This traditional French sweet marries meltingly tender pears with a fragrantly nutty frangipane in a crisp pâte sucrée. One of the most delicious things to do with those lovely poached pears, it *is* kind of a production, but all the components are actually very easy to make and the tart is ample reward. It might be wise to spread it out, though, as the pears take some time and the crust needs to rest a bit in the freezer. I might suggest poaching the pears and prepping the crust one night, then par-baking the crust while you make the filling before putting it all together.
This is an elegant combination–crunchy, buttery crust; nutty, creamy frangipane; and mellow autumnal fruit–it has a little something for everyone and is almost universally adored. This is one that you’ll be asked for time and again–friends really do ask for it by name. Fortunately, I think, you’ll be all too happy to oblige.
This comes from Dorie Greenspan’s latest (it’s surely already been covered by TWD) and I’ve noted any modifications, mostly inspired by Joe Pastry’s version, in brackets. As noted above, breaking the components out makes for a less harried baking experience, though there’s nothing really difficult about any of it. The crust in particular is quite forgiving, and can just be lightly pressed into the pan instead of rolled out–a boon to novice bakers.
French Pear Tart
Sweet Tart Crust:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 tbs butter, cubed & frozen
1 large egg yolk
6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c sugar
3/4 c ground blanched almonds
2 tsp flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large egg
4 poached pears, halved, cored, and sliced
[2 tbs reserved poaching liquid]
Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add pieces of butter and pulse till butter is coarsely cut in. You should still have some pieces of butter the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough. Which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the side of the pan, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust fort at least 20 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foul and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly agaist the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary then transfer the crust to cooling rack…
Put the butter and the 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 homogenous. 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 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.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat…
Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Thinly slice [six of the] pear[s in] half crosswise. [Take one of the remaining pear halves and carefully trim of the narrow top to create a hemisphere of pear. Thinly slice, fan gently, and place in the middle of the tart. You’ll have one half leftover. Yay!] Lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly and place on the almond cream, wide end toward the edge of the crust. The 6 halves will form spokes [around the circular piece in the center; I didn't do this in the pictures as I was short on pears]. 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 room temperature before removing the sides of the pan.
Right before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar or warm the apple jelly with the water and brush this glaze [or use a few tablespoons of your poaching liquid] over the surface of the tart [or just the pears].