Oh gosh. I had good intentions of paring down on desserts come January, when another box of those Harry and David pears arrived at my door. Not that I’m complaining. For those friends and relatives who sent me these gifts, I thank you profusely. It seems almost sinful to use these succulent pears for baking, when they’re just so darn juicy raw and fresh from the box. But I only sacrificed two of them for this tart, I swear.
If you’ve ever received those Riviera pears from Harry and David, you know what I mean. They’re the best – and they’re huge. Here’s a shot of one of them, but there’s nothing here to give you perspective on the size. To give you some idea though, let me tell you that it took only two pears to completely fill the tart in the picture above.
By way of contrast, I made the tart in the photo below last year, using three bosc pears from the supermarket. Delicious – yes. Pretty – yes, but these three pears didn’t nearly fill the pan in the manner as the two Harry and David pears. I have to admit though, that the taste was equally delicious with the supermarket pears once they were poached and baked in the tart.
But since I had the Harry and David pears I used those, cutting them into thirds rather than in half, the way I did with the supermarket bosc pears.
Take a melon baller (or small spoon) and trim the center and any remaining hard spots from the tips. Poach the pears in a pot of simmering water to cover for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re easily pierced with a knife. I added 1/4 cup of sugar to the water and the juice from half a lemon. While the pears are poaching in the water get the ingredients mixed in the food processor for the crust.
This recipe will give you too much for just one nine-inch pie crust, so I made a couple of tart shells too. There wasn’t enough of the almond filling (frangipane) to fill those as well as the larger pan, but I’ll show you later what I did with the baby tart shells. Hey, do you see Mickey Mouse too?
Mix the frangipane filling (recipe below) in the mixer, then carefully spoon some all over the tart shell. I say carefully because the crumbs from the crust are still not baked and they’ll easily lift off from the base and blend in with the filling if you just start smearing it helter-skelter.
After the pears have poached, drain them and slice them evenly.
Then fan out the slices with your hand and lift them altogether with a knife.
Start by placing them on opposite sides of the tart shell. When the pears are this large, you won’t be able to make them meet evenly in the center, so you can either remove some of the slices or slide them off center and place all the slices on the tart (I went with the second choice.)
Fill the tart shell completely with the sliced pears and bake.
When it comes out of the oven, you can spread some glaze over the top. I normally use a little apricot jam that has been warmed to make it easier to spread. This time I didn’t have any, but I had some sweet orange jam, and used that instead. Any light colored jam or jelly will do.
Here’s what I did with those little tart shells. I poached another pear (the supermarket bosc kind this time.) and I put half (well almost half – I ate a few slices) of it in one shell, and half in the other tart shell. I glazed it with the jam before baking this time, then baked it for 30 minutes.
Almond Pear Tart
Poach two or three pears, depending on size, in a pan of water to which you add the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/4 cup sugar. Let it simmer together for about 10 or 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Remove and drain the pears.
1 nine-ounce box chocolate cookie wafers
5 T. butter, melted and cooled slightly
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and whir until everything is crushed into fine particles. Spray a 9-inch tart shell with PAM (or butter it lightly) and gently press the crumb mixture into the pan. Set aside.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour (I found almond flour at my local health food store)
1 tsp. almond extract
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the ground almonds or almond flour and almond extract and mix until a smooth batter forms.
Spread the frangipane mixture carefully over the chocolate crust. It’s best if you take dabs of it and place them all over the crust, rather than put one big lump in the center. That way you won’t loosen as many of the chocolate crumbs, which are still pretty loose in the shell, since it’s unbaked. Spread the mixture all over the tart shell.
Take the cooled pears and slice them evenly. With the palm of your hand, press them flat. Pick up the slices altogether and arrange them on the frangipane mixture, covering as much of the shell as you want, and in any design you want. If you have small pears, it may take three or more. With large pears, it might take only two.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes or until the filling is golden. Remove from the oven and glaze with some apricot, orange or other light-colored jam or jelly.