Monday, September 8, 2014

Pear Tart with Chocolate and Almonds

Thank goodness it's finally September! Those last two weeks of August are a sweaty, interminable slog. Don't mistake me - I think my kids are the coolest people in the world. But enough already!

After ten weeks, I ran out of energy to throw my body between them and their beloved xBox. I confess, I hid in the kitchen baking batch after batch of macarons, flinging sandwiches through the door when the noise got too loud.

The children survived, and my macaron skills are getting pretty good, if I do say so.

And, hooray! We won't even hit 80˚ today. Heck, I may just bushwhack out there and yank some of the weeds that took over while I was cowering in the air-conditioning. Yeah, I'm kind of the Indoor Type.

So, time for fall fruits and football. Bye bye, popsicles, and hello, pie. We made it through Labor Day, so it must be time for pears. Or apples, if that's your thing. I'll probably make an apple-honey version for Rosh Hashanah, so stay tuned...

Pear Tart with Chocolate and Almonds

Chocolate Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour (140g)
2/3 cup powdered sugar (80g)
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder (20g)
pinch of table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (90g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks, 1 egg white

Almond-Pear Filling
7 oz almond paste (198g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons (108g)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (32g)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (67g)
2 whole eggs, plus one extra yolk, room temperature if possible
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3-4 small, firm pears
1 tablespoon sliced almonds

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection) and use baking spray to coat a 9-10" tart pan with removable bottom. In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and butter for 20 seconds. Add vanilla and yolks, then turn the machine back on. (Stop thinking about all those recipes that urged you to handle pie crust gently. They are not the boss of you.) Process for at least a minute, listening for the sound to change from whining to thumping. (Yes, I'm serious!) When it starts to come together in clumps, gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. When it has firmed up a bit, roll the dough out onto a piece of wax paper and fit to tart pan. Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork, and place in the freezer for at least an hour. Spray a piece of tinfoil and fit it snugly into the crust, making sure to push it into the corners and up the sides to prevent shrinking. Bake for 20 minutes at 350˚, then remove from the oven and use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the crust with egg white. Return the crust to the oven for 5 more minutes before filling.

For the Filling:
You can wash the food processor between the crust and the filling - there's a sucker born every minute, right? I'm just going to throw in the almond paste and sugar and let it run for a bit to break up the chunks. Follow up with the flour and butter, running the machine until almond paste is the consistency of cornmeal. Finish up with the eggs and extracts, processing until there are no visible lumps and then pouring gently into the prepared crust. Peel and slice pears into slivers, arranging them in two concentric circles. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle almonds on top and return to the oven. This should take approximately 20 minutes longer, but you'll know it's done when the top starts to brown and the center stops jiggling when you move it. Let the pie cool completely before removing from the pan.

Refrigerate any leftovers. If you skip the whipped cream, you can call it breakfast the next day with a straight face.

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