Pear and Almond Tart

I served this elegant tart on Thanksgiving Eve this year. It was very well received! The classic combination of pears and almonds was absolutely delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Dolester Miles’ recipe in Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, via The Washington Post. The restaurant is located in Birmingham, Alabama. I used poaching liquid instead of rum in the filling and reduced the baking time. Wonderful!

Yield: 8 servings

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup plus 3 T flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the Pears:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • half a vanilla bean, split
  • one 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 (large) to 6 almost-ripe, firm pears, such as Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored

For the Filling:

  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 T Calvados, dark rum, or poaching liquid
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup blanched/slivered or sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

To Make the Crust:

  1. Use cooking oil spray to grease a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Place the flour in a food processor.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and cubes of butter into the flour. Pulse until the butter is pea-sized.
  4. Pour the egg over the mixture; pulse just until the dough begins to come together.
  5. Turn the dough out onto the counter, and then gather it into a disk.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 1 day.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. (I roll the dough out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.)
  8. Transfer it to the tart pan, using your fingertips to line the pan with the dough. Trim the edges even with the rim of the pan.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

To Poach the Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the pears; once the liquid begins to bubble at the edges, cook the pears for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are tender and the tip of a paring knife slips into them easily. Let them cool in their liquid. Discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

To Make the Filling and Finish the Tart:

  1. When ready to assemble, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using for the topping.
  3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Reduce the speed to low; add the egg, ground almonds, flour, Calvados, rum, or poaching liquid and the almond extract. Beat for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
  5. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Unwrap and pour in the filling, spreading it evenly.
  6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, placing them in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for this recipe; reserve and refrigerate the rest for poaching more fruit later.
  7. Place the pears cut sides down on the tart filling, side by side with the narrow ends facing in, until the entire surface of the tart is covered with pears. Cover the edge of the tart to prevent over-browning and bake (middle rack) for about 28 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Meanwhile, cook the reserved cup of poaching liquid in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduced to a glaze – about 2 to 3 tablespoons total. Remove from the heat.
  9. Once the tart comes out of the oven, brush it with the glaze, then scatter the toasted almonds evenly over the top. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Note: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. The pears can be stored in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The poaching liquid can be reused.

Vanilla Poached Pears

This is an elegant and light dessert for a special occasion. Years ago, we were served this dish at a neighbor’s dinner party and my husband and I made it quite often for a few years. We loved it. I made this updated version to serve my family on Thanksgiving Eve this year. I thought that it was a perfect dessert for the evening before a day of indulgence. An added bonus was that the pears could be poached ahead of time and stored in the poaching liquid.

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown via Food Network.com. I poached the pears cut in half rather than whole, and, as my neighbors did when they served this dish, added freshly whipped cream and crushed amaretti cookies as toppings. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle white wine, Riesling or Viognier (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 5 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored (preferably using a melon baller)
  • freshly whipped heavy cream, for serving
  • crushed amaretti cookies, for serving
  1. Place the white wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean and pulp into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. (I used an enameled cast iron pan with a glass lid.)
  2. Peel, halve, and core the pears.
  3. Decrease the heat to medium low and place the pears into the liquid (cut side up), cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Turn the pears cut side down and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Maintain a gentle simmer.
  5. Remove the pears to a serving dish and place in the refrigerator.
  6. Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, increase the heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow the syrup to turn brown.
  7. Place the syrup in a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator until cool, approximately 1 hour.
  8. Remove the pears from the refrigerator, spoon the sauce over the pears. At this point, the pears can be stored overnight.
  9. Place a pear half in a bowl and drizzle with sauce, top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, and sprinkle with crushed amaretti cookies. Serve.

Pear Clafoutis

My mom and brother were in France last week, so I made a clafoutis. It makes perfect sense… I was pretending that we were there too! 😉 Clafoutis was always one of my mom’s favorite desserts to make for dinner parties. It is simple, elegant, and delicious. Absolutely wonderful with pears too!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Food Network.com. I used Cuarenta y Tres (a Spanish citrus and vanilla liqueur) instead of Poire William. I substituted large for extra-large eggs, omitted the creme fraiche garnish, and used the zest of one lemon. I also modified the baking time to fit my deeper pan. Next time I would bake it in a wider, more shallow pan so that the pears were visible in the finished product. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 8

Total Time: about 1 hour

  • 1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, separated
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 T pear brandy (such as Poire William) or citrus-vanilla liqueur (such as Cuarenta y Tres)
  • 2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
  • creme fraiche, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter a 10 x 3-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. (I used a 9 x 3-inch pan.)
  3. Beat the eggs and the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and liqueur. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears.
  6. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish.
  7. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, and creme fraiche, if desired.

