Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TWD: French Pear Tart



This is a very special week for Tuesdays with Dorie, as the great Dorie Greenspan herself has chosen this week's recipe for a French Pear Tart from her amazing cookbook, Baking: From My Home To Yours:


I've gotten endless pleasure baking from this fabulous book, but even with baking from it weekly over the past five months, I haven't even begun to make a dent in it. There are seemingly endless decadent desserts in here, so to have the chance to make THE ONE picked by Dorie is truly exciting.

I had some important preliminary decisions to make. The crust calls for a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom. I did not have, and could not get in time, a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom, so I had to choose from the following: (1) an 11" tart pan with a removable bottom; (2) a 4 inch mini tart pan with a removable bottom; or (3) a 9" pie dish with straight sides but no removable bottom. I knew that I wanted to make a mini for sure. But I felt that for my first go-round I should go with the pan that was closest in size to the one called for in the recipe, and decided to go with the 9 inch pie dish and serve it from the dish. This way, I'd have an idea about what this thing was supposed to look like before I started winging it with a mini. And seeing as only my hubs and I would be eating it, there wasn't really anyone to impress with my tart de-panning prowess (not that I don't care about impressing you, David). But if all worked out according to plan, I'd still get the full out-of-pan tart experience with my mini.

Next, I had to pick pears -- fresh or canned? Dorie's narrative introducing the recipe suggests that canned pears are not only acceptable for this tart, but the most common choice among Parisian pastry chefs. When one of the world's most renowned bakers tells me it's okay to use canned fruit, I'm going to use canned fruit. That, plus the fresh pears at Publix weren't looking so hot.

Who knew?



I then made a double recipe of the sweet tart dough(without nuts), with the intention of using half of the dough for my 9" tart/pie/thing, and the rest of it for the mini tarts. This is the second Dorie pastry dough I've made -- the first was the Good For Anything Pie Dough. Dorie has the most wonderful and foolproof pastry crust recipes around, hands down. Her instructions explain not only what the dough should look like at various stages, but also note things like how the food processor will start to make funny sounds when the dough is almost ready. As usual, I talked out loud to myself the entire time I was making this. I always assumed that David learned to tune me out years ago. Well, I got to the part where you process until the dough "forms clumps and curds," assessed my dough, and said "hmmmm. I guess I think those look like cumps and clurds." At which point David looked up from whatever game he was watching and said "Whoa, careful now! If you have cumps and clurds, you might end up with a torte instead of a tart." Yup, no doubt about it -- you're definitely the one for me, honey.

Sweet Tart Dough, full of cumps and clurds:




And pressed into the mini-tart pans:



I had lunch with Amanda on Monday, and she said that you know that someone really loves you if they make you a tart, because pressing the dough all the way up the sides and into all those nooks and crannies in the pan is no joke. We agreed that we might have devoted more time than we usually would to these particular tarts, however, trying to make them look pretty for Dorie. Just in case.

I made the almond cream two ways. For my 9" tart, I used Meyer's dark rum instead of vanilla, and unblanched almonds instead of blanched almonds, because blanching them was way more tedious than ehow led me to believe it would be. For my mini tart, I cut the recipe in half and used vanilla and blanched almonds (I found them already blanched at the store -- score one for the lazy chick!)

I made my 9" tart first. Assembling this thing kind of stumped me. There is not a picture of this tart accompanying the recipe in the cookbook, and the P&Q wasn't up yet, so I had a hard time understanding what I was supposed to do with the pears. The instruction reads: "Thinly slice each pear half crosswise. Lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly and place it over the almond cream, wide end towards the end of the crust. The 6 halves will form spokes." Now that I know what the tart is supposed to look like, those instructions are as clear as day, but at the time, I just couldn't quite visualize it. It was the same experience I have when I read about the current financial crisis being rooted in "credit default swaps on mortgage backed securities." Even though I read the words over and over again, I just don't quite get it.

And therefore, I did this with my pears:



I suspected that wasn't right because I only used up 3 pear halves rather than the 6 the recipe called for. When I checked the P&Q later, I followed a link to a picture of what the pears were supposed to look like, and I was able to do it the proper way the next day with my mini tart:



I've mentioned before that I've been warned by standardized testers that I should never, ever trust my own instincts regarding spatial relations. Here's why:



I initially eyeballed my mini tart and thought I could fit two pear halves side by side next to each other. No. Not by a long shot. I had to dig out that off-centered pear (which had been intended to be part of a pair of pears) and move it over a couple of inches to become the lone, centered pear.

When I waited tables after college, André, the head chef at the restaurant where I worked, would often stop me in the kitchen on a busy Saturday night and say: "I should have been a pastry chef, Cat. That's where all the glory is." I didn't understand what he meant at the time, because the blackened chicken sandwiches we were churning out seemed plenty glorious to me compared to what I had been getting in the school cafeteria. But now I get it. Glory will come to those who can make a French Pear Tart (I'm still waiting, but any day now, I just know it!) Needless to say, I was completely blown away by these tarts. I've made some amazing desserts with Tuesdays With Dorie, but this tart has now set the new standard against which all other TWD recipes will be measured.



