Fall pears should be poached, tarted up
The tart artist works in texture, contrasting crisp shell, supple filling, slippery slices of fruit. She works in color, choosing golden pastry, pale almonds, wine-stained pears. She works in pattern, arranging crescents across her small, sweet canvas.
Then inspiration strikes. Weary of low-profile, she lets the pears pose whole. The tart shifts from 2-D to 3, like something Louise Nevelson might have fabricated for dessert.
Her tart has width, length, depth — and deliciousness. Which could count as four dimensions.
Poached Pear Tart
Prep: 2 hours, plus time to chill
Bake: 50 minutes
Makes: One 8-by-11-inch tart, serves 8
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup sugar
Seeds and pod of 1 vanilla bean
Zest peeled in wide strips from 1 lemon
3 ripe pears, peeled
3 tablespoons apricot jam
Tart pastry (recipe follows)
Tart filling (recipe follows)
In a pot, stir together wine, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod, and zest. Lower in pears. Pour in water just to cover. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
Let pears cool in their poaching liquid. Cover and chill, 2 to 24 hours.
Pull out pears; pat dry. Slice each in half the long way. Scoop out seeds and core. Melt jam. Brush the rounded sides of pear halves with jam.
Roll out pastry, fit into an 11-by-8-inch rectangular tart pan; trim. Freeze while shaping remaining pastry into a few leaves and twigs.
Set tart shell, leaves and twigs on a baking sheet. Line shell with foil; fill with baking beans. Bake on the center rack at 375 degrees, about 5 minutes for twigs, 10 minutes for leaves and 25 minutes for the tart. Remove foil and beans; bake the shell just golden, 5-7 minutes.
Cool shell a few minutes. Spread with filling. Bake at 375 degrees until filling is set, puffed and lightly colored, about 20 minutes. Arrange 5 or 6 pear halves on tart. Decorate with leaves and twigs. Cool on a rack. Remove pan sides. Admire. Serve.
Pastry: In food processor, buzz together 11/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drop in 9 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut up). Process to rubble, about 10 seconds. Drop in 4 or 5 tablespoons ice-cold water. Pulse to damp clumps. Pat pastry into a square. Wrap in waxed paper; chill 1 hour or more.
Filling: In food processor, buzz together: 11/2 cups almond flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (cut up), 2 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and a pinch of salt.