Whenever we have company, I do what experts always tell you NOT to do -- try new recipes. I had bought Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours and just knew that the perfect pear dessert recipe would be inside.
Dorie did not disappoint. I found the recipe for French Pear and Almond Tart. The description stated that the French often made it with canned pears but she had made it with fresh poached pears or you could even make it with just fresh pears.
I chose fresh pears unpoached and the recipe did come together easily. It certainly looks more elegant and fussy than it really is.
For serving, I sprinkled it with powdered sugar and a leaf of lemon verbena from the garden.
My guests reaction? It's a winner!
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Best Sweet Tart Crust
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut inâ€”you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some 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 pulsesâ€”about 10 seconds eachâ€”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. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for about 2 hours before rolling.
If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it’s processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.
To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375Â°F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against 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 (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.
Almond and Pear Tart
3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled (or you can do as the French do -- use canned drained pears -- just dry them very well)
2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
1 sweet tart shell, baked (recipe above)
Powdered sugar (optional)
For almond filling: Finely grind almonds and flour in processor. Mix in 7 tablespoons sugar, then butter and flavorings (if using). Blend until smooth. Mix in egg. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350Â°F. Spread almond filling evenly in baked tart crust. Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear half to fan slices but keep slices tightly overlapped. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling like spokes of wheel with narrow ends in center.
Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges; sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.