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Ask a Foodie: What Are the Best Pears to Bake With?

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Choose a firm pear for this tart recipe.

Q. I want to make a pear tart, but what are the best pears to bake with? —Matt A. Choose a firm-fleshed pear, such as Anjou or Bosc, as opposed to Comice or Bartlett, which can become too soft in the baking process and turn to mush. Here's a recipe from Martha Stewart's "New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites" (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $24.99), which calls for poached pears and incorporates almonds to great effect. Poached Pear and Almond Tart Vanilla Poached Pears: 1 cup dry white wine 2 cups water 1/4 cup honey 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped 5 ripe firm pears For the crust: 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted  butter melted and cooled, for pan 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds 3 tablespoons sugar, divided use 1 cup flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon almond extract For the filling: 3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour or very finely ground blanched almonds 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk Vanilla Poached Pears For the pears: Bring wine, water, honey and vanilla bean seeds and pod to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut a round of parchment the same diameter as the saucepan. Peel pears and halve lengthwise. Use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop out cores, seeds and stems. Trim fibrous strip from center with a paring knife. Gently lower pears into pot. Place parchment round directly on pears to keep them submerged (this will keep them from turning brown). Cook until a paring knife slides easily into pears, meeting slight resistance, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool in liquid 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a large bowl; cover with cooking liquid and let cool completely. Pears can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days. For the crust: brush 1 tablespoon melted butter into bottom and up sides of an 11-by-8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pulse whole almonds and 1 tablespoon sugar in food processor until almonds are finely ground. Add remaining 1/2 cup butter, and process until combined. Add flour, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and almond extract. Pulse until combined. Press dough evenly into bottom and up sides of pan. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. To make the filling: Spread sliced almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast in oven, tossing occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, salt, flour, almond flour and baking powder. Whisk in eggs and yolk, butter and milk until well combined. Pour filling into crust. Blot each pear halve lightly with paper towels to remove excess syrup. Arrange halves, cut sides down, over filling, packing fruit closely together (3 rows of 3 pears; reserve remaining half for another use). Sprinkle tops of pears with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle toasted almonds over tart between the pears. Transfer tart to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is puffed and golden brown, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Unmold just before serving. Makes 1 (11-by-8-inch) tart. From "New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites" by Martha Stewart        
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One Response to “Ask a Foodie: What Are the Best Pears to Bake With?”

  1. Meredith says:

    I like the wine in the poaching, havent tried that but will be doing it tomorrow with a similar recipe. I made a french style pear almond tart with Texas grown Monterrey pears– which someone gave me a couple bags of in August. They were fabulous– creamy but didnt fall apart in poaching. I wish they were more readily available in stores, as they are easy to grow. Here is the recipe:

    http://tspsa.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/right-under-our-noses/

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