My, I’ve put up a lot of pictures this week, haven’t I? Normally my keyboard runneth over. This week though, I’ve posted about five separate tutorials on everything from poaching pears to almond cream to crust rolling and pre-baking. It’s taken quite a while to get here, in other words — so let’s bake us a tart!
I should say that in the best of all possible worlds, the crust of this tart wouldn’t have gotten so dark. It turns out I inadvertently broke the cardinal rule of tart baking: protect the crust! I’ll tell you exactly how that happened as we move along.
To make this you’ll need one recipe sweet tart crust rolled and pre-baked, seven canned or poached pear halves and a recipe of frangipane.
To assemble your pear tart, have your canned or poached pears ready and waiting, along with a sharp knife and a cutting board. Have the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees. Begin by laying down about a 1/4-inch layer of almond cream on your pre-baked crust.
Now for the pears. Place one of the halves cut-side down on a cutting board, a good, sharp knife at the ready.
Slowly and carefully, slice the pear cross-wise into roughly 1/8-inch slices.
Without moving the pear — but instead by moving the cutting board — rotate the fruit to a convenient angle, place your hand gently over the slices to steady them, and slip the knife underneath the whole lot:
Then gently lay your index finger down onto the slices so that they splay forward slightly…
…and slip the pear into place on the almond cream. Easy!
Arrange them like so, being sure to lay your smallest pear (or one with some of the end slices removed) smack in the center. What happens if you don’t put a pear in the very middle? A thick blob of almond cream will collect there, one which will almost certainly remain underbaked and watery. Blech. Take my advice on this, you won’t be sorry.
But wait, Joe! There are only seven pear halves on that tart! Doesn’t your poached pear recipe make eight? Yes, Ms. Observant, you’re right about that. However I’m an uptight personality and I like symmetry. Also, sneaking downstairs to enjoy a cold poached pear half in the middle of the night is one of the few private pleasures that I, a married guy with two small kids, have left. Get off my back!
Put the tart in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. Now, about that mistake I mentioned. The thing I did wrong in assembling this tart was to forget, since I made all my components at least a day ahead of time, they were all refrigerator-cold. That caused the pears and almond cream to bake up more slowly that I expected, giving the crust more time to bake…actually over-bake. Solve the problem by either making your tart all in one day, or letting all your components come to room temperature before baking.
Now, to make the glaze. Some people glaze their tarts with strained apple or apricot preserves. The way I see it, though, you’ve got a quart or so of perfectly good poaching liquid there, why not put it to use? Start by straining a cup of it into a small saucepan and setting it over medium-high heat. You want to reduce it down to about a quarter cup.
Meantime, put about a tablespoon of the liquid in a small bowl and add a teaspoon of cornstarch (corn flour).
Stir it up with a fork.
When the liquid in the saucepan has reduced, add the starch slurry, stir it in and return the pan to the heat.
Bring it to a rolling boil for only fifteen or twenty seconds, and it will be nice and thick…
When the tart is finished (it should take about half an hour to get the almond cream nice and brown), let it cool for about another half an hour, then paint the glaze over the pears. Let the tart cool completely (about two hours) before serving.
Ah yes, the lovely look of a nice slice of pear tart. Elegant yet rustic at the same time. Just my cup of tea.