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apricot-almond cream tart

after my visit to the sono baking company, i got it into my head that i wanted to make an apricot almond cream tart at home.  i couldn’t find shelled pistachios, and so i substituted with sliced almonds; and because i couldn’t locate fresh apricots this time of year, i ended up using canned ones, which turned out to be not a very good substitute.  i don’t know if it was the brand (something from whole foods) or canned apricots in general, but they ended up being really mushy and fell apart as soon as i took them out of the can.  i’ll need to try this recipe again with fresh apricots when they’re back in season and hopefully, when i’ve found a source of inexpensive shelled pistachios.

Apricot-Almond Cream Tart
(makes one 9 inch tart)

Pâte Sucrée 300g or 1/3 of a pâte sucrée recipe
Almond Cream ~1/3 of an almond cream recipe
Apricots 1 16oz can, or if you can find it, 3 to 4 fresh apricots, skins peeled.
Sliced Blanced Almonds ½ cup
  1. Roll out the chilled tart shell and fit it into an 8 to 9 inch tart ring.  The tart ring should be set over a half sheet pan that’s lined with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
  3. Put the prepared tart shell into the freezer while you’re waiting for the oven to heat.
  4. Prick the frozen tart shell a few times with a fork.  Place a sheet of foil on top of the frozen tart shell and weigh it down with dried beans or other pie weights.
  5. Bake the shell for 15 minutes, then remove the dried beans and foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Optional: in the last 5 minutes of baking, brush some egg white on top of the tart to make it waterproof.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool.
  7. When the tart shell has cooled, spread the almond cream evenly on the bottom of the shell using an offset spatula.
  8. Arrange apricots on top of the almond cream.  If using fresh apricots, you may need to sprinkle some sugar and butter on them to enhance their flavour.
  9. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of the apricots and almond cream.
  10. Bake at 350ºF for 45-50 minutes or until the almond cream has set.

baked golden kiwis and blueberries in an apple and pear tart

i started to mess about the kitchen the other day and ended up making a variation on my apple & pear tart.  i added blueberries and golden kiwis to the center of the tart.   my true aim laid in testing what baked golden kiwis might taste like.  they are absolutely delicious fresh — a kiwi without the traditional tartness of a green kiwi.  turns out that they are not bad baked. i did lose the lightness and juiciness of fresh kiwis, but baking kiwis ain’t a bad option when you’ve forgotten to eat them and they’ve gotten to be a wee bit too ripe.

apples, pears and almond cream in a pâte brisée tart shell

i spent almost all of last year making my tart shells out of pâte sucré — mostly because it’s pretty much foolproof.  then, at some point during new year’s resolution season, i decided that i really ought to spend some time in 2010 mastering pâte brisée (aka. the flaky tart dough) based tart shells.  it’s a bit trickier than pâte sucré, though making it in a food processor does simplify things a bit.  still, i had to practice a few times before i rid myself of the urge to over-pulse or add too much water.

As an aside, pâte brisée is often used in savory tarts (as well as sweet) because it contains little sugar.  If all sugar is removed from the recipe, the dough is called pâte salée.

i threw together the tart in the picture above with what i could find in my fridge — some fruit, some almond cream.  i only had one apple, so i had to substitute a pear.  i decided to slice both fruits as donut shaped circles rather than as half moons.  it made layering the slices go much more quickly than otherwise.  the hubby said he really liked it — but then, he’s become a great fan of almond cream as well.

Pâte Brisée
(enough for 2 eight-inch tarts; adapted from the French Culinary Institute)

Cake Flour 250g
Salt ½ tsp
Sugar ½ tsp
Cold Butter 125g (1 stick), cubed
Ice Cold Water 65 ml
  1. Pour flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor
  2. Add in the cold butter and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of peas (about 5 to 6 short pulse bursts)
  3. Add in the cold water gradually until the dough is soft.  It might seem like you need more than 65ml but resist the urge.
  4. Knead the dough by hand on a clean surface until the dough is smooth.
  5. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Apple, Pear and Almond Cream Tart
(makes one 8 to 9 inch tart)

