Poached Pear and Almond Tart
SERVES 10 TO 12
This tart has several components, but each can be prepared ahead, and the tart is baked several hours before serving. If you cannot find blanched slivered almonds, use whole blanched almonds but chop them coarse before processing to ensure that they form a fine, even texture. The pears should be ripe but firm, the flesh giving slightly when gently pressed with a finger. Purchase the pears a few days ahead and allow them to ripen at room temperature. If they ripen before you need them, refrigerate them and use them within a day or two, or poach them and hold them in their syrup (they will keep for about 3 days). Many tasters liked the bright, crisp flavor of pears poached in Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay-poached pears had deeper, oakier flavors and were also well liked.
1 bottle (750 ml) white wine
2/3 cup (about 4 2/3 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon plus 4 or 5 large strips zest removed with vegetable peeler
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
15 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, slit in half lengthwise (optional)
4 ripe but firm pears (about 2 pounds),
preferably Bosc or Bartlett
SWEET TART PASTRY
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted
butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
ALMOND FILLING (FRANGIPANE)
1 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup (3 1/2½ ounces) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened to room temperature
1/4 cup apple jelly
1. To poach the pears: Combine the wine, sugar, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and salt in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod (if using) and add the seeds and pod to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, halve, core, and peel the pears. Slide the pears into the simmering wine; increase the heat to high and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the pears are tender (a toothpick or skewer inserted into the pear should slide in and out with very little resistance) and their outer edges have turned translucent, about 10 minutes, turning the pears in the liquid halfway through the poaching time with a wooden spoon or spatula. Off the heat, cool the pears in the liquid, partially covered, until the pears have turned translucent and are cool enough to handle, about 1 hour. (The pears and liquid may be transferred to a nonreactive bowl or container, cooled to room temperature, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
2. For the tart pastry: Whisk together the yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor with four 1-second pulses. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about twenty 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disk; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). Unwrap and roll out between 2 lightly floured large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap (or piece 4 small sheets together to form 2 large sheets) to a 15-inch round. (If the dough becomes soft and sticky, slip onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until workable, 20 to 30 minutes.) Transfer the dough to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom by rolling the dough loosely over the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan. Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the corners with the other hand. Press the dough against the fluted sides of the pan, patching breaks or cracks if necessary. (If some sections of the edge are too thin, reinforce them by folding the excess dough back on itself.) Run the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to remove excess dough. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet or large plate and freeze 30 minutes. (The dough-lined tart pan can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 month.)
4. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet; lightly spray one side of an 18-inch square of heavy-duty foil with nonstick cooking spray. Press the foil, greased side down, inside the frozen tart shell, folding the excess foil over the edge of the tart pan; fill with metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake until dry and pale gold and the edges have just begun to color, about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights by gathering the edges of the foil and pulling up and out. Set the baking sheet with the tart shell on a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
5. For the almond filling: Pulse the almonds, sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground, about twenty-five 2-second pulses; process until very finely ground, about 10 seconds longer. Add the egg, egg white, and both extracts; process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the butter and process until no lumps remain, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the workbowl with a rubber spatula and process to combine thoroughly, about 10 seconds longer. (The filling can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days. Before using, let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes to soften, stirring 3 or 4 times.)
6. To assemble, bake, and glaze the tart: Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the pears from their poaching liquid; set the pears cut-side down on a triple thickness of paper towels and pat them dry with additional paper towels. Spread the frangipane in the tart shell and slice and arrange the pears.
7. Bake the tart on the baking sheet until the crust is deep golden brown and the almond filling is puffed, browned, and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the tart on the baking sheet on a wire rack 10 minutes.
8. For the glaze: Bring the apple jelly to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to smooth out any lumps. When boiling and completely melted, brush the glaze on the pears. Cool the tart to room temperature, about 2 hours. (The tart can be kept at room temperature longer but should be served the day it is made.)
9. Remove the outer ring of the tart pan, slide a thin metal spatula between the bottom of the crust and the tart pan bottom to release, then slip the tart onto a cardboard round or serving platter; cut into wedges and serve.