It's not a surprise that I love visiting bakeries and pastry shops. Being surrounded by the aroma of freshly baked breads is my idea of heaven (and eating loads of them too); and I love looking (again, also eating) at the beautiful assortment of delicate and often intricate French pastries in their display case... it's my idea of window shopping.
Not only I admire the craftsmanship but also it gives me an inspiration to try baking them at home. An example is this Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires, a classic French pear and almond tart. I saw this tart on a display window at a patisserie one day, and after reading the description, I thought what a delicious combination of poached pears in vanilla, with almond cream and sweet pastry. And I want to try making it at home, so this is what I came up with.
It's a pretty simple tart to make... It takes a bit of time but it'll be worth it. Think of all the compliments you're gonna get later :) There are three part to this tart, the first one is poires pochées or the poached pears. This can be done a day ahead, and actually it's best to do this ahead of time to allow the flavours to intensify. In addition to the vanilla, I added the juice of one lime (or use lemon) because however strange, I feel adding a little acidity actually brings out more of the sweetness from the pears. And to that, a star anise which perfumes the pears with sweet licorice aroma. If you want to go all out, you can also add a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves. Do not throw away the syrupy poaching liquid. Keep it in the fridge and it's so delicious to add to your ice tea, just saying...
The second part to the recipe is the pastry. You can make (or even buy) the usual sweet shortcrust pastry, but since this is a classic recipe, I opted for pate sucrée or French sweet pastry. It has a higher sugar content and also uses egg(s) for richness. This should be a straightforward task but... *sigh... it's so hot the past couple of days here and if you've made your own pastry before, you know that working with pastry in hot, humid weather is not very nice to say the very least. Note to self: when I have my dream home one day, I wanna make sure that I have air-conditioner in the kitchen no matter where I live. Anyway, if you have the same problem like myself, make my pastry late in the evening when the temperature is relatively cooler and letting it chill overnight in the fridge. Then early the next day, roll the pastry per usual, working quickly, and if it gets too soft too quickly, just put it back in the fridge for ten minutes or so.
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The last part of the tart is the crème d'amandes or the almond cream. This is very easy to make... mix all the ingredients and voila!
Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires
Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires
250 gr sugar
500 ml water
Juice of 1 lime (or lemon), save the zest for the pastry
Half a vanilla pod
1 star anise
For the pate sucrée:
100 gr soft butter
75 gr caster sugar
Zest of 1 lime (or lemon)
Half a vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
2 egg yolks
225 gr plain flour
For the frangipane:
80 gr icing sugar
80 gr butter
80 gr ground almonds
10 gr plain flour
1 tsp almond extract
20 gr ground almonds
If possible poach the pears the day before. This will give them time to cool down and allow the flavours to intensify. To do this, in a saucepan bring all the ingredients except the pears to a boil, until the sugar dissolve. Peel and cut the pears in half and add to the boiling liquid. Let them simmer and poach until fork tender. Depending on the ripeness of your pear, this might take from 25 to 40 minutes. I would suggest you don't use over-ripe pears, as they'll be too soft and mushy. Let the pears cool in the syrup and put in the fridge until when you're ready for them.
To make the pate sucrée, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds in a bowl until well combined. Then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time until it's fully incorporated into the mixture. Add in the flour and mix until it comes together as a ball of dough. Tip the pastry onto a floured work surface and very lightly and gently knead until smooth. Wrap with cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour or two or even overnight.
The next day, take the pastry out from the fridge and roll to about 5 mm thickness. In my, hot and humid case, I find it easier to do this between a couple of non stick parchment and place into a greased loose bottom tart tin. Take a little piece of the dough and using this instead of your fingers, press the pastry into the sides. Prick the base with a fork and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure the pastry won't shrink during baking.
Preheat your oven to 180 C. After 30 minutes, take the pastry out from the fridge and cut off the overhanging dough. You can use a knife, but I prefer a gentle press with a rolling pin. Cover the tart with non-stick baking parchment and top with ceramic beans or dried beans or rice. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Then remove the parchment and the beans and put the pastry back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the sides begin to colour. Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
Whilst waiting, make the frangipane by simply mixing the soft butter with sugar. Then add the flour and a tablespoon of the ground almonds before mixing in the egg. I find this will prevent the mixture from splitting. Mix to combine and add the rest of the ground almonds.
You can spread the almond cream to the cooled pastry case and leveling it with a spoon; or you can pipe it. The choice is yours.
Strain the pears and remove the seeds (I use a melon-baller) and the hard bits. Slice each pear halves thinly across its width. Arrange over the almond cream and you can fan out the pears a bit, for aesthetic purpose. I then sprinkle the almond cream that's not covered with the pears with ground almonds... but that's optional. Place back in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
Sprinkle the sides with icing sugar and it's especially useful if you've got burnt bits :) and to make the pears shiny, brush them with warmed apricot jam. When I made this, I ran out of apricot jam, so I use the pear poaching liquid instead.
Now, go get the kettle on, cut the tart into slices and you know what to do next...