Making a great tart might take a few steps, but it's a worthwhile project...
Tarts, whether savory or sweet, are one of my most favorite things to bake. Indeed, crafting tarts is a several-step process that makes me feel like I'm working on an exciting project (which, in my book, definitely makes cooking more fun!). Plus the results are always as gorgeous as they are delectable.
This pear tart meets all those requirements and more. There are most definitely several steps to this recipe: making the crust, whipping up the frangipane, slicing the pears to perfection and whisking a Chantilly until it's airy as a cloud. And when you're all done, the tart looks absolutely stunning.
A light, crumbly tart shell lets the other ingredients shine!
But what I love even more here is the combination of flavors. The hazelnut frangipane is light, yet bursting with the essence of the toasted nuts - it makes for a marvelous pairing with the juicy pears! The tart shell gives the dessert the foundation it needs, but it's so crumbly and light that you barely notice it's there. And the touch of cardamom in the Chantilly brings a tantalizing, exotic aroma to every spoonful.
So here's to an elegant tart that will elevate any dinner party, or holiday feast, to heavenly heights.
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Food & wine pairing: Moscato d'Asti with pear tart
This exquisite dessert needs a dessert wine that pairs with both the pears and the hazelnuts, but that isn't cloyingly sweet. Try a fizzy Moscato d'Asti from Northwest Italy, a perfumed Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from Southern Rhône, or Bonny Doon Vineyard's outstanding "Vinferno." This wonderful offering from Bonny Doon is brimming with fall fruit and hazelnut notes - what could be more perfect with this pear tart!?
Pear tart with hazelnut frangipane and cardamom Chantilly
makes 1 medium tart or serves 4
active time: 1 hr (includes making the tart shell)
For the Chantilly
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the frangipane
3 oz (85 g) toasted hazelnuts (3/4 cup) (see cook's note 2)
1/3 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter - at room temperature
2 tablespoons Poire William or grappa
1 extra large egg - at room temperature
For the tart
2 medium, ripe Bartlett pears
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 oz) (30 g) - cold
1 tablespoon Poire William or grappa
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons organic sugar
rectangular tart pan with removable bottom (14" x 4" x 1") - lightly buttered
powdered sugar as garnish
mint or lemon balm sprigs as garnish
Step 1: Make this pastry dough, shaping the dough into a 7" long, 2" wide and 1 1/2" thick log before refrigerating the dough. Roll dough into a 16" x 7" rectangle. Bake the tart blind as per the instructions before proceeding with this recipe.
Step 2: To make the Chantilly - Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and cardamom in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip at medium speed until thick and ribonny. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Step 3: To make the frangipane - Place the hazelnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the hazelnuts are very finely ground. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the soft butter and Poire William. Whip at medium speed until the mixture is creamy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and continue whipping at medium speed until thick and ribonny, about 2 more minutes. Spread the hazelnut frangipane in the prepared tart shell. Peel the pears, trim both ends, then cut each pear in half lengthwise and core them. Slice each half lengthwise into 1/4" slices, holding the slices together as you slice them. Slightly spread the slices and arrange them on top of the frangipane.
Step 4: Place the cold butter, Poire William, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture starts to foam, stirring continuously. Transfer to a small bowl and brush the pears with half the mixture. Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Remove from oven, brush the pears with the balance of the butter-sugar mixture and let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle the tart with powdered sugar. Serve each slice with a dollop of Chantilly and a mint or lemon balm sprig.
Cook's note 1: The tart can be made up to 6 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. It is best eaten the day it's made. If you need to refrigerate it, make sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving. Refrigeration will make the crust a bit soggy.
Cook's note 2: To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the skins are dark brown and split open and the nuts are golden. Cool to room temperature, then rub off the skins between two clean kitchen towels. Use in this recipe right away or store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Although the rectangular tart mold is ideal for making this tart, the recipe will work with other molds. You can use an 8" wide x 1" high round mold. Or make 6 individual tarts, using 4 3/4" wide x 3/4" high molds. But for the individual tarts, you'll need to use 3 pears instead of 2 as called for in the recipe (half a pear for each tart).