Monday, August 10, 2009

Pear Almond Tart

Got Pears??
My mom has a pear tree in her yard and this year they are growing like crazy. Some years she doesn't get many but this year she hit the jackpot. They are fairly small, so working with them is a little difficult, but in the end this tart was definitely worth it.

I see a pear tart at my favorite local bakery all the time and it always looks so tempting. It is made with almond paste. I love almonds and have worked with almond paste in the past but have never made my own. But I decided to try since I had just purchased a bag of Trader Joe's almond meal and wanted to use it for something.

I searched the internet for hours looking for a recipe using almond meal to make almond paste. Nada. Well, I think I found one, but it didn't sound right to me, so I made up my own recipe.
For the rest of the tart, my inspiration came from Epicurious and Love n Bake. I didn't want to go through the trouble of making a crust for the tart so I ended up combining some ideas from both recipes and came up with a great easy to make and beautiful tart.

I think it turned out excellent. Actually, I tricked my co-workers to believe it came straight from the bakery because I put it in an empty bakery box I had from some other pastries I had bought the day before. They all thought it was delicious and when I told them I had made it, they didn't believe me!!
I have to say it did look pretty professional. In the photo of the whole tart, I took the photo before adding the apricot glaze, so it looks a little bland. But once I added the glaze, it took on a glossy glow and it perked right up!

I will definitely will be making this again. I hope you give it a try.

Pear Almond Tart

For the Pears...
4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 lbs of firm pears, about 8 small home grown or 3 medium-size pears (such as Bosc), peeled

For the Torte...
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup Almond Paste (recipe below)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon combined with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For Topping:
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease a 10-inch cake or tart pan with butter and sprinkle on 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside.

For Pears:
Over medium-high heat, bring water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pears are very tender, stirring occasionally. Cool pears in syrup. (This can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

Almond Paste
1 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon almond extract

Pulse almond meal in a food processor or blender. Add in confectioners sugar and process until completely combined. Beat egg white slightly, then slowly add into the almond mixture with the processor running. Add almond extract and pulse several more times.

For the Torte:
Beat the almond paste and 1/3 cup of the sugar in an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium high speed until completely incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Beat in the eggs. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until just combined.
Pour the batter into the pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.

Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half into thin slices. Arrange the pears, in a circular pattern covering the entire surface of the batter, slightly overlapping. Place smaller slices in the center. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake until the batter puffs up, the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 - 35 minutes.

In a small saucepan combine the apricot preserves and water and heat until it becomes translucent and loose. Brush the apricot glaze over the entire top of the pear tart.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. If desired, add whipped cream or ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.