Recipe: Pear and Almond Tart
Storage: Store in the refrigerator for up to four days. In this classic French dessert poached pears are baked in an almond cream in a cookie crust. Don’t worry about the three parts: you can make the dough in advance and freeze it, make the almond cream three days before, and the pears two days before. You can then assemble it all on the day you will serve the tart. I learned how to make the dairy version of this tart in cooking school in Paris.
Pastry Dough Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
2⁄3 cup confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons parve margarine, frozen for 30 minutes and cut in pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Juice from 1 lemon
3 firm pears
5 tablespoons parve margarine, plus extra to grease pan
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface and sprinkling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum (optional)
2 tablespoons apricot jam, for glazing pears
2 tablespoons confectiones’ sugar, for sprinkling on tart
1. To make the pastry dough crust: Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and margarine in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds, or until the mixture resembles sand. You can do this by hand by cutting the margarine into the dry ingredients using two knives or a pastry cutter. Add the egg yolk, cold water, and vanilla and process or hand mix with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball. Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Gather into a ball, cover with the plastic, and then flatten. Chill 1 hour in the freezer or overnight in the refrigerator.
2. To make the poached pears: In a medium saucepan, bring water, sugar, and vanilla to a boil. Meanwhile, place the lemon juice in a shallow bowl. Slice the very bottom and very top off of each pear and peel, making sure to keep the pear shape. Halve the pears from stem to bottom. With a 1⁄2 ‑teaspoon measuring spoon or melon baller, starting at the top of a pear half, gently scoop out just the thin vein that runs from top to the bottom and the core and seeds of the pear. You want to keep the shape of the pear.
3. As each half is prepared, place in the lemon juice and turn to coat. When the poaching syrup has boiled, add the pears to the pot and cook uncovered for approximately 15 minutes on medium heat so the pears simmer, or until the tip of a sharp knife slides easily into the inside of one of the pear halves; do not cut through.
4. Once the pears are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and let the pears cool in syrup. Transfer the pears to a bowl or container and ladle some of the cooking liquid on top and cover. The pears may be chilled for 2 days.
5. To make the almond cream: With an electric mixer on high speed or a whisk, beat the margarine until soft. Add the sugar, almond flour, and flour and beat or whisk again. Add the egg, vanilla, and rum, if using. Turn up the speed of the mixer to high and whip until the mixture is light and airy, about 1 minute. The cream may be made 3 days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator.
6. When you’re ready to assemble and bake the tart, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the pear halves on paper towels to dry. Grease an 8- or 9‑inch tart ring, with or without a removable bottom, with a little margarine and place on a parchment- lined cookie sheet.
7. Remove the dough from the freezer or refrigerator and let sit at room temperature just until you can press it gently. Place a piece of plastic wrap larger than the tart ring on the counter and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough on top. Sprinkle with a little more flour. Cover with a piece of parchment and roll on top of the parchment to roll out the dough until it is at least 1 inch larger than the tart ring. Remove the parchment.
8. Place your hand under the plastic, lift the dough and turn it into the tart ring, using your fingers to gently press the dough into the corners. Remove the plastic and use a rolling pin to roll over the top to trim off the excess dough.
9. Use a silicone spatula to spread the almond cream evenly on the bottom of the dough, all the way to the corners. Take each pear half, place on a small cutting board, and using a small sharp knife, make thin crosswise (not top to bottom) slices into the pears all the way through, being careful to keep each slice in place to retain the shape of the pear. 10. Using a metal flat blade spatula, carefully pick up the entire sliced pear half and place on the cream, stem side facing the center. Repeat for the next pear half and place across from the first, the stem sides facing each other. Carefully place the remaining halves in the ring, spacing them evenly. With your finger, gently fan each pear from the center to the ring.
11. Bake for 30 for 35 minutes, or until goldenbrowned. Slide the parchment and the tart onto a rack to cool.
12. To serve, warm the apricot jam in the microwave for 15 seconds and stir. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the baked almond cream and then brush the pears with the jam. If the tart will not be served the same day, it must be refrigerated.
Reprinted with permission from The Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer, Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England 2010.