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chestnut pear tart gone rogue

IMG_2461sometimes i start out well-intentioned in my kitchen. i mean to follow a recipe to the letter, and usually i do.  however, sometimes i realise that i haven’t got a particular type of ingredient in my pantry, and sometimes it’s obscure enough that i don’t feel like special ordering it or traveling 50 blocks in search of it from some specialty food store in nyc.  sometimes, i decide to go rogue!

i made a mental note a few weeks back that i wanted to test out pierre herme’s chestnut pear tart. then a few days ago, i decided that i should really use up the leftover poached pears and chestnuts paste from my montblanc experiment before they spoiled.  thinking that i had all the right ingredients at hand, i set out to reproduce ph’s tart from his book Desserts by Pierre Herme.  about 5 minutes in, i realised that i had misread some of the ingredients in his recipe.  i opted to forge ahead with a few improvisations.  i thought it turned out pretty swell nonetheless!

Tribeca Chestnut Pear Tart
(makes one 9.5 inch tart)

Pâte Sucrée About 300g, enough to make one  9-10 inch tart.  [Note: ph’s pâte sucrée recipe incorporates the usage of almond flour]
Poached Pears 2.5 to 3 poached pears. [Note: ph uses fresh pears in his tart]
Sour Cream or Crème Fraiche ½ cup
Chestnut Puree 1/2 cup
Chestnut Spread 3 tbsp
Rum 1 tsp
Eggs 2 large ones
Sugar ¼ cup
Milk 1/2 cup
  1. Prepare the tart dough in a 10 inch tart ring and blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes at 350ºF.  Allow the crust the cool to room temperature, leaving it in the tart ring.
  2. Cut and core the poached pears into 1/3 inch cubes.
  3. In a food processor, mix together the sugar, eggs, milk, sour cream, chestnut puree and chestnut spread until smoothe.
  4. Fill the tart shell with the cubed pears.  Spread them evenly on the bottom of the crust.
  5. Then, pour in the chestnut filling from the food processor
  6. Bake the tart for 45 minutes at 350ºF., or until the filling has set.
  7. Optional:  [note: i tried to do so in the picture above but it’s not really a good example of how this should look]  the tart can be finished with a phyllo dough crown. To do so, take 3 sheets of defrosted phyllo dough (i didn’t defrost my dough, and it cracked as i was taking it out of the package). Scrunch the phyllo dough into a 10 inch tart ring, working with one piece at a time.  Lightly dust (i put too much on in the picture) the the dough with confectioner’s sugar.  Bake it for 5-7 minutes until the crown is caramelized.  When the tart and phyllo crust have cooled, carefully transfer the phyllo crown to the top of the tart.

poached pear mont blanc cake

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fall is the time for chestnuts, and the idea entered my head a few weeks ago that i should really try my hand at making a mont blanc cake.  rather than making the standard chestnut creme and chestnut paste covered cake, i decided to insert some poached pears into the equation.  i thought it added a nice fruity punch that lightened the rich, nutty taste of the traditional mont blanc.

Poached Pear Mont Blanc Cake
(makes 1 nine-inch cake)

Another multi-step process.  Here’s what you need:

To assemble:

  1. Carefully cut génoise cake into two even layers.
  2. Using a pastry brush, dampen the inside surface of the cake layers with the pear poaching liquid.
  3. Spread a thin layer of chestnut cream on the bottom layer of cake, and gently place the 2nd layer on top.  [note: i’d probably make this cake in the future using only one layer. two layers of cake is really too thick.]
  4. Cut the poached pears in half.  Remove the core.  Place the pears flat side down on top of the cake, leaving a 1 inch border from the edge.
  5. Spread the remaining chestnut cream on the top of the cake and pears, making sure to leave a clean 1 inch border from the edge.
  6. Using a small piping tip or a spaghetti tip, completely cover the pears and chestnut cream with the chestnut paste. [note: if you want a thicker layer of chestnut paste, you should double the chestnut paste recipe below.  the amount in the recipe below makes enough to evenly cover the top of this cake in a single layer.]
  7. Top with a few berries or even gold foil if you’ve got it.

PH’s Génoise
(from Desserts by Pierre Herme)

Butter                          4 tbsp
Eggs                             6
Sugar                           1 cup
AP Flour                     1 1/3 cups sifted

  1. Melt the butter over a double boiler and set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer.  Then, place the mixing bowl over a double boiler.
  3. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes foamy and slightly pale.  The temperature should be between 130ºF-140ºF.  Takes about 4 minutes.
  4. Put the mixing bowl back into the stand mixer and continue to beat on high until the mixture triples in volume and you reach the ribbon stage.  The batter should be pale and smooth.
  5. Stir 2 tbsp of the mixture into the butter and set-aside.
  6. Working with a large rubber spatula, gently fold the sifted flour into the bowl.  (You may need to add the flour 2-3 times by shaking it through a strainer).  Take care not to deflate the cake too much.
  7. When the flour is almost completely folded in, at the butter mixture and gently continue to fold 2 or 3 more times.
  8. Immediately pour the batter into a floured and dusted 9-inch cake pan.
  9. Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes.
  10. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing and cooling over a rack.

Chestnut Cream
(adapted from Daniel Boulud)

Heavy Cream or Creme Fraiche                               3/4 cup
Chestnut Paste                                                             1/4 cup  (I used Clément Faugier’s spreadable chestnut paste.)

  1. If using creme fraiche, you can just put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and beat until you get stiff peaks.
  2. If using heavy cream, whip the heavy cream until you get soft peaks.
  3. Then add the chestnut paste.  Continue to whip until you get stiff peaks.

Chestnut Paste
(adapted from Daniel Boulud)

Chestnut Puree                                                           3/4 cup
Chestnut Paste                                                           1/2 cup (I used Clément Faugier’s spreadable chestnut paste.)
Rum                                                                               2 tbsp
Vanilla                                                                          1/2 tsp

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor.  Puree until smooth. You really want to make sure there are no lumps, otherwise it won’t come out of the piping tip properly.

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.