Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pear-Almond Tart

I bet a lot of you are recovered from any Easter celebrations by now. If so, you will want to try this excellent pear tart that I made for Easter. I, on the other hand, am in recovery from a weekend of delicious meals at my favorite Boston restaurants. Here's some of the things Mike and I ate over our anniversary celebration weekend:

- Shabu shabu plus skewered hardboiled quail eggs wrapped in pork belly
- Fried New England-style clams with a side of steamed broccoli (it's all about balance)
- The gorgeous antipasto platter plus a great carbonara at my favorite Italian restaurant
- The best pad Thai and Drunken Noodle
- Exquisitely delicious and creative Mediterranean Middle Eastern food here
- Shanghai-style dim sum
- Tapas

It was a long weekend, okay. And it wasn't actually gluttonous. We don't order too much when we go out, and we do tons of walking and jogging along the Charles. The worst thing about the weekend, nutrition wise, was probably the coffee and donuts from where else that we ate for breakfast more than once.

So, I'm taking it easy this week with my oatmeal for breakfast, tuna sandwiches for lunch and healthy dinners, heavy on the vegetables. If the air-conditioning in the building had not gone unexpectedly down today, I would be making soup. But with the moist 80 degree indoor temperature, I'm craving something light and really spicy...hmmm.

Despite my healthy resolve, I have no trouble talking about how good this pear and almond tart is. From my beloved Gourmet, a magazine that really appreciates the food art form known as the tart, this one is both beautiful and delicious. The key is a custard made with pear brandy, or what's apparently known in the Alsace region of France as eau-de-vie.

Just 2 1/2 tablespoons of brandy may not seem significant, but you really can taste it. It sets the tart apart and complements the low level of sweetness with a more complex, mature flavor. It is the kind of thing you would want after an elaborate meal because it's so light and worthy of the indulgence.

The recipe appealed to me because of this lightness and because we always have Belle de Brillet, a gorgeous pear cognac, in our liquor cabinet. We discovered it in a cocktail called the Naughty Au'Pear served at a great lounge in Boston, now sadly closed. If you like this kind of brandy (cognac is brandy made in a specific region of France), I highly recommend it. But there are other pear brandies that may be easier to find in any well-stocked liquor store. Don't substitute a very sweet liqueur like pear schnapps, as it has less alcohol and more sugar than pear brandy. However, other potent liqueurs like Amaretto might work. If you don't want to buy pear brandy just for this, I think the best bet would be plain brandy or cognac, possibly with an extra 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.

I followed the recipe from the March Gourmet with one (sort of) big change: I substituted reduced fat sour cream for "2/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream." I wasn't in the mood to splurge for creme fraiche, and I know that sour cream is a lot more similar to it than heavy cream. I'm right, aren't I? I'm not sure why they suggested heavy cream because my sour cream worked absolutely perfectly - and is much healthier too.

Additionally, I have a large, 11-inch tart pan, which caused me to fret that I didn't have enough dough, but it turned out okay. I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, and I reduced the butter in the pastry by one tablespoon. I guess I was already anticipating my weekend of eating out in Boston.

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Peabody said...

Sounds like you had a lot of good eats.
Your tart looks like a good eat too. :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I'm hungry just by reading about all that fantastic food, Julie!
And that tart... Well, pears and almonds together are just perfect.

Mia said...

Isn´t Oleana amazing? Also a fan of Teatro - I´ve eaten there twice, although it was quite a while ago. Glad you enjoyed Boston!

Tartelette said...

What a great weekend! We are going to celebrate 10 years in July, so I am thinking we need one of those too!
I absolutely love the almon-pear combo, wins all the time!

Julie said...

Peabody: unfortunately I had to go to boston before I could quite polish off the tart!
Patricia: Wait to you try pears and brandy:)
Mia: Totally! I emailed you...
Helen: Congrats! 10 years definitely merits a romantic getaway. Pear-almond is so French, right! I love your country:)

Mia said...

Yes, I must admit that while Boston is fun, living near the Ferry Building would be incredible....so much produce, so little winter!

creampuff said...

That's a gorgeous tart, Julie! It's making my mouth water ...

margaret from Pennsylvania said...

I am following your advice not to substitute pear schnapps for pear brandy in an indulgent white chocolate tiramisu with spiced pears from Bon Appetit. Actually, I was thinking of making my own pear brandy. Hope it turns out great!