I preferred my mini tart (with the vanilla in the almond cream) to the larger tart (with the rum in the almond cream), but that could have been because there was a much higher pear-per-bite ratio in my mini-tart because I assembled that one the right way, whereas I accidentally skimped on the pears in the big one. Therefore, I thought the dominant flavor in the 9" tart was rum, and if I've learned anything through TWD, it's that I don't like a strong liquor taste in my desserts. David loved them both. Oh, and I thought the sweet tart crust was absolutely phenomenal. If I couldn't have the pear tart, I'd be happy with a dessert of crust crusted crust. I'm thrilled that I still have three mini crusts in my freezer. Now that I have my first tart under my belt, I can't wait to fill the rest of them up! Thank you, Dorie, for your amazing cookbook, for your support of this group, and for choosing this fabulous French Pear Tart for us this week!

55 comments:

n.o.e said...

Yep, this tart does indeed set a standard. My book club actually asked me when I was going to open a bakery! I've pretty much given up on the boozy option. Too much potential to ruin the taste, imo. Maybe when I'm a better baker I can figure out how and when it won't dominate the flavor?
Great job Cathy! Freezing the extra crust is a great strategy.
Nancy

pinkstripes said...

Yes, the French Pear tart is a glorious dessert. We absolutely loved it. David sounds like a keeper alright. Fanning skills is not one of my attributes either.

Marie said...

I did little tarts too and adored them!! Yours look wonderful! This has been my favourite recipe thus far and that's saying a lot!

Alwayzbakin said...

What pretty little tarts!! I loved this recipe!

Matt said...

I loved the crust, too, and while I used the rum, I really couldn't taste it. As for the glory of a pastry making chef, I will always be one of those who, no matter how often I try, will turn out the most frumpy looking desserts.

Audrey said...

But I like your little unsymmetrical tart. I'm sure it's post-modern or something arty and French. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought pressing was not so easy...and I'm even more glad that you liked this as much as I did!

Jamie said...

Those both look delicious!!!! Nice work!

Laura said...

Dang - I should've waited another week to stop my TWD. This looks amazing - and to read that it's the best recipe you've tried so far...wow. I will have to try this some day, maybe when I've got a bunch of people coming over for dinner so there won't be any leftover for me to devour.

Pamela said...

Wow! So many rave reviews for this tart and where am I? I guess I should grab a towel, wipe off some sweat and get into the kitchen to make a French Pear Tart. It looks terrific, Cathy!

Jessica said...

I love the mini tart. If I'd used pears I'm pretty certain that I would have done as you did with the pears in the big tart. When I read it that's all I could imagine doing. I pondered using the dark rum for flavoring but after your assessment I'm glad that I stuck with vanilla!

Flourchild said...

Great tarts! I love the mini tart pans you have. I need to go out and do some shopping for my kitchen. This was a great recipe and I was very pleased with the taste. Im glad you enjoyed it too!

Jules Someone said...

I was right there with you on the cutting of the pears. Ah well. That is one tasty looking tart!

Peggy said...

Your tart looks great! I didn't use the rum in mine. It was really tasty wasn't it? You did a great job. I'm going to make it again when I have more time.

CB said...

Blanching almonds is totally like scraping wallpaper. I have to find unblanched the next time I make this. I have a feeling I've used up my blanching almonds card with my husband after this one. Looks like you got some pear sinkage too. I wonder why we got pear sinkage on the minis? Glad you and hubs enjoyed the recipe!
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

Pam said...

This recipe make me want to make a tart. I think it looks wonderful.

Maria said...

Love the tart! I guess you know it is going to be good if Dorie picked it! Nice job this week! I will have to try this one!

Anne said...

That looks wonderful Cathy! Great job making two sizes and getting it to work out just right. Your mini looks absolutely perfect (and would totally hit the spot for breakfast right now, ahem!)

Cathy said...

Clara, I am not sure if we experienced pear sinkage or almond cream puffage. I'm going to go with puffage -- it makes the project sound more successful!

Gabe's Girl said...

What a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading it so much. Great tart.

Katrina said...

Wow! Love your minis. Your almond cream really puffed up! I didn't use all of mine for fear of it running all over my no-pan form. Love your commentary and great job!
Yum to pear tarts! Yeah, for Dorie!

Jacque said...

Well, next time you'll be able to make the perfect tart, lol. It all looks delish, that's for sure.

Jodie said...

Looks great! I think I saw on Paula Deen that she uses a glass to press pastry dough into a tart pan...

MacDuff said...

