This week’s obsession: Pear Almond Cream Tart
What are some of your greatest fears about your line of work? I know my Man Candy frequently mentions degloving injuries with a quick shudder (I thought about linking to a description of this injury but I feel like it’s a bit gruesome. Google at your own risk.), and I have a surprising amount of friends whose significant others are tree care foreman (or some variation of that job tittle) and falling out of trees or getting struck by a falling branch is always a main concern.
Before I went off to pastry school, one of my main concerns was slicing myself with a knife, or worse - losing a finger.
I laugh at my old fears now given the amount of burns, cuts, and slices I’ve gotten over this decade long journey of pastry life (I can’t believe I graduated from pastry school TEN years ago already!!) but after making this pear tart, I realize that I’ve truly come a long way since my first knife skills course where I was afraid of losing a finger or two. It used to take me forever to slice just about anything, but now I’m pretty quick and consistent. #PattingMyselfOnTheBack
Interestingly enough, most of my slicing injuries have not come from knives. In addition to randomly cutting myself on sharp objects like the time I plunged my hand into a box of kitchen equipment and accidentally found a cheese grater the hard way (I still miss that fingertip sometimes), I also somehow managed to slice my hand open on a metal table before. Don’t ask. But fortunately, I’ve left that fear of slicing myself in the past, which is how I was able to make these beautiful pear tarts for your viewing pleasure this weekend (also if you’re in the neighborhood - and unfortunately most of you aren’t since I still don’t know anyone in this city #ThanksCOVID - for your tasting pleasure).
My intent was to show every step that I did for these tarts, but I rolled my dough out, arranged it into the tart pans, docked it, and popped it in the oven only to discover that I actually never pressed record on my camera so I don’t have video of that for you. #UserError. I’m sure I’ll make another tart in the future and will be able to show that part for you.
However, after I baked both tart shells and sliced all 6 of my pears, I procured a piping bag full of leftover almond cream out of thin air! Actually I had so much almond cream left over from my delicious Galette de Rois that I was able to make TWO pear tarts this weekend. (I may have to scale that recipe down next time. I got three desserts out if it!) And now that I’ve used almond cream in two back to back desserts, I guess I should explain what it is.
Almond cream is a common filling in French pastry that consists of butter, eggs, and almond flour. It is very similar to another common filling called frangipane. I chose to use almond cream instead of frangipane because it is much faster to make. To make frangipane, you must start by making a batch of pastry cream (the filling you find in authentic eclairs) then fold it into your almond cream.
The addition of pastry cream makes frangipane a lighter filling choice, but they are both delicious, so that’s how you should make your decision as to which one to use (or if you’re like me, make the one with fewer steps to save time.) You cannot eat either filling in its raw form, but they both make an excellent tart filling that pairs well with seasonal fruits because of the incredible fruit and almond combo. I will note that most French recipes call for the addition of rum to almond cream but I didn’t do that this time since I’m accidentally practicing Dry January this year. (I say accidentally because the man candy and I were out for a run about a week in to 2021 [it was a run for me, he was basically walking beside me/waiting for me to catch up] when we passed by a drinking establishment and we both realized that we hadn’t had a drink yet this year, so we kinda shrugged and decided to keep going.)
SIDE NOTE: So far so good, but I have been avoiding making this super delicious dish for dinner that consists of scallops reduced in white wine served over pasta and that has proven to be the most difficult part of not drinking this month.
After I piped the rum-free almond cream into both tart pans, I layered my pear slices on top of the almond cream. I used just a simple layer on the rectangle tart, but stepped it up a little for the round tart. The flower design is super easy to do, and I hope you enjoy my video about it. After slicing your pear halves into thin, uniform slices all the while snacking on some for Quality Assurance (you’ll see in the video - I ate so many pear slices while I was working. I couldn’t stop myself. I skipped dinner that night because I ate at least a pear and a half while making these tarts) arrange them skin side up with one end slightly overlapping the end of each adjacent slice. The tip I want to share with you this week is about making this tart design. While you're slicing up your pear, be sure to cut some very thin slices for the center petals of the flower. They bend a lot easier without snapping and help create a more authentic look for the center of the flower.
Once all of the pear slides were arranged, I sprinkled coarse sugar over both tarts and popped them in the oven.
I must admit, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with every element of these tarts - the crust is surprisingly delicious, I am madly in love with the baked almond cream, and the pears are simply fantastic! I’ve already had TWO slices and these tarts aren’t even 12 hours old. Guess that means I should go for another run (mostly to put some distance between me and these delicious confections #RunningFromMyProblems, but also to burn off some of the calories I've already consumed).
Happy eating, y’all!