Pear and almond tart June 13, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things.
This is easily the prettiest dessert I’ve ever made. Desserts are rarely my focus, and even when they are, I am usually happy if they taste nice and look vaguely presentable – I don’t worry if they’re not picture perfect. This tart was simple to prepare and came out looking fantastic. While none of the steps in this recipe are difficult, you do need to be aware of your timings as more than one element needs to be chilled before using.
I followed this recipe at Smitten Kitchen for this tart – including for the pastry. While I didn’t take any photos of the pastry preparation, I made the pastry first and put that in the fridge to chill while I prepared the rest of the tart. Incidentally, it is worth noting that I made this by crumbling the butter through and mixing it with my hands and it came together just fine, although the recipe provides instructions for making it in a food processor.
I started by peeling and then stewing some pears. I stewed them in a sugar syrup as directed; however, I decided to use brown sugar instead of white sugar, to add a bit more caramel-type flavour. I stewed them on one side for about 10 minutes, then turned them over for another 10 minutes – they were very soft when I took them out.
I also prepared the almond filling. The recipe instructed me to use blanched, slivered almonds but since I didn’t have any, I started with whole almonds and blitzed them in my spice grinder / mini food processor until they were quite fine. I mixed in the flour and sugar, and added the butter. Again, as I wasn’t making this in a food processor, I melted the butter slightly so it would mix in better. I added the egg and also added some almond extract. Here’s what it looked like when I mixed it all together – you can see the size of the ground up almonds.
This mixture also went into the fridge to be chilled, but I must confess that I didn’t chill it for the full 3 hours as directed in the recipe!
After all the different elements were prepared, I set about putting them all together. First, I cooked the pie crust for about 15 minutes. I’d already mixed the pastry dough, chilled that and then rolled it out and fitted it to my tart shell. Then that had gone back into the freezer before baking – this was to ensure that the pastry kept its shape when baked. I then blind-baked the pastry for 15 minutes, until it was slightly brown.
After letting it cool slightly, I then tipped in the almond mixture, smoothing it out as I went. I cut the pears in half, and sliced each piece into horizontal pieces. I lifted up each half and carefully transferred them into the almond mixture. I could only fit 5 halves on the tart, so I was forced to consume the final half while cooking – it was a trial, let me tell you!
I put this into the oven, at 180°C. The recipe stated that it needed to be cooked for 55 minutes – I started checking at about 35 minutes and it was well and truly done after 45 minutes. I would suggest if you were going to make this to start checking it before the 55 minute mark. Here’s what it looked like when I took it out.
I loved the star or flower shape made by the pears, and the way they stood out against the almond filling. I was most impressed with the pastry, which did not shrink while cooking and created a sturdy and delicious shell.
And as for the final verdict: the pears and almonds went so well together. The pears had a slightly caramel flavour from the brown sugar, and the addition of the almond essence meant the filling tasted almost like marzipan. The crust was tasty but not too heavy, tying the whole tart together.
This is definitely a dessert to make when you want to impress with relatively minimal effort. I’m sure other flavours could be added to the almond filling if required but to be honest I did like the combination of pears and almonds just by themselves.
It seems that Nero Wolfe eats pears for dessert but the only recipe mentioned is basic stewed pears. If I got the opportunity, I’d certainly suggest to Fritz that maybe some additions were in order and that he turned the stewed pears into this pear and almond tart!