Your tarts are awesome! I think I stopped reading the recipe when she tells you how to put the pears in the tart...I'm too much of a slacker. But this looks great, and I'm so happy you liked it! I loved it too. I was eating the almond cream directly out of the food processor. Bad Duffy.

kim said...

your tarts look beautiful! i love the minis especially. seriously, if there was any recipe to make twice, this was it! :)

chocolatechic said...

Wonderful.

I used vanilla sugar in my almond cream, along with vanilla and a smidge of vanilla paste.

Natashya said...

I love the mini tarts! You were smart to get the pears in heavy syrup, so much more flavourful.

leanne said...

I love your posts! I can't wait to read the next one and am glad I get to read two a week since you cook/bake with Ellie too. This was an awesome recipe!

Lady Baker said...

ooo--yours looks fabulous Cath! I like the way you arranged the pears on the large one and love the mini-tarts! I opted for the pie plate as well--seems I'm adding "tart pan--with removable bottom" to my ever-growing baking wish list! :)

LyB said...

I absolutely loved this tart! Your mini looks so beautiful. I have to say, I find your posts really funny(I went back and read your rugelach post!). :)

juju73 said...

Beautiful job! Your blog always makes me laugh!

(Psst...I don't understand the backed securities thing either!)

Madam Chow said...

This recipe is so outstanding that it may become my stand-by for company dinners! Glad your family liked it, too.

Megan said...

The fact that your husband even commented on the cumps and clurds made me burst out laughing.

Danielle said...

Your tarts came out great. I skipped the rum all together and went with vanilla, I am glad I did several said the run ruined there tart! I am glad you had the minis to enjoy.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Your tarts look fabulous! I used rum in my almond cream (I'm all about liquoring up my tarts) and I could smell it but it didn't overpower the tart.

Mary Ann said...

Cathy- your tarts look great. They were so delicious, weren't they?
I love your narrative. I love my mini-tart pans, don't you?

Jess said...

I agree that this is the recipe against which all future TWD projects will be measured. Your minis look like they came home in a nice bakery box - very nice! I used an 8" tart pan (even though I have a 9" one; I was just feeling frisky) and had about 1/2" of delicious tart dough on the bottom. And I didn't mind a bit.

Amy said...

They look great!! That mini tart looks especially good!!

-Amy
www.singforyoursupperblog.com

Marthe said...

You sound just like me: I would have tried to squeez two pear halves into one mini tart as well!!

Jen said...

WOW Cathy! Your tarts look great! I wish I had one now to snack on!! You cooking (and blog and pictures) always seems to put mine to shame.

Heather said...

looks so tasty! i love the almond creams, i'll bet they're so good with the pears. and the tarts look beautiful, too :)

Melissa said...

Darn, I just skimmed through your comments hoping to see one from Dorie. Surely she's going to browse and see how the tart turned out for everyone! She's probably just in some foreign country and in a different time zone, so there's always still hope. Your tart looks delicious, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I had to skip this week, but I'll definitely have to make it sometime after reading your glowing review!

Jill said...

You even took a picture of your canned pears! I will stop being ashamed. Both tarts look great!

vibi said...

Ahhhh! Yes... the great Dorie has chosen! And what a pick huh? Amazingly tasty!
Very nice kob, Cathy! ...and might I add, that I love to see that little sweet face everywhere I post a comment! What a lovely smile you have!

Leslie said...

Wow! Your tarts look amazing! I especially like your mini (but I may be partial since I made minis, too). I'm with you on the superiority of this crust!

Liz said...

Hee hee, as usual, I am laughing and drooling at the same time as I read your blog. The minis, the cumps and clurds...it all looks great!

The Blonde Duck said...

I know it's not sophisiticated, but I love canned pears. Oh yum. This tart looks fabulous! When can I come have some?

natalia said...

Ciao !! I love your tarts (the off centered was artistic !)

bakingwiththeboys said...

Great post as usual. I have the same spacial issue and would have done exactly the same thing with the mini-tarts (although I probably would have jammed that second one in there for a truly hideous appearance). Tarts two ways? overachiever.

Jennifer said...

I feel the same way about the financial crisis! And the crust crusted crust!
Great post and your tart looks delicious!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

sorry - I started giggling at "removable bottom" and haven't stopped yet. Visions of an xtreme diet are running through my head. Nice tart.

Di said...

Your tarts look yummy, no matter how you sliced the pears. =) I keep forgetting that I have mini tart pans. I'll use them next time I make this, so maybe my tart will bake better in the middle.

Cakelaw said...

LOL - the pear visualisation thing had me stuck too! ou were smarter than me, checking the P&Q - I kinda made it up, and got it wrong. Oh well - I know now!

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

These are beautiful tarts - I love the 4 inch tart - it's also a nice, manageable size and you have arranged it beautifully.

dharmagirl said...

I love your mini tarts--I just adore mini-desserts:)

Christy said...

Your tarts are beautiful! I wish I would have been as smart as you to look up how the pears were to be sliced, I ended up with fat, heart shaped pears on top. Oh-well, it was still delish! Love your blog!!

 
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