Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pear-Custard Tart

Makes one 10-inch tart
Recipes from Williams-Sonoma
Husband-Tested in Alice’s Kitchen

This delicately flavored tart, filled with vanilla-poached pears and brandy-spiked custard and topped with sugary toasted almonds, is a memorable dessert to serve to your favorite people. Oh, and what fun this is to make too! If making a crust is too scary, try making Pear Clafouti (pronounced "Clah Foo Tee")

Perfect Pie Dough (use enough pie dough to make one tart) Freeze the other half of the dough for another recipe, if desired.
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 ripe but firm pears, peeled, quartered, and cored
3 cups water
Peel of 1 orange, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
½ vanilla bean
1 large egg
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoons brandy
Pinch of kosher salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (or sparkly sugar)

Prepare the Perfect Pie Dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll enough dough for one tart to a circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and ease into the pan. Prick the surface of the dough with the tines of a fork. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is just starting to color a bit, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Meanwhile, poach the pears. To poach the pears, cut a circle of parchment paper that will fit in a medium saucepan. Cut a small circle in the middle of the parchment. In the saucepan, bring 3 cups water and the sugar to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pears and orange peel. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife; add the pod and seeds to the saucepan. Lay the parchment in the saucepan to submerge the pears. Adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers gently and poach the pears until just tender, about 15 minutes. 
Let cool in the poaching liquid. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Cut each pear quarter lengthwise into 4 slices, then lay most of the pear slices in the crust in an overlapping circle close to the rim. Use the remaining slices to fill the middle. 
In a bowl, beat together the egg and the ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale. Beat in the flour and then the cream, vanilla/brandy and salt. Pour evenly over the pears. Bake until the custard starts to puff up, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the toasted almonds and 1 Tablespoon sparkly sugar over the top of the tart. Continue to bake until the custard is set and lightly browned, 15–20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until warm or room temperature before slicing and serving.

Note: To turn this into an apple tart, gently sauté 3 peeled, cored, and sliced apples in 1 Tablespoon butter until they just start to become tender. Spread evenly in the partially baked crust, pour over the custard, and proceed with the recipe from there.

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