What I liked about this choice is that it is wintry (pears!) and festive (so pretty!) and warm (and buttery!) yet light enough to follow a substantial holiday meal. I baked this twice for dinner parties over the Christmas holiday - once with a secret weapon ingredient, and once without - and have posted both below. My husband graciously agreed to guest post his verdict of both versions!
- I had no idea what this was supposed to look like (fan the pears, how?) so I googled "Dorie Greenspan French Pear Tart" and found some blog posts with great pictures. Dorie's directions described it perfectly, but I just couldn't visualize this one without a picture...
- The recipe calls for a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. My tart pans are as follows: 10", 9.5", 8" and a 7.75" , but nary a 9". I spent a few minutes consulting my favorite online circle calculator and figured that if I doubled the crust recipe I could have enough for an 8" tart (40% of a double recipe) and a 10" tart (60% of a double recipe). I pressed the dough into both pans and froze the larger one unbaked for later, and made the 8" tart first
Pilot (8") tart-
- I baked one pear tart last weekend, with the 8″ pan, making 80% of the almond cream recipe. That works out to 70 grams of butter, 104 grams of sugar, 62 grams of ground almonds, 1 1/2 tsp flour, 3/4 tsp cornstarch, 48 grams of egg (I used egg substitute), [and 1 1/2 tsp rum or 3/4 tsp vanilla] This was the perfect amount of filling for the tart.
- I could have saved myself a good deal of calculations had I just decided to make a full recipe and use the leftover crust and filling for a mini!
- As part of my Christmas purchases (for myself!) I ordered some cool-sounding flavorings from King Arthur, and thought I'd use one for the tart instead of the vanilla or the rum. It came down to a choice between "Buttered Rum" and "Amaretto" and I chose Buttered Rum. I wasn't sure how much to use, so measured out 1/2 tsp. As soon as I poured it into the almond cream, I had that sinking realization that I'd used too much (I should have added one or two drops, then checked the flavor). The almond cream filling smelled - and tasted - pretty strongly of boozy extract flavoring. I wasn't going to start over, so I crossed my fingers that it would bake off in the oven. (You know where this is going, right?)
- The almond cream was a little thick, and I didn't see the instruction about leveling it. Nor did I see the part about rubbing fresh pears with lemon juice. (I was in a hurry when I was baking this.)
- Two pears are all that fit in the 8" tart shell. My pears were very ripe but still firm enough to use. I used them fresh, and they did start to "tarnish" just as soon as I cut them, so I popped the tart into the oven the minute I had it assembled.
- I debated whether to glaze the tart or to dust it with powdered sugar, but in the end I forgot to do either. It still was really pretty.
See those sliced almonds? Look at the finished tart (above, on the cake stand) to see where they ended up!
- I baked the 8" tart about 46 or 48 minutes, but wish I'd baked it just a few minutes longer. It could have been just a little bit more set in the center.
the verdict on the Pilot Tart:
Here's a guest verdict written by my husband:
"French Pear Tart (Pilot): Nancy made this last week. The taste was sensational at first. Then a sharp hydrazine/acetone-like sensation engulfed my taste receptors and nasal passages. How imaginative to flavor with nail polish remover. Actually the source turned out to be “Butter Rum Flavor” from a certain “LorAnn Oils.” I opened the bottle and what came out suggested the sort of rocket fuel that would make Werner Von Braun and his V-2 guided missile pals down at Peenemünde blush with envy. The label says it contains “artificial flavor” and “propylene glycol” – the latter of which is antifreeze – must be the former is some kind of propellant. At least we won’t freeze up anytime soon; might put the rest in the Infiniti radiator to stave off winter, though, or in the gas tank if I need to get suborbital anytime soon. Caution: If you make FPT Pilot, do not consume around open flame."
Slice of the 8" tart laced with Butter Rum flavoring.
Looks pretty innocent, right? Who would guess that it harbors deadly intentions?
Rev. 2.0 (10") tart-
- About a week later I pulled the 10" tart shell out of the freezer and whipped up another pear tart. This time I steered clear of anything remotely resembling alcohol.
- For the 10" tart, I made 1.2x recipe for the filling. The amounts were: 103 grams butter, 156 grams sugar, 93 grams almonds, 2 1/2 tsp flour, 1 1/4 tsp cornstarch, 72 grams egg. I used 1 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp almond extract.
- This time the filling was thinner, and leveled itself nicely (although I was ready with an offset palette knife.)
- After finally reading Dorie's directions a bit more carefully, I rubbed my fresh pears with lemon juice which might helped keep the pear browning to a minimum. Given how very ripe these pears were, I don't think anything would have kept them from getting a bit brown. Three pears fit beautifully (these were Harry and David, fairly large pears).
- I don't have the technical skills or patience (or tools?) to fan my pears and lay them precisely on top of the pastry cream in the tart shell. Once more I prove that "rustic" is my only option!
- It was a breeze making the tart this time, so I'd recommend doubling the tart crust recipe and pressing it in a tart pan for the freezer - if you can spare the tart pan.
the verdict on Rev. 2.0:
The 10" tart, just out of the oven.
My husband, again:
"French Pear Tart (Rev. 2.0): Nancy took a second cut at the recipe, without rocket fuel, and we both agreed it might the best thing she has ever made, which is to say, as good as it gets."
I served this tart at our Book Club's Christmas Dinner celebration. It was still warm from the oven, and all 7 of the others happily enjoyed theirs with vanilla ice cream. I loved mine "nekkid". I wish I had a picture of it unmolded on the platter, with its dusting of powdered sugar. It was so pretty and made a huge hit with the book club.
The 10" tart after a few days, when I got near a camera, some daylight, and some dry weather. It was still delicious as leftovers!