Anyone who knows me fairly well is I’m sure, sick of hearing about all things apocalyptic. For those of you who follow The Walking Dead series, perhaps you’ve been in the same frame of mind. I’ve also just finished a book called Robopocalypse and I haven’t been sleeping well for a few weeks. It’s not fear that keeps me awake but rather the logistical planning of our survival. We’ll need to be ready for anything. If it’s zombies, we really need to stock up on cross bows and axes; robots and we’ll have to construct suits that conceal body heat; aliens and…I don’t know I haven’t read anything on possible alien apocalypses but if they can get to earth, who knows what they have up their sleeves. What am I saying? They don’t have sleeves! They’re much too advanced to sport anything with sleeves. I digress.
We may simply run out of oil and it’ll be back to the drawing board. In the meantime, people will be hungry and likely no one will be making poached pear almond tarts until we’re back on our feet. Especially in Alberta, it’ll be all root vegetables and…well…more root vegetables. For this reason and a few others, I suggest you stop dragging your feet and make a nice dessert to share with people you really like.
This tart may seem like a lot of work but imagine how much work you’re going to have to do when no one is trucking in your food and you have to go out and skin your own badger for dinner. Badgers are bastards. This will seem like child’s play.
The flavours in this tart are subtle and creamy. They contrast beautifully with the lightly salted almond crust and take your mind off anything apocalyptic.
Poached Pear Almond Tart & Cardamom Creme Fraiche
For the Poached Pears:
4 Bosc Pears (firm), peeled, halved and cored
4 cups water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping tsp cloves
3 thick slices ginger
1/2 a lemon
Add pears and all other ingredients to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down once it reaches the boil.
Take a square piece of parchment and fold one corner over to meet the opposite. Repeat with the opposite corners. Cut away 1/2 an inch of the tip (centre of the parchment square) to create a hole in the centre. Cut the square shape into a circle in order to fit it into the pot over the poaching pears. This is important so that the pears all remain submerged in the poaching process. It will ensure that your pears are poached evenly, all the way through. Let simmer for 20 minutes then remove from heat and allow pears to cool in the poaching liquid.
Do not throw away poaching liquid. You’ll need that in the final step to glaze the tart.
You can keep the poached pears in the fridge, in their liquid for up to 5 days.
For the Almond Short Dough Crust:
125g almond flour
250g cake/pastry flour
In a mixing bowl, blend softened butter, sugar and salt with a paddle attachment. Resist the urge to blend it quickly. You should mix it on low until combined but you do not want it to be creamed until light.
Add the almonds and combine just until blended.
Add eggs and vanilla in stages until the egg is just absorbed.
Sift in flour and mix until evenly distributed.
The key is not to over-mix this short dough so that it remains tender.
Turn dough out on to a piece of plastic wrap and cover tightly. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. It’s a good idea to make this the day before you need to bake it.
For the Almond Cream:
90g granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 drops vanilla extract
90g powdered almonds
30 grams cake/pastry flour
In a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream together softened butter, sugar and zest until it is pale and light in colour.
Add eggs and vanilla in stages until fully absorbed.
Mix in almond and cake flour until incorporated. Set aside in the fridge.
For the Custard:
1/8 tsp salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and set aside in the fridge.
For the Cardamom Creme Fraiche:
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 tsp cardamom
Combine both ingredients. Set aside in fridge.
Assemble the Tart
A tart tray with removable base - I used a 14”x4 1/2” rectangle however, you’ll have enough ingredients to make up to a 10” round tart
A rolling pin
A pastry brush
Preheat oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove almond short dough from fridge and cut away 325g. Return the rest to the fridge for later use.
Shape the 325g piece into a small square and warm up the dough a bit with your hands.
Sprinkle bread flour over a clean surface and roll out a piece that will be about an inch wider than your tart shell all the way around. Make sure that you roll the dough evenly, so that it bakes properly in the oven.
Dust off any excess flour and then place dough in tart shell, lifting the edges as you place the dough down into the pan and press the edges. Roll the pin across the top of the tart shell to clear away any excess dough.
Pipe or spread evenly a 1/2” layer of almond cream on the inside of the unbaked tart.
Place unbaked tart shell in the fridge and let rest for 20 minutes before baking. This will prevent too much shrinkage while it bakes.
Move unbaked shell to a parchment lined tray (if you do not have a heavy, aluminium coated steel baking tray, I’d suggest doubling up your pan so as not to burn the crust) and bake for 16 -18 minutes. Regardless of the baking sheet you are using add another one to the bottom at this point.
At the 18 minute mark (edges of the dough should be slightly browned by now) slide tray half way out of the oven and pour in custard, leaving an 1/8th of an inch of dough around the top edge. Return to oven and continue baking until custard is set, about another 15-17 minutes. Give the tray a jiggle to check for doneness.
Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature.
In a small saucepan, reduce 1/2 of the liquid used to poach the pears until it becomes a thick syrup. This should take about 8-10 minutes over medium heat.
Slice poached pears thinly and place in whatever pattern you like around the tart. With a pastry brush, quickly dab syrup all over the tart, sealing in the edges between crust and pears.
Toast almonds and sprinkle on top.
Add a dollop of cardamom creme fraiche as you serve each piece.
Almond Short Dough, Almond Cream & Custard Recipes from Wayne Gisslen
Poached Pear, Cardamom Cream & Recipe Concept by Maggie Murphy