Preparation time: 4 hours
Cooking time: 1.5 hour
A classic French pear almond tart adapted from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". La tarte aux poires was my first love in France. This crust has a twist with coconut oil and pairs well with the frangipane and delicately poached pears.
I do it a little different than Julia Child due to prior experience and what I have in my kitchen. For example, I’m not a huge fan of hydrogenated oils so I would never have shortening on hand. Also, it just so happened that my raspberry jelly went bad, so I also subbed with cornstarch and sugar. However, I followed most of her techniques and included the majority of her ingredients, which made for a beautiful end product as expected. Just know that her recipes require a lot of time, but this one will certainly leave you with great satisfaction and a lovely fragrance of mulled wine.
First make the dough for the crust because it needs to be refrigerated for quite some time. Note to those who have made butter crusts before that coconut oil is quite sturdy at room temperature, and hard as a rock if frozen or chilled. Take the chilled butter and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Sift in flour, sugar, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and then add cut butter and coconut oil. Use the tips of your fingers to rapidly rub the fat and dry ingredients so that the mixture resembles a crumble or bits like small oatmeal flakes. You can also do this in a food processor. Then add the egg and vanilla and knead the dough rapidly (I say rapidly to not melt the fat in your hands) into a ball.
Place the ball of dough on a clean board and press pastry by two spoonfuls of dough at a time with the heel of your hand, not the palm, and press away from you in a firm quick smear of about 6 inches. When you are finished, form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 1-3 hours.
Now for a custard. While the milk is boiling, beat the egg and egg yolk in a mixing bowl and gradually add the sugar. When you are finished, the mixture should be pale yellow and form a ribbon that disappears when you lift the wire whip/electric beater. Beat in the flour. When the milk is boiling, pour a thin stream of droplets while beating the mixture, making sure to not pour to quickly as to curdle the eggs.
Using the same saucepan, pour the mixture back in and set over moderate heat. Whisk slowly at first while making sure you reach the bottom. When the mixture starts to coagulate you must beat vigorously until it is smooth and a thick paste (this is a bit of a workout). Keep stirring for an additional 2 minutes over low heat to cook flour thoroughly. As Ms. Julia Child advises “Be careful the custard does not scorch the bottom of the pan”! Joy of Baking has a cool video for crème ptissière that I found helpful if you require a demonstration.
Finally, take the custard off the heat and beat in butter, vanilla, and almonds. When storing in container, wrap plastic wrap on top and press so that it touches the top of the custard, as to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for later use.
Pre-heat the oven at 400 degrees for the crust. After the crust is out, either press the dough with your finger tips piece by piece into the false-bottomed cake pan or roll out the dough into the form of the pan. Do this within the 10 minute pre-heat time as to keep the dough chilled.
Peel the pears lengthwise as to retain the shape. Using a melon baller, scoop out the bottom of the core. Cut the pear into halves and scoop out the seeds. You should also peel the stem off in the direction of the center. Place the pears in the acidic water so that they do not discolor.
Place crust into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, when the shell is lightly brown. Let cool completely.
Bring the wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to boil. Drain the pairs, and add them to the spiced wine. Then bring the temperature down to simmer for 8-10 minutes until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife. Do not overcook or the pears will not retain their shape. Remove from heat and let pears cool in the syrup for 20 minutes, then drain on a rack.
Rapidly boil the syrup and add either the cornstarch and sugar or jelly. The syrup is done when it coats a spoon with a light glaze. Paint the inside of the crust with this glaze. Then take out the frangipane and spread over the glaze.
When the pears are cooled, slice them thinly and arrange the larger pieces on the outer portion of the tart. Overlap the smaller slices in the center.