3 medium pears, firm but ripe
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg
2 teaspoons coconut rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 partially-baked 9-inch tart shell, made with Sweet Tart Dough (see below), at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, or apple jelly for glazing
- Make the sweet dough recipe below first!
- Peel pears, but leave them whole.
- Bring the 4 cups water, the 1 1/4 cups sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears.
- Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
- Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup.
- Cream the butter and sugar in the food processor until the mixture is smooth and satiny.
- Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.
- Add the flour and cornstarch, process, and then add the egg. Process until almond cream is smooth and consistent.
- Add the rum and vanilla and process just to blend.
- Place the almond cream in a container and refrigerate it until firm.
- Center rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a jelly roll pan with a silicone mat.
- Cut the pears in half from blossom to stem and core them; make sure to pat the pears dry – really dry – so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from baking.
- Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with a spatula.
- Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly and place it, wide-end toward the edge of the crust, over the almond cream. The halves will form spokes.
- Put the crust on the lined baking sheet.
- Bake the tart 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns.
- Transfer the tart to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before unmolding.
SWEET TART DOUGH
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup sweet flaked toasted coconut
To make the dough:
- Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
- Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine.
- Beat the egg slightly, and gradually add it, pulsing after each addition.
- When all of the egg has been added, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
- Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
- Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
- Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.