It takes quite a few stages to make this French pear tart but it’s well worth the time and effort. If you don’t think you’ll have the time all in one day to do it, you can prepare most of it well in advance and bring it all together on the day you plan to bake & serve it.
You can whiz up the pastry, press it into the tart tin and freeze it… weeks in advance.
I must admit, it has got to be – by a country mile – the most delicious pastry I’ve ever made!
You can cut corners (and time) by using tinned pears or simply omitting the poaching stage if using fresh fruit.
The almond cream can be made a couple of days before and left covered & chilled in the fridge until just before it’s due to be put in the oven.
My rectangular tart tin is so large that I had to double up the almond cream recipe and cut the pears into quarters rather than halves.
The resulting tart is very attractive (not to mention photogenic!) and can be cut so each person gets a neat slice of pear.
It’s moist and sweet – sweet enough to serve with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche or thick Greek yoghurt on the side.
The perfect bake for a dinner party or daily treat.
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- 60g/2oz icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 125g/4½oz very cold butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 medium pears
- 1 lemon
- 1 litre water
- 250g/9oz granulated sugar
- 85g/3oz butter, softened
- 150g/5oz caster sugar
- 75g/2½ ground almonds
- 2tsp plain flour
- 1tsp cornflour
- 1 egg
- 2tsp dark rum or vanilla essence
- Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
- Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
- Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
- When the egg is in, 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 your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
- Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
- Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
- Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
- Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
- Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
- Peel the pears, leaving them whole
- Bring water, sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears
- Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife - about 15 minutes
- Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup
- Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny
- Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended
- Add the flour, cornflour and egg. Process until the almond cream is homogeneous
- Add the rum or vanilla and process just enough to blend
- Fill the baked pastry case with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula
- Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula and place carefully on to the almond cream to form an attractive pattern
- Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns
- Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before removing it from its tin
- Allow to cool completely before serving