Pear Tart With Crunchy Almond Topping 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Book Report Nov 12, 2014

The topping of this tart has enough crunch, color and flavor to be a headliner, but it's not: The pears, caramelized in butter and sugar and flamed with brandy, more than hold their own.

You might find that truly ripe pears give off too much juice to allow caramelization, so err on the side of firmness when choosing pears to use in this recipe. We tested it with D'Anjou pears; the yield was 3 1/2 cups.

Try the topping over apples, quinces, rhubarb and even berries. The pears are terrific under streusel, whipped cream and ice cream.

True to Dorie Greenspan’s thorough recipe approach, she includes both rolled-out crust and press-in crust directions in her cookbook. We offer the latter here, for simplicity's sake.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to be wrapped and refrigerated for at least 2 hours and up to 5 days. The unbaked tart dough (in the pan) needs to be frozen for 30 minutes before baking. The baked crust can be cooled, wrapped and frozen for up to 2 months. The finished tart can be made up to 8 hours in advance; hold at room temperature.


Servings:
8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8 servings; makes one 9-inch tart

Ingredients
  • For the crust
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • For the topping
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced or slivered almonds (blanched or unblanched)
  • For the filling
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (see headnote)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, rum or bourbon (optional)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

For the crust: Combine the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely; you'll have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk just to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.

Once the egg is incorporated, process in long pulses (about 10 seconds each) until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. (Just before you reach this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change.) Turn the dough out onto a work surface.

To incorporate the butter more evenly and to catch any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing, separate small amounts of dough from the pile and use the heel of your hand to smear each piece a few inches across the counter. In French this is called "fraisage," and it's the ideal way to finish blending a dough.

Shape the dough into a flat disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

Let the chilled dough rest on the counter for about 10 minutes before shaping it into the pan. Use a little butter to grease a 9- or 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the chilled dough into the pan and up the sides, pressing lightly and quickly. Use the tines of a fork to prick it all over, then freeze it for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a little butter to grease the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the tart dough; invert the foil over the pan and press lightly so the foil is snug against the dough, then fill it with dried beans or rice or ceramic pie weights. Bake (on the middle rack) for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weight material. Return the crust to the oven to bake for 10 minutes or until it's firm and golden brown. Transfer to a wire cooling rack (in the pan).

For the topping: Put the confectioners' sugar in a wide bowl and pour the whites over it. Use your fingers (you can use a fork, but your hands really work best here) to gently mix the sugar and whites together. Don't worry about lumps; just moisten the sugar with the whites. Add the almonds and toss until thoroughly coated. Leave the bowl on the counter while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tart pan with the fully baked crust on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

For the filling: Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once it's foamy, add the pears. Cook for 5 to 12 minutes, turning them over a few times, until they are browned here and there and just starting to soften.

Sprinkle the granulated sugar over them; cook for about 4 minutes, stirring a few times, until the fruit is lightly caramelized. If you're using the liquor, pour it over the fruit and allow it to warm, then turn off the heat, stand back, set a match to the pan and flame the alcohol. (If it looks as though the alcohol has almost evaporated -- something that can happen if your pan is really hot -- skip the flaming.) Scrape the pears and whatever bit of liquid remains in the pan into the crust; arrange the pears to make an even layer.

Turn the topping around a few more times in the bowl -- the mixture will be thick and sticky -- and then spoon it over the pears, patting it down gently into an even layer all the way to the edges of the crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown all over and the nuts are shiny, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the tart to a rack and let it cool until it is just warm or until it reaches room temperature.

Generously dust the tart with confectioners' sugar before serving.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Baking Chez Moi," by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

Tested by Susan T. Chang and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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