Pâte Brisée ½ pâte brisée recipe from above (you can freeze the other half for a future occasion)
Almond Cream ~1/3 of an almond cream recipe
Apple 1 large apple, peeled (I used fuji)
Pear 1 medium sized pear, peeled (I used a red Bartlett)
Vanilla Sugar or Granulated Sugar 1 tbsp (vanilla sugar is preferable if you’ve got it on hand. Otherwise, regular sugar works as well)
Butter 2 tbsp
  1. Roll out the chilled tart shell and fit it into an 8 to 9 inch tart ring.  The tart ring should be set over a half sheet pan that’s lined with parchment paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
  3. Put the prepared tart shell into the freezer while you’re waiting for the oven to heat.
  4. Prick the frozen tart shell a few times with a fork.  Place a sheet of foil on top of the frozen tart shell and weigh it down with dried beans or other pie weights.
  5. Bake the shell for 15 minutes, then remove the dried beans and foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool.
  7. When the tart shell has cooled, spread the almond cream evenly on the bottom of the shell using an offset spatula.
  8. Peel apple and pear. Remove the core. [If you haven’t got a core-removing gadget, you can slice and use a melon baller to remove the core when you get to the center of fruit.]
  9. Slice the apple and pear as thin as possible, creating a donut shape.
  10. Arrange the sliced fruit in a circular pattern on top of the almond cream.  You can alternate between apples and pears, if so inclined.
  11. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with bits of butter. (Alternatively, you can brush melted butter onto the fruit and then sprinkle the sugar on top).
  12. Bake at 350ºF for 40-45 minutes or until the almond cream has set and the apples and pears have browned.

the french pear tart (tarte bourdaloue)

pear almond tart

the classic french pear tart is one of my all time favorite tarts.  fragrant, crunchy, hearty — i really think it’s the pastry embodiment of satisfaction.

like all tarts, making the french pear tart is a multi-step process:

  1. Prepare the tart dough.  You can use pate sucree, brisee or sablee.  I used pate sucree because I had some on hand. I recommend blind baking the tart shell as it ensures a crunchier crust.  To do this, roll out the tart dough, arrange it into the tart ring, and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes.  When done, take it out of the oven and let it cool.
  2. Poach the pears.  See recipe below. A single 9 inch tart requires about 2.5 to 3 pears. Or, if you really want to take a short cut, you can use canned pear halves.  Doesn’t taste as authentic but plenty of french women opt to do so.
  3. Prepare the almond cream. See recipe below
    [Note: if you’ve got the almond cream, poached pears and tart dough on hand, you can arrange this tart in 5 minutes!]
  4. Slice and core the poached pears.  Cut each poached pear in half.  Carefully remove the core, and slice each pear horizontally into 1/4 inch slices.
  5. Arrange the tart.  Spread 250g of almond cream on the bottom of the tart.  Arrange the sliced poached pears on top of the almond cream.  It’s easiest to pick up the sliced pears using an offset spatula.  Sprinkle sliced blanched almonds to cover areas where the almond cream is showing.
  6. Finally, bake the filled tart for 45-50 minutes at 350° F until the almond cream has set.
  7. With a pastry brush, coat the pears with some apricot glaze.

Poached Pears
(enough for 2 tarts)

Pears                      6 to 8 (I use bartlett or bosc)
Sugar                      2 cups
White Wine           2 cups
Water                     2 cups
Cinnamon             1 stick
Star Anise              1 stick
Lemon                    1 lemon

  1. Peel pears, leaving them whole.  Rub lemon all over the peeled pear.
  2. Add sugar to the bottom of a pot (I use a 5 quart dutch oven).
  3. Add enough water to just cover the sugar.
  4. Boil the sugar water until the sugar just begins to turn a light golden brown.  (Watch the sugar carefully because it will easily burn)
  5. Add in remaining water, wine, cinnamon, star anise, and juice from remaining lemon.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer.
  7. Carefully drop in the pears.  You may need to add more water to the pot until the pears are all submerged in the liquid.
  8. Allow the pears to simmer until just softened.  About 30 min to 1 hour, depending on your pears.  Do not overcook as the pears will become too mushy to work with.

Almond Cream
(adapted from the french culinary institute; enough cream for 2 tarts)

Butter                      165g @ room temperature
Sugar                       165g
Almond Flour        165g
Eggs                         2
Corn Starch           20g

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  I use a paddle attachment. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  2. Add in almond flour and continue to mix until smooth.
  3. Incorporate eggs 1 at a time.
  4. Lastly, add in corn starch.  Mix until well-combined.