I love cooking with seasonal fruit. With each change in season, I look forward to the various types of fruits that are available. Pears are one of my favourite, and compliment a dessert beautifully. I love this recipe, which I adapted from a recipe brought out by The French Culinary Institute - found in their book, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts.
I used my Grandma's pastry recipe as the base in the recipe, as it is a good all-round shortcrust pastry for both sweet and savoury pies and tarts, and I have been using it for years. As this is a sweet tart, I decided to add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, but you can leave the sugar out for savoury pastries. To be honest, my mother and I use this pastry recipe often when making apple pie and fruit mince pies around Christmas, and we choose to stick to the original recipe without adding sugar, as we love how it balances the sweetness of the filling.
You can choose to make the various elements of this tart a day ahead, so everything is ready to go! I made the pastry the night before, along with the almond paste. The almond paste itself makes 800g of almond paste, which can be frozen and kept aside for another tart on another day! Also, the liquid which is used for poaching the pears can be frozen for future use - I love being resourceful in the kitchen! :)
250g flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
125g very cold, unsalted butter
70-80ml very cold water
Place flour, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse a few times until the butter is just blended into the flour and it starts to resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Gradually add the water into the processor, adding only enough water for the dough to come together. Too much liquid will result in a sticky a tough pastry.
Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and work it by hand until it is well combined - don't overwork the dough. Form dough into a disk shape and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Makes about 800g
250g butter, at room temperature
250g almond meal
3 large eggs
Place the butter, sugar and almond meal in a bowl and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
Beat eggs into the almond mixture, adding them one at a time and beating well after each addition. Once all eggs are well combined, add the cornflour and blend well.
If you are not planning to freeze any almond paste for future use, just use one-third of the above quantities for the Pear and Almond Tart.
Poached Pears in White Wine
750ml dry white wine
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, spilt in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
Juice of half a lemon
3 firm Beurre Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored.
Combine the wine, water, sugar, vanilla bean and lemon juice in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to the boil.
Add the pears to the liquid and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until the pears are tender, but not falling apart.
To make the tart. . .
1. Lightly grease either a 20cm round tart pan, or a 35cm x 12cm loose-based rectangular pan.
2. Remove prepared pastry from fridge and lightly flour a flat work surface. Roll out dough, evenly, until about 3mm thick. Gently lift dough into the tart pan, then gently press dough into and around edges of pan. Do not trim off excess dough yet, but instead allow it to chill first so it doesn't shrink when baked. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 177˚C. Remove pastry shell from fridge and trim the dough to the edges of the pan. Using a fork, prick the base of the shell a few times.
4. Scrape prepared almond cream into tart shell and spread out evenly to cover the bottom of the tart.
5. Place cooled pears on a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Place pear halves cut-side down on a chopping board and slice the pears very thinly, ensuring that the pear half is kept together as you slice.
6. Working with once pear half at a time, carefully place complete pear half on top of the almond cream. Fan out the individual slices, covering as much of the tart as you are able to. Fill any uncovered areas with flaked almonds.
7. Bake tart for about 50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown, the edges of the pears are caramelised and the almond cream is cooked through.
8. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
9. Combine about 1 tablespoon of apricot jam with about 1 teaspoon of water into a bowl and microwave on medium heat for about 15-20 seconds. If you have large pieces of apricot, then strain through a sieve and discard any solids. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the pears with a thin layer of warm jam.
10. Serve tart warm with cream or ice-cream, or refrigerate until ready to serve.