Almond and Pear Tart
Overlapping pear slices cover an almond- and brandy-flavored filling in this beautiful golden tart. The combination of almond and pear is delicious. The pears are marinated in spiced wine before they are sliced. Chef Kearney notes that you can reserve the poaching liquid to use again, or reduce it to a syrup to brush over the tart.
- Dried Pear Slices
- Perfect Pear - 1
- Sugar - 1/2 cup
- Water - 1/4 cup
- Corn Syrup - 1 tablespoon
- Pastry Crust
- Butter - 1/3 cup
- Vegetable Shortening (like Crisco) - 3 tablespoons
- Unbleached All-purpose flour - 1-1/2 cups
- Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Pinch of salt
- Vinegar - 1/2 teaspoon
- Egg Yolk - 1 large
- Ice Water - 3 to 5 teaspoons
- Poached Pears
- Pears - 4 large, ripe
- Dry white wine - 2 cups
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Cinnamon Stick - 2-inch piece
- Cloves - 2
- Black peppercorns - 5 to 6
- Vanilla bean - 1, split
- Water - as needed
- Almond Filling
- Unsalted Butter - 1/2 cup
- Sugar - 1/2 cup
- Brandy - 1 tablespoon
- Vanilla Extract - 1 teaspoon
- Almond powder - 1 cup
- All-Purpose Flour - 1 tablespoon
- Confectioner’s sugar - for dusting
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 pint, beaten to soft peaks with 1 tablespoon sugar
- Fresh mint sprigs - 8
To prepare the dried pear slices: Heat the oven to its lowest setting. On a mandoline or V-slicer, slice the pears vertically into paper-thin layers, continuing all the way through the fruit; leave the core in. Spread the slices in a shallow pan.
In a small, heavy saucepan combine the sugar, water, and syrup. Heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat and boil for 2 minutes. Pour over the fruit, making sure all pieces are coated. Put in the oven and cook for 1 hour. Remove and let cool; cover and set aside at room temperature overnight. The next day, reheat the oven to its lowest setting. Line baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. Spread the fruit slices in a single layer on the prepared sheets. Put back in the oven and cook 1 hour, or until the fruit is nearly dried. Turn off the oven and let the fruit remain in the oven until the oven is cold. Store in an airtight container separated by layers of parchment.
To prepare the pastry crust: Combine the butter and vegetable shortening and chill. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut half of the butter-shortening mixture into the flour. Cut the remaining half of the mixture into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Mix the vinegar and egg yolk with a little of the ice water. Combine with the flour mixture to moisten the dough, adding additional ice water 1 teaspoon at a time if necessary. As soon as the dough holds its shape, stop mixing and gently gather the dough into a ball with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
When ready to use, lightly dust a work surface with flour. Have a 10-inch tart pan with a removeable bottom ready. Unwrap the dough and flatten it slightly with the heel of your hand. Place it in the center of the tart pan and press into place to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan evenly. Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling: Peel the pears and cut in half vertically. Scoop out the cores. Put the pears, wine, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns in a saucepan, adding water if necessary to cover the pears with poaching liquid. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into the liquid, then drop in the pods. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes, until the pears are softened. Set aside to cool in the poaching liquid.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the brandy and vanilla extract. Combine the almond powder and all-purpose flour, then beat into the butter-sugar mixture until just incorporated. Fill the chilled pie shell with this almond filling mixture. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid (it may be saved and re-used if desired) and drain. Slice a pear half crosswise into thin slices (less than 1/4 inch), keeping the slices together. Slide a knife or spatula under the slices lengthwise and lift together, then place on the filling, putting the top of the pear at the center of the tart. Slide the slices apart slightly until they reach the edge of the crust, creating a group of overlapping slices in the shape of a pear on top of the filling. For the most even placement, repeat with a second pear, placing it opposite the first. Repeat on either side, creating a cross shape with the pears. Fill in the spaces between with the remaining pears, slicing and placing them one at a time. Bake 20 minutes; the pastry should be golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To serve: Remove the sides of the tart pan and slice the tart with a serrated knife. Cut the slices down the centers of the pear slices, or between them. Dust each piece with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish each with a dollop of whipped cream, a dried pear slice, and a sprig of mint.