crust has turned golden. Don't bake until it takes on a dark color, if that happens the crust will be too hard. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temp.

Pears: you can use either canned or fresh pears for this recipe. If you use canned, be sure to drain and dry them well.

4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 medium sized firm but ripe Bosc Pears, peeled

For the Almond Filling:
2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tbsp flour
7 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1 large egg
1/2 tsp almond extract

1 sweet tart shell (recipe above)
powdered sugar for dusting

For the pears: Bring water, sugar and lemon juice to boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and reduce the heat to medium, simmer until the pears are tender (a fork will pierce them easily) about 20 minutes. Cool the pears in the syrup in the refrigerator.

For the almond filling: Combine the almonds and flour in the a food processor. Mix in the sugar, butter and flavorings. Blend until smooth. Add the egg. Pulse again. Transfer the filling to a bowl, cover and chill for 3 hours. Keep the mixture cold.

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the almond mixture evenly into the baked tart crust. Remove the stem from the pears and cut each pear in half, lengthwise. Remove the cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices, gently press each pear half into fan slices, keeping the slices tightly overlapped. Slide a thin spatula under the pears and arrange on top of the filling, placing the narrow end towards the center of the tart.

Bake tart about 55 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The almond filling should be puffed and golden. Cool the tart in the pan. When it's time to serve, push the bottom of the tart pan up until the tart is released from the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into wedges and serve.

This tart can be made 8 hours in advance. The pears and almond filling can all be made a day in advance.

1 comment: