Monday, October 31, 2011

Fancy Pear Tart

Want to get me rousted out of bed and out the door early on a Saturday morning?  Well I have two words for you:  Amish farmers!  Like, horse and buggy, white bonnet, friendly bearded Amish people selling the fruits and veggies from their farms.  The Saturday market in Tower Grove features a few Amish farmstands, and because I have zero self control, I found myself at home that afternoon with about six pounds of pears.  

My husband and I made a deal.  I would make him a pear tart if he would make me a pear-based cocktail.  So I googled and googled, and as soon as I saw the words "butterscotch pastry cream" thrown in, I was sold.   Never mind that I had never made a tart before.  A tart is just a shallower pie, right?

With the holidays approaching, it's time to think about festive treats that solicit "ooohs" and "aaaahs" from your party hosts.  This tart fits that bill perfectly.  While it has a few different components, they can all be made ahead of time, and the tart assembles in a snap.  People are always impressed when you make your own pie crust, and this one does not disappoint. 

Pastry cream meets pie crust... OMG this pie crust.  It has ground almonds mixed in, which gives it a warm toasty flavor, and just a hint of crunch.  It just might be my new go-to...

The butterscotch pastry cream gets topped with rings of red-wine poached pears.  The red wine glaze on the pears makes for a spectacular presentation, and it comes together in no time.

Just keep laying down pears in an overlapping fashion, and you'll have this showstopper without breaking a sweat!  The tart keeps well in the fridge for 3 or 4 days, and it would not have lasted longer than that in our house anyway.

Butterscotch Pear Tart
Adapted from Gourmet via

For the shell
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
raw rice for weighting the shell

For the poached pears
Note:  I had extra leftover poached pears and syrup, which are delicious on top of vanilla yogurt.  I imagine it would also be excellent atop a slice of cheesecake.  
3 firm-ripe pears
2 cups dry red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar

For the ginger butterscotch pastry cream
3 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the shell:
In a food processor grind coarse the almonds with the sugar,add the flour, the salt, and the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add 3 tablespoons ice water, and toss the mixture until the water is incorporated. Press the dough into the bottom and up the side of a 7 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim, crimping the edge decoratively, and prick the bottom with a fork. Chill the shell for 30 minutes, line it with foil, and fill the foil with the rice. Bake the shell in the middle of a preheated 425°F. oven for 7 minutes, remove the rice and foil carefully, and bake the shell for 5 minutes more, or until it is golden. Let the shell cool in the pan on a rack.

Poach the pears:
In a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears in one layer combine the wine, the cinnamon stick, and the sugar and bring the liquid to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears, peeled, and poach them, turning them occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until they are just tender. Let the pears cool in the syrup.

Make the butterscotch pastry cream:
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat lightly the egg yolks. Add the brown sugar, a little at a time, beating, beat the mixture until it ribbons when the beaters are lifted, and beat in the flour. Add the milk, scalded, in a stream, whisking, transfer the mixture to a heavy saucepan, and bring it to a boil over moderately low heat, stirring constantly. Boil the mixture, stirring constantly , for 2 minutes. Strain the pastry cream through a fine sieve into a bowl and stir in the butter and the salt. Let the pastry cream cool, its surface covered with a buttered round of wax paper, for 1 hour.

Assemble the tart
Remove the rim of the tart pan, set the shell on a platter, removing the bottom of the pan, and spread the pastry cream in the shell. Arrange the pears, drained, cut lengthwise into sixths, and cored in a spoke pattern on top of the pastry cream.


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