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A Parisian Double Smack on Both Cheeks- Pear & Almond Tart

Vous êtes magnifique. Vous êtes beau, vous êtes tres joli.

Sorry for slipping into French, I do that when I feel overwhelmed. Not that I’m French. It’s just an affectation I picked up in high school (to make me seem more interesting). That’s a different (long, dull and pathetic) story altogether. Still, overwhelmed is the word of the day. Je suis accablé et suis humilié.

Oops- there I go again.

But I do feel the need to thank you for keeping me in the FoodBuzz Food Blog 2010 Competition. I actually feel I need to get down on my knees and thank you. Though that affectation I mentioned earlier makes me think that something more continental is in order. Like a kiss on both cheeks. So very French, n’est-ce pas?

But this is a food blog, right? So my thank you this week really needs to be an edible metaphor, don’t ya think? I mean food is my oeuvre (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Pear and Almond Tart

May I present the very French and very edible version of a kiss on both cheeks. It’s a classic Parisian Pear and Almond Tart. Merci beaucoup!

 

pear and almond tart prepIt’s truly a double-smack sort of sweet treat that will always take me back to Paris. Because one of my greatest associations with that great city is the boulangeries sprinkled throughout each neighborhood. What a joy it is to walk past these places deeply inhaling, then taking a quick peek through the window at the array of delicious baked goods. There is no experience quite like it in this country. Somehow we have grown into a carb-abhorrent, gluten-fearing mass of cowering humanity. We have come see food as the enemy.

But not the Parisians, they embrace life and all its flavors, it seems to me. I am sure the reality is more complicated. But when I am in Paris I have very little interest in reality.

The first time I walked those streets it was the 1980s. I was quite young and a tad romantic; armed with just enough French to feel pear and almond tart prepcocky I decided to conquer all the sights, sounds and yes, flavors I could in one brief two-day visit. One of the first stops was indeed a boulangerie. Now, I was no patsy to the ways of French pastry. My mother had been making brioche at home since my childhood. But all the unusual bread shapes struck me: baton, bloomer, boule, epi, ficelle, fougasse, pistolets…the list seemed endless.

On that first trip, the treat I settled upon the was the simplest and most iconic of Parisian prodigies. I walked into the first shop I whiffed and politely said: je voudrais un morceau parfait de tarte de poire et amande s’il vous plaît. To my joy and surprise the clerk reached into the case and pulled out one perfect wedge sitting in a little paper pouch. I was so overwhelmed and grateful that I promptly leaned over and kissed the surprised commis de boulangerie on both cheeks. Smack. Smack!

Pear and Almond Tart serves 8 CLICK here for a printable recipe

I stole a little from David Lebovitz & a little from Paule Caillat for this Pear and Almond Tart, so sue me!

  • pear & almond tart4 firm Bosc pears
  • 4 c water
  • 1 1⁄2 c sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for filling
  • 1 1⁄2 T lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1⁄2 c powdered sugar
  • 1⁄4 t kosher salt
  • 13 T cold butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1⁄4 all-purpose flour, plus 2 teaspoons for filling
  • 1⁄2 c almond slices, divided
  • 6 oz almond paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 t almond liqueur

Prepare the pears: Peel the pears and halve them lengthwise. Using a melon baller remove the core. Bring 4 cups water, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add split vanilla bean and pears. Cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.

Prepare the crust: Pulse the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup almond slices, and salt in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add 8 tablespoons cold butter and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Mix in egg yolk. Add 1 1/4 cup flour. Pulse the machine several times until dough comes together in clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Prepare the almond filling: In a stand mixer, beat the almond paste with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and the remaining 2 teaspoons flour, until smooth. Gradually beat in the remaining 5 tablespoons butter, until smooth, then beat in the egg and the egg white, and the liquor. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Bake the tart shell: Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. Using paper as aid, turn the dough into 9‑inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze crust 10 minutes.

Line crust with parchment paper, then fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove parchment and beans. Bake crust until sides are golden and the bottom is set, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Cool crust in pan on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Prepare the tart: Spread almond filling evenly in crust. Cut each pear half lengthwise into thin slices. Gently press each pear slice in an attractive pattern slightly overlapping each other in places into the almond filling. Sprinkle the top with the remaining almond slices.

Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into the center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges; sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

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