Thursday, January 29, 2009

une tarte d'amande et de poire...

I actually texted my friend Gigi to ask her what to call my pretty little tart in French.  I think it sounds almost as pretty in french as it tastes!

Many days I daydream at work while doing something that requires very little brain power, and I start thinking about cooking most of the time. 

So today I started thinking about tarts.  The natural inclination would be to make a pear tart, but to be honest I'm not a huge fan of all baked fruit desserts.  I love to eat a good apple pie or a cobbler, but I'd usually more content to sink my teeth into a nice chocolate dessert.

Then I started thinking about almond paste...

You can find it at the grocery store in the baking section with the nuts.  And no, this is NOT marzipan.  It's much runnier and sweeter and terribly unhealthy considering that it's a food made of healthy nuts. I had been thinking about it what I could cook with it for a while.  And we had pears at home. When I was a kid my mom ate pears all the time and I despised them, too much like biting into a sandy apple.  But they complement other flavors nicely, so I'll eat them for baking purposes.  And on brie and pear sandwiches with arugula....  

Hmmm.  (Now keep in mind... I was workday-dreaming about tarts)  I had a vision of a pear tart with almond paste.  I don't think that this was a completely original idea.  I might have seen this somewhere, I just have no recollection of where it was though.  

But of course I needed a tart pan.   I made a quick little trip to Williams Sonoma on my lunch break.  I do not make little excursions like this on a regular basis, but I wanted a very specific tart pan.  I bought a nice nonstick pan with a removable bottom, so that when the tart is cooked the bottom can be freed from the pan making a freestanding tart a reality. 

Here's how I created my sweet little tart.  No recipe.  Not even for the crust.  Sorry... but I've trained you well.  You can do it!

Tarte d'amande et de poire:
(Pear and almond paste tart.)

Almond paste
Thinly sliced pears (peeled of course)
Apricot jam

*Crust:  Food processor, flour, very cold butter, ice water, a smidge of sugar, a pinch of salt.  You could use your favorite pie crust recipe, or even those nice refrigerated ones that you roll into your own pan.  I liked how this crust turned out.  It really proved that technique and feel are much more important than any recipe.  I was very pleased. 
  • I baked the crust for 10 minutes.  
  • Then I spread the almond past onto the crust.  I would recommend letting the crust cool, mine tore a bit because the almond paste is VERY sticky!  
  • Then I fanned the sliced pears on top of the delicious paste.  
  • Then I dropped some dabs of butter on top of the pears and placed it back in the oven.
  • Bake it until it's done.   I baked mine for 30 minutes, longer would be fine, it depends on how you like your pears cooked.  
  • Very important for a pretty tart: melt some apricot jam and brush a thin layer over the fruit 15 minutes before the tart is set to come out of the oven.  Not necessary, but it makes it sparkle. 
It was very rich and irresistible.  Each forkful was a study in textures: flaky crust, gooey almond paste, and crisp pears.  The thick and sweet nuttiness of the paste and pears contrast each other and the butter in the crust and in the filling marries everything together. I think I'll probably finish it off by the end of the weekend.
Isn't that pretty!?  Very rustic and elegant at the same time.  I didn't get any photos of the tart minus the pan, it looks even more awesome standing on its own. 
It's been nice baking with you.  Au revoire! 


priscilla (little Prisca) said...

Oh, yes.
My husband made a similar pear cake (actually same as an upside down pineapple cake). Recipe was featured in the last "Fine Cooking".
Your's is elegant!

Aaron and Andrea said...

It looks SO pretty Caitlyn!! Sounds yummy too :)

Katie said...

I was just wondering why you thought it would be a good idea not to share this with your friend at work?

Anonymous said...

"And on brie and pear sandwiches with arugula.... " On ciabatta, don't forget! We should share recipes on blogspot all the time.