Meditations

The Most Delicious Pear & Almond Tart


“An apple resists being eaten. An apple is not eaten, it is conquered. The crunchiness of a pear is far more appealing. It is giving and fragile. To eat a pear is akin to … kissing.”
– Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel

While the air changes from the sharp crispness of fall to the biting chill of winter, pears are poking their conical plump bodies out of the produce pile. They’re a humble fruit, without the bright colours of summer fruit or fall squashes. Instead of a bright waxy shine, they have dull knobby surfaces. Often they don’t even sit upright by themselves. Their optimum ripeness only lasts for a few days, and getting a bag of pears to ripen all at the same time can be inconvenient. But I love them! They have a complexity of flavours and textures that I don’t find in apples, and are a wonderfully versatile to cook with.

Several years ago, I attended a Cooking with BC’s Best dinner (now called Guest Chef Market Dinners) at Edible BC (now Edible Canada) with Thomas Haas (still the same, but now with one more store than before!) where he taught us how to make the most wonderful pear tart. As you can see, many things have changed but this tart is just as fabulous as the day Thomas taught us how to make it. With its buttery crust, nutty almond cream filling, and soft poached pears, this tart is the perfect dessert to fight off the chills. Wrap your hands around a hot toddy or warm apple cider in between bites.

Pear Almond Tart with Blackcurrant Jam
- adapted from a recipe by Thomas Haas

½ recipe of Shortbread Dough (see below)
1 recipe of Kalamansi Poached Pears (see below)
1 recipe of Almond Cream (see below)
A few Tbsp of Cassis jam (or blackberry or blueberry)
A few Tbsp of slivered almonds (optional)
Ground cinnamon (optional)

Note: The Shortbread Dough and Poached Pears can be made a day ahead.

Roll out a disc of shortbread dough until it is large enough to line a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Line the tart pan and trim off any extra dough. If the dough tears, just patch it or push it into place.

Spread a thin layer (about ¼” thick) of cassis jam on the dough, spreading it right to the edge.

Pipe the almond cream into the tart, starting from the center and working your way out in circles.

Cut the poached pears in half vertically. Vertically slice the bottom part of the pear halves, leaving the top part uncut so that the half pear is still held together in one piece. Place the pear halves on top of the almond cream to cover the top of tart and fan the sliced portion out.

Scatter some slivered almonds over the pears and lightly dust with cinnamon.

Place the tart on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment or foil. (This step is important! Some butter will leak out of the tart crust during baking so the lining makes for easier cleanup. If the tart isn’t baked on a sheet, then the butter will drip onto the oven and smoke.)

Bake the tart at 325°F for 45-60 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until middle of the tart is set and the almond cream has browned.

Cool the tart to room temperature, or serve slightly warm. On a cold snowy day, dust lightly with icing sugar.

Shortbread Dough
Makes enough for 2 x 9″ tarts

Butter, softened       160 grams       6 ounces
Granulated Sugar      80 grams        3 ounces
Salt                        ¼ tsp            ¼ tsp
All-purpose flour       240 grams       8 ounces
Eggs                       30 grams         1 ounce

* Makes enough for 2 tarts.

Note: 30 grams of eggs is approximately half of a large egg, or 2 Tbsp. Crack an egg into a small bowl and break it up with a fork before measuring it out.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed for several minutes. Add the egg and mix together. Add the flour all at once and mix the dough just enough to incorporate.

Divide the dough into two equal discs and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate one disc for several hours or overnight. Freeze the other disc for later use.

Kalamansi Poached Pears
Granulated sugar      250 grams       9  ounces
Water                    1.5 litres         1.5 litres
Star Anise              ½ piece          ½ piece
Vanilla bean            1 pieces          1 pieces
Kalamansi lime juice   60 grams        2 ounces
Bartlett Pears          3 medium        3 medium

Note: Kalamansi limes can be found in specialty Southeast Asian stores. If you can’t find Kalamansi limes, substitute regular limes. Ginger would also be a very good option.

Peel and core the pears.

Measure out the water and set it aside. Use a thick bottomed and sturdy pot that is large enough to hold all of the water and the pears. Place the pot on the stovetop and set the temperature to medium low heat.

Add a few tablespoons of the sugar to the pot and wait until it melts and caramelizes to a light golden brown. Add the rest of the sugar to the pot, a few tablespoons at a time, until all of the sugar is caramelized. (Stir the sugar occasionally if it is not caramelizing evenly. Don’t worry if the sugar clumps.) Add all of the water to the pot, being careful not to splatter the hot caramel.

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds, vanilla pod, star anise, and lime juice to the caramel water and bring to a boil. Add the pears and turn the heat down until the liquid is barely simmering. Cut out a small round of parchment to fit the inside diameter of the pot and place over the pears to keep them submerged. Cook the pears for 30 minutes, then leave them to cool in the poaching liquid.

Almond Cream
Butter, softened      100 grams       3.5 ounces
Icing Sugar             100 grams       3.5 ounces
Salt                       ¼ tsp            ¼ tsp
Almond flour           100 grams        3.5 ounces
Cornstarch             15 grams         ½ ounce
Eggs                      60 grams         2 ounces/1 Large

Have all ingredients ready at room temperature.

Combine the almond flour and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Break the egg into a small bowl and use a fork to break up the egg.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter and icing sugar. Mix in half of the almond/cornstarch mixture, then half the egg, and repeat. Mix just enough to combine.

Place the almond cream mixture into a re-usable pastry bag fitted with a ½” tip, a disposable pastry bag, or a sturdy freezer ziploc bag. Push the filling down into the bag and twist the top to prevent filling from leaking out the back. If using a disposable pastry bag, cut off the tip of the disposable bag, just enough to make a ½” diameter hole.

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