Welcome to Couleur Nature’s Tasty Tuesday, a weekly feature on a French recipe—with tantalizing pictures to accompany!
Today’s feature is on a classic French pastry, the pear tart. It’s a staple in patisseries all over France. But, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult at all to make from scratch! The recipe we used this week is from Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking From My Home to Yours and Around the French Table.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not very partial to eating anything with cooked fruit (except blackberry pie), but I might have to reconsider that after having tried this pear tart! Every bite is a piece of heaven, and what makes it even better is that it is fairly easy to make.
The recipe is very versatile too–if you’re not a pear person, feel free to substitute it with peaches, apricots, or apples. Even more convenient is that you can use fresh, poached, or even canned pears in the tart (yes, even French women tend to use canned pears for this!). I opted for the poached pears (if you’ve never poached fruit before, this recipe is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at it), but you really can’t go wrong with any of the options. This is a wonderful recipe for fall and winter, as there are still an abundance of pears about in the frosty season.
French Pear Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Makes 6 servings
For the pears:
6 canned pear halves OR 3 medium pears, firm but ripe
4 cups water, if poaching
1 1/4 cups sugar, if poaching
For the almond cream:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg
2 teaspoons light/dark rum or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Sweet Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
To make the dough:
- Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. Stir the egg, 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. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
- Very, very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
- Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
- To partially bake the crust, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust. Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.
To poach the pears:
- If you are using fresh pears and want to poach them, peel them and leave them whole.
- Bring the 4 cups water, the 1 1/4 cups sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears.
- Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
- Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup.
To make the almond cream:
- Put the butter and sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny.
- Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.
- Add the flour and cornstarch, process, and then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is smooth.
- Add the rum or vanilla and process just to blend. (The cream can be made in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a bowl with a rubber spatula. In either case, the ingredients are added in the same order.)
- Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours.
Getting ready to bake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have a lined baking sheet at the ready.
- If you are using fresh (unpoached) pears, peel them now. If you are using poached or unpoached pears, cut them in half from stem to bottom and core them; rub the unpoached pears with lemon juice. Pat the pears very dry (so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from baking).
- Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with a spatula. Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly and place it, wide-end toward the edge of the crust, over the almond cream. The halves will form spokes.
- Put the crust on the lined baking sheet, slide the sheet into the oven and bake the tart 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 to room temperature before removing from the pan.
- You can prepare a glaze by simmering the pear syrup until it has thickened into a glaze. Reserve this to brush on the tart before serving. Right before serving, brush the glaze over the surface of the tart and dust it with confectioners’ sugar.
If it’s convenient for you, you can make the almond cream up to 2 days ahead and keep it closely covered in the refrigerator, or you can wrap it airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months; defrost before using. You can also poach the pears up to 1 day ahead. However, once you’ve baked the tart, you should be prepared to enjoy it that same day.
- The pears should be about the same size if you’re poaching, so they poach evenly.
- Chilling the dough before baking helps prevent the dough from bubbling or rising while baking.
- Partially baking the crust beforehand helps prevent the bottom of the tart crust from getting soggy.
- Make sure your pears are small enough to fit in the tart pan.
- If you don’t have confectioner’s sugar ready at hand for the tart dough, you can substitute it with granulated sugar; just use a whole egg instead of an egg yolk.
- If you’d rather not grind the almonds yourself, ground almond meal will work fine.
- If you don’t have a tart pan, a springform pan or pie dish will work fine.
A variation with peaches…
And with apples.
Trust me, it tastes as good as it looks.
Give it a try and tell me what you think!
Here are some links to blog posts with great pictures of the process:
There’s more than one way to bring pears to the table. Take a look at Couleur Nature’s Poire Collection of French linens!