Where have you been all my life?

Homemade pies

I’m pretty sure this is the best dessert I’ve ever made! I’m really excited to share it with you! I actually made two new-to-me desserts over Thanksgiving. The second one was a sweet potato pie. Both pies were good, but this Pear-Almond Tart turned out especially fabulous!

French Pear and Almond Tart

It’s a bit time consuming to make, but once you’ve tickled your taste buds with its deliciousness, you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.

Slice of pie

Start with a base pastry that is sturdy enough to cradle the almond filling and poached pears, yet light and flaky so it melts in your mouth. The recipe I used is from Martha Stewart, but there are steps you’ll need to take to make sure the baked crust is perfect, so read through all the recipes that follow carefully.

Start with the freshest, best ingredients. A food processor comes in very handy for the crust, but it can be done by hand too if you’re feeling energetic, or you don’t own one.

Basic Pie Crust (You will be pre-baking this – don’t worry I’ll tell you exactly how to do this)
(this makes a base for one 9 inch tart)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/4-1/3 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for just a few seconds. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds, or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add ice water a little bit at a time, and run the processor until the dough holds together, but not for more than 30 seconds. If the dough is still crumbly, add a little more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press the dough into a flat circle. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove the chilled dough and let it rest for a few minutes. Roll it out so that it’s large enough, with a few inches of overhang, to fit a 9″ tart pan (that’s the one with straight fluted sides). Cut off extra dough so that it is just to the top edge. Freeze the crust for at least a half hour, until chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. When the pie crust is sufficiently chilled, line the pie crust with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or stainless-steel pie weights. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and carefully remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool completely before filling. You may need to tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil when you bake your pie, to keep the edges from getting too dried out and burnt.

Now that you have a perfectly baked tart shell, you can proceed to the filling part.

Step 1 of the filling:

Poached Pears

1 quart water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Bosc pears; peeled, cored, and quartered
Additions: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices
1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add any of the additions that you wish.
2. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center.
3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears.
4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.
Optional: After poaching the pears, while the liquid is still warm, add approximately 1/4 cup dried sour cherries, cranberries, raisins, or dried currants and let them plump.
Store the pears in their liquid in the refrigerator, in a covered container, until ready to use. Remove the pears from the refrigerator a few hours prior to serving, and re-warm them gently in the liquid, if you wish. The pears will keep for up to 5 days.

Now, lets put it all together…

Pear-Almond Tart
Recipe from David Lebovitz
8 servings

NOTE: If your almond paste isn’t very fragrant with the smell of almonds, add a drop or two of pure almond extract to the filling. You don’t want to dump a spoonful in, which would overwhelm the pears, but a tiny bit highlights the almond flavors. You can use canned pear halves packed in light syrup, and drain them well, in place of the poached pears, if you wish.

6 ounces almond paste (this is sold in most grocery stores, just make sure you pick up the one without sugar added)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour
3 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, cubed, at room temperature
1 large egg, plus one egg white, at room temperature
a few drops almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons rum, Calvados, or kirsch

3 poached pears, cored, drained and blotted dry, then cut into 1/2-inch slices
One pre-baked 9-inch tart shell, at room temperature (see above)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Set the pre-baked tart shell on a baking sheet.
2. In a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the almond paste with the sugar and flour, until smooth. Some almond pastes may be drier than others. If yours is dry, just mix until the almond paste is finely-broken up.
3. Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth, then beat in the egg and the egg white, the almond extract, and the liquor.
4. Spread the almond filling evenly over the tart shell
5. Fan the pears out evenly over the almond filling, then press them in slightly.
6. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the almond filling between the pears has browned.
7. Cool slightly before serving, or serve at room temperature.

Oh yeah, the little pitcher nearby in my image is a bit of the sauce from poaching the pears. Just before serving the tart, reduce the juices by boiling for a few minutes in a pan and serve alongside. Pour a little, or a lot of it onto the tart… ooh and ahh over your masterpiece! Celebrate the happiness of your tastebuds!