Friday, July 13, 2012

Too Good Not to Share

I never ate a pear growing up, at least not that I can remember.  I don’t know if it was because they weren’t readily available in the area, too cost prohibitive to buy or they just weren’t on my mom’s radar.  Whatever it was, I was an adult before I ever tried one.

And I’ll have to admit I wasn’t hugely impressed when I did.  It’s the texture thing.

But then I discovered my all-time favorite cocktail, the Pear Blossom, and I was suddenly on board with the idea of pears.  Not long after, Carley made this delicious dish for one of our themed dinners, and I was fully appreciative of this fruit I had ignored most of my life.

So it wasn’t much of a leap for me to decide to try them out in dessert form, and this was what I pieced together from a variety of sources, but mostly from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe.

I’ve prepared this both ways:  by poaching my own pears (as I mention here), and by using canned (make sure they're water packed and not in syrup).  The home-poached method gets an edge in results in my book (and the pears themselves seem to be easier to deal with), but the canned variety are perfectly acceptable.  The result is delicious and ‘light’ tasting, although with all of the butter involved, obviously it isn’t really light.

But it contains fruit, so that practically makes it a health food, right?

Almond Pear Tart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 Tbs very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

3 medium pears, firm but ripe
1 lemon
1 stick cinnamon
3 cups water
1 cup Riesling (you can also use only water if you’d like)
1 1/4 cups sugar

Almond Cream
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 tsp flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large egg
2 tsp dark rum or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare the dough:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces evenly over the flour mixture.  Pulse until the butter has been evenly distributed with the largest pieces being the size of peas.  Add the egg yolk and pulse in longer bursts of about 10 seconds each, just until dough begins to clump together.  Turn out on to work surface and very lightly bring the dough together with your hands.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.  Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press a sheet of foil evenly over the dough and weight down with beans or pie weights.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Remove the foil and weights and set aside until ready to fill.

Prepare the pears:  Combine all of the ingredients for the pears, except for the pears themselves, in a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat.  Peel, halve and core the pears.  Submerge in liquid in the pan.  Bring just to a simmer and allow to continue to simmer for 15 minutes, or just until the pears are tender.  Remove from liquid onto a plate and allow to cool.

In the same food processor you used for the dough (I don’t even bother to wash it first since the ingredients are so similar), combine the butter and sugar and process until smooth.  Add the almonds, flour and cornstarch and pulse to combine.  Add the egg and rum or vanilla and process just until combined.

Bringing it all together:  Spread the almond cream evenly over the partially baked tart shell.  Slice pears cross-wise and fan slightly by pressing down.  Transfer to tart pan over almond cream with the bottom end of the pear at the edge of the pan, fanning the pear toward the center.

Return tart to oven and bake an additional 40 minutes, or until almond cream is puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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