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.

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