Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pear and Almond Tart

We bought a huge bucket of pears last weekend and they have been sitting sullenly in a bowl, failing to ripen. So today I decided to use them in the best way possible - baking a beautiful French pear and almond tart. The recipe, according to my dad, is not French at all, but if you google it you'll find hundreds of examples of how to make it. I used this nice blog entry as it talked about all the different subtleties and, crucially, explained how to poach the pears. I won't rehash every single point since the post is worth a read in its own right, but I'll post how I made this wonderful tart... with metric weighted quantities!
My pastry isn't quite even but I'm working on it :)

For the pears:

  • two large or three small pears
  • water
  • sugar
  • a couple of cloves
  • a wedge of lemon

Halve, core and peel the pears then place them flat-side up in a saucepan. Cover with water, drop in the cloves and lemon, and add about a third as much sugar as you have pears. Bring to a simmer; while you do so, use the lid of the pan to trace and cut out a circle of greaseproof paper; cut a hole in the middle and place on top of the pears. Simmer for 6-10 minutes, until the pears are perfectly tender.

You can either chill and marinade the pears at this point, or use them as soon as they're cool enough to handle. The poaching liquid can be reduced down to a drizzling sauce, or frozen in an ice cube tray for another recipe. To slice the pears ready for the pie, place flat-side down on a board and, using a very sharp knife, slice diagonally through so that the pears will be able to fan out in that classic shape. Leave them on the board or a plate until the rest of the pie is ready. (If you chop savoury foods, especially onions, on the same board, make sure to line it first with cling film.)

For the pastry:

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 80g granulated sugar (halve if your pastry-handling skills are not strong)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g plain flour

Line a 9" pie or tart pan with butter and greaseproof paper. Briefly cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk and the vanilla. Add the flours and mix until well combined—the dough will form clumps and all the flour will have been absorbed. Form the dough into a thick disk. On a lightly floured board gently roll dough out to a thickness of 3-5mm. Brush off the excess flour and transfer the dough to a greased tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, being careful not to stretch it or break it (the more sugar you use, the more fragile it will be); press it against the sides of the tart pan. Use a pair of scissors to gently cut the dough a 5mm taller than the edge of the tart pan.

For the almond filling:

  • 85g slivered or ground almonds
  • 85g sugar
  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 20g flour

Blitz the almonds, sugar and butter together in a blender, then crack in the egg, egg white and almond extract. Whizz for a minute or so, then gently fold in the flour. Using a spatula, spread evenly over the pastry shell. Drop any excess from the spatula scraprings right into the middle of the tart. Using a metal or sharp-edged spatula, lift the sliced pears and gently slide into the pie in the classic pattern: into four, six or eight 'fans' depending on the size of the pears.

Bake in a preheated 175 C oven for 30-40 minutes, until the frangipangi is risen and golden-brown.

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