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Pear & Almond Cream Tart

My entire family cannot stop eating pears this season. We are absolutely in love with them. Especially Bartletts. So, I really branched out by making these pear tarts instead of an apple pie for Thanksgiving this year in celebration of our love of pears. (As an aside, I have always had a love of tarts as well!)

This lovely tart recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Elisabeth Prueitt. I substituted 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract for the 2 tablespoons of brandy. I also made one 9-inch tart and one 10-inch tart because those are the size tart pans I own. 😉 The original recipe was for two 9-inch tarts. Because the tart sizes were different, each had a different pear pattern on top. Beautiful and delicious.

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Yield: Makes 2 9-inch Tarts

For the Pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or 1 T vanilla extract
  • 6 ripe medium Bartlett pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Pulse in the butter until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Sprinkle the egg mixture on top and pulse just until a dough forms.
  4. Scrape the pastry onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap and form into 2 disks. Wrap and refrigerate until chilled. (I let it chill overnight.)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each pastry disk to a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Fit the pastry into two 9-inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Fold the overhang onto itself. Using a sharp knife or a rolling pin, trim off any excess pastry. Chill to set while you prepare the filling.
  6. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
  8. Whisk in 1 egg and the salt.
  9. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then return it to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until thickened and just beginning to bubble around the edges, about 4 minutes.
  10. Strain the custard into a bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter.
  11. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with the sliced almonds at medium-low speed until the almonds are slightly crushed.
  12. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 eggs, then beat in the custard and brandy/vanilla.
  13. Spoon the filling into the tarts. Place 1 pear quarter in the center of each tart; arrange the remaining quarters in a circle around it. (I made different patterns with the different size tarts, and was only able to place a pear quarter in the center of the 10-inch tart.)
  14. Bake the tarts in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, rotating halfway between the cooking time, or until the pears are very tender and the custard and pastry are deep golden.
  15. Let the tarts cool for 30 minutes, then unmold. Garnish with additional sliced almonds, if desired.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Note: The tarts can be stored overnight in airtight containers.

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Whole Wheat-Bartlett Pear Crumb Cake

This cake was nutty, earthy, and really really moist. The entire house smelled absolutely incredible while it baked- much of the credit should be given to the orange zest in the batter. Even more wonderful orange flavor was added after the cake was removed from the oven when fresh orange juice was drizzled all over the top. Fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from our Kitchen by Zoe Nathan with Josh Loeb and Laurel Almerinda. I weighed whole roasted almonds and then finely ground them in a mini food processor instead of using store-bought almond flour. I used fat-free Greek yogurt instead of whole plain yogurt. I also substituted oat bran for the toasted wheat germ in the original recipe. Wheat bran or ground flaxseed would also work as substitutes. I also baked the cake in a 9-inch springform pan instead of a 10-inch cake pan.

The authors offer seasonal adaptations to this recipe by substituting blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, apricots, peaches, or figs for the pears. Yummy!

Yield: Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 55 g (1/2 cup plus 2 T) almond flour
  • 20 g (1/4 cup plus 2 T) rolled oats
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 T oat bran, toasted wheat germ, wheat bran, or ground flaxseed
  • 2 T light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 20 g (1/4 cup) sliced almonds

For the Cake:

  • 170 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 T light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 160 g (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 55 g (3/4 cup) oat bran, toasted wheat germ, wheat bran, or ground flaxseed
  • 25 g (1/4 cup) almond flour
  • 3 T rye flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (240 ml) plain yogurt (I used fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • zest of 1 orange, *fruit reserved*
  • 3 pears, peeled and thickly sliced into 6 pieces each (I used Bartlett pears)

IMG_0372

To Make the Topping:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, almond flour, oats, granulated sugar, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat germ, brown sugar, and salt. Blend with a pastry blender until homogenous.
  2. Add sliced almonds and blend with your fingers. Refrigerate until needed.

To Make the Cake:

  1. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line and grease a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and cooking spray.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Incorporate the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl well.
  4. Pause mixing and all the all-purpose flour, wheat germ, almond flour, rye flour, baking powder, baking soda, yogurt, and orange zest. Mix cautiously, just until incorporated. Do not over mix!
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and cover evenly with the pears.
  6. Top with the crumble, allowing a little fruit to poke through.
  7. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes or up to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not over bake!
  8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan; then squeeze the orange over the entire cake.
  9. Remove the side of the pan and gently pull the parchment paper from every nook and cranny of the cake.

Note: This cake is best served the day it is made, but it will keep, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 days at room temperature.

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