Simple Pear Tart for two – SHF
I wish I could travel more. Traveling is something I’ve barely done, and yet, it’s one of my favorite things. There’s so many things I love about it – mostly, I just love to experience something so totally different from what I’m used to. A different skyline, a different perspective and culture, a different lifestyle… and different food.
Food is one of the biggest highlights of my travels, limited as they might be. It’s as important as the monuments, the museums, the shopping. Bagels, pizza, and cheesecake in New York, the best bubble tea and bao bing in Houston’s Chinatown, french brioche toast and tea in Victoria, Canada. Oh, but Paris…
I was in 8th grade when I went to Paris with my French class – such an amazing trip. While I didn’t photograph any of our meals, I remember them vividly. Crêpes, bought right on the street and spread with nutella; fresh sandwiches made with beautiful, crackly baguettes; and a fresh, flaky croissant served with orange juice and chocolat chaud every morning for breakfast.
And Fauchon, the famous luxury bakery! My French teacher told a story of a boy one year who was left behind in Fauchon, so mesmerized by the pastries that he did not notice the group leave the patisserie and board the subway. Madame called it a nightmare. Me, I think it sounds like a dream come true!
I really wish I would have discovered my love for baking at that point in my life. At the time, I’d never heard of Fauchon, and while I left feeling full and impressed (I bought an excellent fig éclair at what I thought a ridiculous price), I didn’t fully appreciate the visit.
When I saw that April’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Heather of Diary of a Fanatic Foodie, was to make a dessert inspired by travel (“Take Me Away”), memories of Paris came back to me with surprising strength. There were so many unbelievable desserts I tried. But what made me think utterly of Paris? And what was simple enough to make at home, right after school?
This lovely pear tart was the ticket. Back to Paris, I mean. :)
The pastry that I always try first in a new French bakery is always the pear and almond tart. To me it seems like such a classic, something so simple but incredible when done right. Maybe it’s a little unfair, but I tend to judge bakeries right away based on that tart.
(The best pear tart I’ve ever had was in Paris, if you were wondering. It wasn’t even in a fancy or expensive pastry shop, but a teeny patisserie we passed on the street. I don’t even remember it’s name. An unknown pastry shop in Paris produces better pear tarts than most “genuine French” bakeries in Seattle!)
Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t care much for pear and almond tarts. The problem is mostly the custard, which is too rich for her. I didn’t want to make anything that she wouldn’t enjoy. I also decided on making just enough for two mini tarts, the perfect dessert for two.
The solution was this simple pear tart, which is nothing but a flaky, buttery crust and sweet, soft pear. It’s a snap to make, and of all the tarts I’ve ever made – this was probably my favorite. My mother surprised me by saying it was among the top 3 best things I’d ever baked, in her opinion. Quel succès!
You could double the crust and quadruple the pears and make a full sized tart, baking times adjusted accordingly.
Simple Pear Tart
Adapted from Carole Walter
Makes two 4″ tarts
2 Sweet Tart shells, baked (recipe follows)
1 Anjou pear, slightly under-ripe
Fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp apricot jam, divided
1/4 tbsp butter, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the pear and slice it in half lengthwise, from top to bottom. Core each half with a melon baller or a teaspoon, then coat with lemon juice to prevent browning. Slice each half lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Toss in a bowl with sugar and cornstarch.
Spread a thin layer of apricot jam onto the bottom of each tart shell. Lay the pear slices decoratively on top – I overlapped the pears, using the longest slices in the center of the tart. Pour the juices left in the bowl over the pears, then dot with butter.
Bake the tarts for 45 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Mix a tablespoon of apricot jam with a teaspoon of water, brush it over the pears as a glaze while still warm. Cool tarts completely before removing from their pans.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4.5 tbsp frozen unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 large egg, scrambled (crack a whole and use half)
In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the butter is cut in, with little “butter balls” the size of peas and of oats. Add the yolk bit by bit, pulsing after each time, then once all the yolk is added pulse the dough in long, 10 second intervals. When the dough clumps up, knead it gently a few times on a work surface just until it comes together. Chill the dough 1 hour before rolling.
Butter two 4″ fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Divide the tart dough in two and roll each half between two sheets of plastic wrap. Peel off one of the sheets and invert the dough on top of a tart pan. Pat the dough onto the bottom of the pan and ease it into the corners and sides. Gently and carefully remove the second piece of plastic wrap, then use a knife to trim the overhang to 1/4 inch. Fold the excess dough over, into the pan, to create double-thick sides. Prick bottom with a fork, then freeze at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the shiny side of two squares of aluminum foil. Press them into the chilled tart pans, then bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and press down on any puffiness with a spoon. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
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P.S.: My birthday is in two days… expect some birthday cake! :)