Gingery Custard Pear Tart

A recipe initially published in the October 2012 issue of Food-Shed Magazine.

Pears start to ripen in my area in August (apples in July), but I really don’t start to pay attention to them until after the stone fruit of summer are gone.

Almond and pears in custard – that’s a most classic flavor combination.  Add ginger for a little twist, actually a double twist with the double layer of ginger flavor: the pears are poached with fresh ginger and then candied ginger is added to the custard.

Make sure your pears are perfectly ripe: overripe pears are mealy, underripe pears bland and sometime astringent. Pears are generally sold underripe (most European pears ripen off the tree): keep them at room temperature to ripen them. They are ready to eat or cook when the area immediately around the stem yields slightly under the pressure from your fingers. If the whole pear is soft, it’s likely too gone, with the inside rotten. Once ripe, refrigerate and eat within a couple of days.

A tart pan with a removable bottom unmolds easily. And yes, it makes all the difference in the world, to bake the shell blind and let it cool thoroughly before adding the filling. An

Gingery Custard Pear Tart

Yields a 9″ Round or Square Tart, Serving 8-10

For the tart shell:

200 grams all-purpose flour (7 ounces – 1 2/5 to 1 2/3 cup, depending how the flour is measured)
1 tablespoon almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
125 grams cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces (4.5 oz = 9 tablespoons)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon ice-water (more or less as needed)

For the filling:

2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar, preferably raw
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup finely ground almond (aka almond meal or almond flour) — see note
1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
8 poached large pear halves (more if using small pears) – recipe follows
2 tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (preferably raw or turbinado)

Make the tart shell the day before. It should be cool before you fill it.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, and sugar. Rub butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until the dough resembles rough corn meal with a few pea- or hazelnut-size pieces. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the egg and lemon juice, and incorporate into the dough first using your fingertips, then your hands until the dough comes together. Sprinkle with ice water if needed. Knead briefly (about 30 seconds). Shape into a ball, and refrigerate in a tightly closed container or plastic bag for 1 hour.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkling more flour on top. Transfer to a tart pan. Trim the shell and crimp the edges. Refrigerate or freeze for 1 hour until firm. (You may refrigerate the shell up to 12 hours, or freeze it tightly wrapped for up to 3 months. No need to thaw before using).

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line the inside of the shell with foil or parchment paper and weight them down with pie weight, making sure there are weights against the sides too. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weight and the foil. Lower heat to 350F and bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before adding the filling – at least a couple of hours. The shell may be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours.

Assemble and bake the tart:

Preheat oven to 400F

Whisk eggs and sugar until well blended. Whisk in half & half and ground almonds.

Pour about a cup of the custard in the tart shell. Scatter the candied ginger. Arrange the pears halves in a pleasing pattern. Add the remaining custard until the tart is full. Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the edges and the sugar on the pears.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the custard starts to brown and puffs slightly.
Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. This tart is good, warm, room-temperature or cold, but is easier to unmold when cooled.

Serve as-is or with freshly whipped cream (maybe flavored with a splash of ginger syrup?).

Note: if you are unable to find almond flour, grind whole or slivered almonds in the food processor with 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar. Adjust sugar quantities accordingly in the custard.

Poached Pears

2 cups water
2 cups white wine
1 cup sugar
½ ounce sliced ginger root
½ vanilla bean, split open lengthwise (optional)
4 large or 8 small perfectly ripe pears

In a large non-reactive thick-bottom pan, bring water, sugar, ginger, and vanilla bean to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat off.

Peel, halve and core the pears. As you prepare them, slide the pears in the hot poaching syrup, round side down. When all the pears are in, turn the heat back on, and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until pears are cooked through and easily pierced, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears. Keep them submersed while cooking to avoid discoloration.

Remove from heat. Let pears cool in liquid. Pears in their liquid can hold in the fridge for up to a week. Remove from liquid and drain shortly before using.

The poaching liquid can be re-used several times (keep refrigerated, add liquid as needed). Or you may reduce to syrup to flavor a cocktail, drizzle on yogurt, toss with a fruit salad or glaze a roast (or a fruit tart). It should keep a month in the fridge.

Locavore Log: pears, eggs, butter, half & half, wine

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