Almond and Cardamom Pear Tart, and baking rules

2

January 17, 2013 by jenniebean10

I have one small piece of advice to give you: Don’t bake when you are really tired.

I often end up baking late at night. I’ve been thinking that I need to break myself of this terrible habit. Baking is very relaxing for me, so it’s a nice way to wind down my evening. UNTIL the baking projects take several hours to complete, and then I go to pop my creation into the oven for another 45 minutes and fall asleep on my bed. I might be done with baking late at night….(nah)

The pear and almond tart which you are reading about is quite time consuming, but I can guarantee that it’s worth eeeeevery moment of your preeeecious time, *EVEN* if you accidentally fall asleep while the tart is baking and don’t wake up until 35 minutes after the timer went off and your crust is slightly burned but the tart has, by the grace of Totoro, survived. While I waited for the tart to finish, I had a Google+ hangout with my best friend Annie, and she saw me falling asleep. Annie shouted at me a few times to wake up, but made the mistake of ending the call and trusting me to stay conscious and alert all on my own. I burned the heck outta the crust, but IT’S A RESILIENT LITTLE TART!

IMG_7481

Tart #2, beautiful and unburnt!

This tart is DELICIOUS! Despite the fact that the crust was a bit…toasty…it was still a hit with my friends! I was so annoyed with myself for screwing it up, though, so I gave it another go a week later at Thanksgiving. A few nice things about making this tart again: 1) Redemption; 2) I re-used the leftover syrup for poaching the 2nd batch of pears for extra pear flavor; 3) I got to practice my crust/shell-making skills once again, ultimately taking a lesson in patience.

Before you get started, here are a few tips about this tart:
I used white whole wheat flour for the first tart, and unbleached AP flour for the second. No difference that I could tell (hard to tell when the first one was kinda burnt). You could probably use whole wheat and it would be delicious, too. Just be careful to be a little flexible, and measure by weight instead of by volume. If you have almonds and don’t have almond meal, the original recipe called for grinding up slivered almonds into a food processor (essentially making almond meal). If you want to make life easier, make the dough, wrap it up, and stick it in the freezer the night before you want to make this. Wait to bake the crust off while you’re preparing the pears and the almond filling the next day. The original recipe said to chill the filling for at least three hours before putting it in the shell. I’m not sure why this step is necessary. Chilling the filling (haha!) just makes it harder to spread in the shell when it’s time to bake the tart. I never let my filling chill for three hours, and this did not affect the tastiness or consistency once it was baked.

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Almond and Cardamom Pear Tart
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
yield: one 9-inch tart crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, just like any other crust. I’ve done both – the pastry blender method will obviously take much longer than the food processor method, but the results are the same. In fact, my dough came out slightly too crumbly with the food processor method, and I had to add a splash of milk to get it to all come together. Maybe the egg yolk was just smaller. Who knows?

1. Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulse about 10 seconds each until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change; heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for about 2 hours before rolling.*
2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Storing: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out–just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Alternate super-easy press-in technique: If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it’s processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed; press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.

For the filling:
Pears
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled (each about 7 ounces)
Almond Filling
2/3 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 sweet tart shell, baked (recipe above)

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

For pears: Bring 4 cups water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For almond filling: In a small bowl, whisk together almond meal, flour, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in egg and almond extract. Add dry ingredients and stir til combined. Cover and chill. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond filling evenly in baked tart crust. Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear half to fan slices but keep slices tightly overlapped. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling like spokes of wheel with narrow ends in center. (This part was really difficult for me, and I have no idea how Deb did this so perfectly and beautifully. I also was unable to fit all of my pears neatly into the tart, so I rearranged slices, left out half a pear on the 2nd tart, and just tried to fit things in without making it look a mess.)

Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges; sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.

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2 thoughts on “Almond and Cardamom Pear Tart, and baking rules

  1. Holy moly! That look so freakin good!!!!! I need to go to the store now so I can get snacks to munch on….
    -Daniel

  2. Kelsey Mc says:

    OH MY GOSH I first looked at this on my phone and the pictures didn’t show up. That tart is so fancy looking! It reminds me of the apple ones they sell in bakeries here. I LOVE how you sliced them so that they kept their pear shape!! Also the crust is surprisingly not that bad for being cooked an extra 35 minutes. The tart gods were smiling on you!

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