“Did you fall from the pear tree?” is a popular idiom in Bosnia used to express disbelief without directly calling a person foolish. The legend says that, unlike the apple tree, the pear tree is the evil tree, the tree of evil demons. I’m not buying it – heeellooo, Eve?
The only evil in this Pear & Almond French Tart dessert is that it’s devilishly delicious. It is hard to have any self-discipline when an evil little voice keeps telling you: “You shall not get fat, eat the pear… (now whispering) eat the pear.”
Oh, the pear I ate…and everything around it. The buttery, flaky crust, the creamy almond filling; I also topped it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. You bet I did!
Too many calories you say? Try this less evil fruit instead – walnut stuffed poached apples.
This recipe is a combination of different recipes: one tart recipe, another recipe for poached pears and a third one for the almond filling. I customized all except the tart recipe that I followed 100% because it is perfect and I couldn’t possibly compete with a French pastry chef. Just ask David. The technique is different from any tart recipe I’ve ever seen (not that I’m an expert) and is genius. No rolling out the dough or freezing it for hours. Quick and easy – just how I like it.
Ingredients (for 9” tart pan with removable bottom):
6 Bosc Pears, peeled and cored, leaving the stems intact
1 quart Water
½ cup Honey
2 tablespoons Vanilla Sugar (or 1 tbs vanilla extract)
1 Cinnamon stick
4-5 whole Cloves
For French tart:
3 oz. (6 tablespoons) unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon Oil (vegetable or canola)
3 tablespoons Water
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
5 oz. all-purpose Flour (1 slightly rounded cup)
For Almond filling:
6 oz. Almond paste (Marzipan works too, but omit the sugar)
2 teaspoons Sugar (if using the almond paste)
2 teaspoons Flour
6 tablespoons Butter, cubed, room temperature
1 large Egg, plus one Egg White, room temperature
1 teaspoon Lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Amaretto, Kirschwasser or Rum
3-4 drops Almond Extract, optional
¼ cup sliced almonds, optional
Heat the water and honey until honey is dissolved and water is bubbly. Add lemon, vanilla sugar or extract, cinnamon and cloves. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper. Simmer on low, turning occasionally until cooked through, 20-30 minutes, depending on the pears. They should be tender but not too tender. Cool pears in syrup. This can be made two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
In a medium –sized ovenproof bowl (I used a small glass baking pan), combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.
Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.
Remove the bowl from the oven using oven mittens (the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a tart mold with removable bottom and spread a bit with spatula. Reserve a small piece of dough, about a size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.
Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your hand, and use your fingers or fork to press it up the sides of the tart mold.
Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork.
Bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes on 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the dough is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.
Let the shell cool before filling.
Beat the almond paste with the sugar and flour until smooth. The paste might be dry and hard to work with. Microwave it in 10 seconds intervals until soft and pliable. Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth. Add eggs, liquor and almond extract.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the pre-baked tart shell on a baking sheet. Carefully spread the almond filling over the tart shell. Place the pears over the filling. The tart pan I was using is little larger and shallower. When I placed my first pear on it I had to laugh, it looked giant and not pretty at all. Since I really liked the idea of the whole fruit as a great presentation, I cut the bottom third of all the pears. If you’re using a 9” round pan and your pears are on the smaller size, you might not have to cut them (I sliced the cut pear bottoms and served with the poaching liquid for another sweet treat). If you prefer, you can slice the pears and “fan” them over the filling. You’ll get the same great taste. Press the pears slightly into the filling. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. I had three bags of slivered almonds in my pantry and no sliced ones, so that’s what you see in pictures. Bake the tart for about 45 minutes, or until the almond filling between the pears has browned. Cool tart in pan on rack before serving. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or glaze as desired.