Time for a winner chicken dinner. Creamy Chicken Dijonnaise, straight from the heart of Burgundy,…
A lovely Pear Almond Tart the wholesome twist of a whole wheat crumble crust, the finishing touch to our holiday feast. Rich and mellow, it was an elegant end on a dark winter’s night. Pure, French comfort food.
It’s impossible not to be influenced by French cuisine living this life. Between the an education at Fancy French Cooking School, the Burgundy born chef in my life, my best friend (from Marseille), and my current abode in western Quebec; I am immersed in French culture. Despite my frequent butchering of the language, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the food.
I can scoff down copious quantities of foie gras in one sitting, swill a good pinot with affection and make a pretty mean Poulet Sauté Chasseur. I suppose it’s time to attempt sweets.
The perfection of French cuisine can be intimidating, but once you become comfortable with the fact that much of French cooking was created in a the family kitchen, just like any other cuisine, it becomes a matter of time and artful presentation. The principles are similar, but it is the fineness of the finish that, to my mind, sets French food apart.
In the case of this simple, but elegant tart, the delicate pale fruit, is sliced and arranged on a rich almond cream; with precision and symmetry. I believe this begins with the selection of one’s fruit; if they’re similar in size and shape, you’ll have a more uniform look. I like to cook with Bosc pears as I feel they have a firmer flesh, finer grain and lower water content for a more consistent baked product. I am also rather fond of their long, slender neck and fat, round bottom. The epitome of of a pear-shaped pear.
Beneath I deviated from classic tradition with a whole wheat crumble crust. Why? Because I mistakenly bought whole wheat flour instead of a bag of unbleached flour, which is my usual standard. Alternately, you can go with the standard Pate Brisse, as recommended by the Frenchman in residence, here’s a link to his recipe and tutorial.
I believe that many of life’s happiest accidents started this way, so I fought the urge to run out to retrieve the proper flour on Christmas eve and had a glass of wine instead. Any obstacle can be overcome, with a little wine and a bit more butter.
Pear Almond Tart
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 50 – 55 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 stick cinnamon
5 pods cardamom, lightly crushed
2 – 3 large pears, peeled
(or 5 canned pear halves, in heavy syrup)
6 tablespoons soft butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whole wheat Flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons rum
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour
Optional Glaze: 2 tablespoons apricot jam, thinned with (about) 2 tablespoon of water
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and coat tart pan (4 1/4″ x 13 3/4″) with non-stick spray.
1. In a deep pot add water, sugar & spices and bring to a boil. Add peeled pears, reduce heat to a low simmer and poach, rolling and basting as needed for 10 – 20 minutes until pears are just cooked through. Remove from heat and cool, in the liquid. the remove and drain. This can be done two or three days ahead and held cold until needed.
2. For the crust: In an electric stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla & almond extract and water. Add both the whole wheat and flours, until just blended, so that crumbs cling together when squeezed. Distribute the cumble mixture evenly on the bottom of your tart pan, and gently crumbs up the sides and on the bottom of the pan to a consistent thickness a; prick crust light, all over with a fork.
3. Once formed, chill crust for 15 minutes in the freezer, then bake at 350°F (175°C) until just beginning to brown on the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. This will keep it from becoming too dark, and tough. Remove it from oven and cool. (Can be done a day ahead.)
3. Almond cream: Using your electric mixer, beat together the butter, salt, sugar, whole wheat flour, almond extract and rum. Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.
4. Assembly: Spread the filling evenly on the bottom of the crust. Cut your very well-drained pears in approximately 1/4 inch wedges. (My pears being quite large, I chose to cut them in eighths, lengthwise.) Place the pears, bottom end to the outside, on top of the filling, pressing down gently into the almond cream so that the edges of the bottom layer are covered. The proceed with a tighter, top layer until tart is filled.
5. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until filling is set and firm and top is lightly browned. Test with a toothpick, when it emerges clean from the center, your tart is done.
Optional Glaze: While tart is still hot, brush pears lightly with apricot glaze. This gives it a glossy, smooth finish. Otherwize sprinkle your Pear Almond Tart with powdered sugar or a light dusting of course sugar, which is also pretty and effective. Cool slightly before serving.