Friday, March 16, 2012

A couple of French Pear Tarts

So I burned myself for real.  I burned myself, and while I was doing it I dropped the tart. It was a tart disaster.  Half of it landed on the stove and the other half landed on the floor.  Lets just say that to begin with I could do nothing about the tart being half on the floor and have on the stove, because I now had the imprint of the tart pan on my arm.  It hurt, this is probably the worst baking burn I have had so far. And I was pissed...the whole purpose of baking said tart was to try it out, it was a test tart, for the other tarts that I would make later in the week and half of it was on the floor.  

So, what did Kathryn and I do?  We of course scooped up said half of tart that was upside down on the stove, scooped it on to a plate and dove in.  We had to try...I had just spent the last two hours making it.  But good did come out of it...the tarts made later in the week as seen here were pretty and delicious; plus they had the right amount of pears in them.

Oh yeah I failed to mention that for the test tart, I opened up the can of pears I had purchased and there were only 3 pear halves in it.  Only three pears halves, after it took me 10 minutes to open said can of pears because apparently I need to buy a new can opener.  
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Any who, everyone liked the tarts and they really did come out pretty when I wasn't dropping them on the ground.  They are slightly nutty from the almonds and the filling around the pears is almost cakey.  I think this recipe would also work we as an apple tart, add some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Yum! Well enjoy!

Checkout that tart pan mark...

Once again baking in the early morning hours...

Checkout those pears...
The almond cream filling...

French Pear Tart: (recipe from Dorie Greenspan)
For the pears: 
6 canned pear halves 

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 dark rum or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 partially-baked 9-inch tart shell, made with Sweet Tart Dough (see below), at room temperature
Confectioners' sugar for dusting, or apple jelly for glazing

1.  Put the butter and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny.  

2.  Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.  

3.  Add the flour and cornstarch, process, and then add the egg.  Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous.  Add the vanilla and process just to blend.  Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours.

Getting ready to bake:  
4.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Have a lined baking sheet at the ready.  Pat the pears dry, make sure to pat them dry - really dry - so that their liquid won't keep the almond cream from baking.  

5.  Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing 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. 

6.  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 unmolding.  

Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners' sugar.  

Storing:  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.

Sweet Tart Dough: (Recipe from Dorie Greenspan)
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

1. Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the work bowl of 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 - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine.  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.  Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change - heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.

2.  Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.  

If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day. 

To make a press-in crust:  Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it.  Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.  

To make a rolled-out crust:  This dough is very soft - a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners' sugar - so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover.  If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly.  Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn't roll into the dough and form creases.  If you've got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan.  Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan.  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.  

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1 comment:

  1. Looks so gorgeous! Almost like a pear tart sand dollar....
    Also if you had to be burned, at least you got an awesome tribal burn scar out of it! It's very bad a**.