Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pear Custard Tart

Pears and almonds taste wonderful together and whilst I often make pear frangipane tarts, I wanted to make something a little different this time. I had a couple of boxes of amaretti leftover after Christmas and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to exploit their wonderful, intensely almond flavour. Initially, I was going to make a set pear cheesecake using crumbled amaretti for the base of the cheesecake; but then I decided to be a little bit more adventurous and make a pear custard tart into which I would crumble some of the amaretti. My brother had recently given me a gift of a bottle of Poires William – a wonderful pear flavoured liqueur and I felt that a generous splash of this in the custard would be delicious and would further accentuate the pear elements of this dessert.

I know that I have recently posted quite a few tart recipes, but this is because I love the fact that they can be prepared beforehand and served up when required. I am equally fond of both sweet and savoury tarts and find that using basic cooking skills and techniques; they can be easily adapted to include a range of ingredients that you may have hanging around in the fridge or at the back of the kitchen cupboard.

This tart is really tasty and looks so elegant – I was delighted with how it turned out. Despite being pre-soaked with the pear liqueur, they retain some of their crunch, which adds a pleasing contrast to the soft creaminess of the tart as whole. For this reason, it is important that you use the hard and not the soft type of amaretti.
I have not sweetened the custard as the pears were poached in a sugar syrup and I felt that this added enough sweetness. At a very fundamental level, I wanted the focus of this tart to be on the pears, and everything else to complement and not distract from their wonderful taste. It also occurred to me that a few hard gingernut biscuits might also work very well in place of the amaretti.

Ingredients:

Pastry:
175g plain flour
50g icing sugar
100g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tblsp cold water
To poach the pears:
3 pears, peeled, halved and cored
75g caster sugar
150ml water
Filling:
75g amaretti biscuits (the hard type)
2 tblsp Poires William
175ml double cream
2 large eggs
A little icing sugar for dusting the finished tart
 

Method:

Make pastry:
1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. And the diced butter and using your fingertips, rub into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and water and mix using a fork until everything comes together. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
To blind-bake the pastry:
3. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5.
4. Roll out the pastry thinly on a lightly floured work-surface. Use to line a 20cm round x 4cm high tart tin with removable base. Prick the pastry several times with a fork. Place some non-stick baking parchment on the pastry and then fill with baking beans. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, removing the parchment and the baking beans for the final five minutes until the pastry is cooked and a light golden brown colour.
5. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To poach the pears:
6. Place the pears in a small saucepan with the water and sugar. Bring up to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer gently until the pears are just poached – this should take 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.
To finish the tart:
7. Place the amaretti in a bowl and sprinkle over the Poires William. Separately whisk together the cream and eggs and pour on top of the soaking amaretti.
8. Drain the pears and arrange neatly, cut-side down on the base of the tart case. Gently pour over the amaretti custard filling and bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 45 minutes until firm and set.
9. Remove from oven when cooked and allow to cool still slightly warm, dusted with a little icing sugar.

Serves 6-8.