Tarte Aux Poires

Tarte aux Poires

Tarte aux Poires

by Cat, May 2009 (Photo and tart by Cat)

Tarte aux Poires is made from peeled pears simmered in sugar-water, then arranged on a crumb crust, covered with a rich custard, and topped with the sugar-water. This was the first tart I learned to make, right after I got my quiche pan. It has become one of my signature desserts, and was often requested when I had friends to dinner or to a party in Portland. Especially after I bought my house in Portland, because it had a wonderful pear tree in the back yard. And now I have a pear tree in my Montana yard too.

Over the years, this tart has become too sweet for my taste; I cut way back on added sweetener.

Tarte aux Poires (Pear Tart)

This wonderful recipe is adapted from the Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas (1); see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book.  I’ve modified it to use stevia and honey instead of sugar, and also reduced the total amount of sweetener from the equivalent of 1 cup sugar, to ½ – ¾ cup sugar (generally, I use a ½ cup sugar equivalence), because the original was too sweet; however, it does depend on the sweetness of the pears.  If your pears are quite ripe and sweet, cut down on the sweetener added to the milk.  I prefer to use ‘just-ripe’ pears (slightly crisp), because they hold their shape better when peeling, coring, cutting and simmering.

The original recipe uses Pastry Sucrée (French Rich Short Crust) instead of Pastry Brisée (Short or Crumb Crust).  They are very similar, but the former uses egg instead of water in the crust, and includes a bit of sugar; or you could use Pasta Frolla (Italian Rich Short Crust), which is very similar to Sucrée. Or, if you avoid grains or gluten, try my Almond Meal & Coconut Flour Pie Crust. All of these options are pressed into the pan, rather than rolled.

I prefer the Brisée, as it is easier to work with.  And I prefer to use whole spelt flour instead of whole wheat, because of spelt’s nutty flavor.  Because spelt is sweeter than wheat, I don’t add the sweetener.  But, it’s up to you.

Since writing the above, I’ve switched to using Yogurt Pie Crust II, which is a pre-soak recipe that can be rolled or pressed into a pan (I pressed it into the pan for the tarte shown in the photo above). I use mostly whole spelt flour but also a bit of unbleached white spelt. It’s not as tender and flaky as pastry brisée, but it crumbles nicely in the mouth and is slightly sweet and nutty.

Fine Cooking (2) has an interesting twist for a pear tart using a hazelnut filling. See below for making this version.

Note about texting: I’m made the large, quick-pan size tarte many times before I started this blog. The only version for which I have recorded the testing is for the more recently-made small size (in my 7 1/2″ cream pie pan

Two sizes are presented: 10″ quiche pan, or 7.5″- 8″ pie pan.

Ingredients & Equipment for 2 different pan sizes

I don’t recommend using stevia to sweeten the cooking water for pears, as it will not thicken when cooked down to make a syrup. However, stevia is my preference for the custard.

  • 10″ Quiche Pan
    • Crust: Pastry Brisée or Yogurt Pie Crust II for one-crust pie in 10″ quiche pan, sweetened with 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar or 1/16 tsp stevia extract powder (optional)
    • Tarte filling:
    • 4 – 6 pears
    • 1 ½ cups filtered water
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
    • 1 cup whole, fresh milk
    • ¼ – ½ tsp stevia (or ½ – ¾ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar)
    • 2 farm-fresh egg yolks, beaten (from large eggs, or if small, use whole egg)
    • 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
    • Equipment
    • 3 quart saucier or saucepan
    • small saucepan
    • whisk
    • 10″ pie pan
    • cooling rack
  • 7.5″ ceramic or 8″ Pyrex pie pan
    • Crust: Pastry Brisée or Yogurt Pie Crust II for one-crust 7..5″ pie, sweetened with 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar or 1/16 tsp stevia extract powder (optional)
    • Pears:
    • 2 – 4 pears; but trim off part of the small end if needed to avoid crossing the center of the pan (My Oct 2016 testing used 2 medium pears in 8″ pan; see testing, below)
    • 1 ¼ cups filtered water
    • juice of 1 small or ½ large lemon
    • 2 – 3 tsp honey or maple syrup, or Rapadura sugar
    • Custard:*
    • ¾ cup whole, fresh milk
    • ¼  tsp stevia extract powder (or ⅓ – ½  cup Rapadura or white cane sugar)
    • 3 small or 2 medium-to-large farm-fresh egg yolks, beaten (or 2 small whole eggs)
    • 1½ Tbsp unbleached white flour
    • Equipment
    • large saucepan, for simmering 2 – 4 pears
    • small saucepan, for warming milk
    • whisk
    • 7 ½” – 8″ pie pan
    • cooling rack

‘*NOTE: Amount of custard needed depends on size of pears; use any leftover custard in a buttered custard cup with extra bit of pear. Place custard cup in small baking dish with water half-way up side of custard cup, and bake during last 20 minutes of tarte baking time.

Method, both sizes

  1. Prepare pastry; roll and fit into pie shell. Or press yogurt-spelt crust into quiche pan.
  2. Prepare Pears: Peel and core pears.  Slice in half lengthwise and place in saucier containing water and lemon juice.  Simmer 15 – 20 minutes.  Add honey and simmer 5 – 10 minutes more; remove pears to plate; cool.
  3. Reduce syrup in saucier until thick.  Set aside.
  4. Custard: Warm milk and sugar (if using) in small saucepan.  Beat yolks with flour and stevia (if using); if too thick to mix thoroughly, add some of the egg white until it softens and mixes well.
  5. Whisk warmed milk into the yolk/flour mis, about ¼ cup at a time, to ensure the mix is not clumpy (this is a change from my original version, which stirred the yolk mix into the milk)
  6. Tarte: Arrange pears, cut-side down, in attractive design on top of the crust.  Pour custard over.
  7. Bake at 400° F for 40 minutes (30 – 35 min for smaller version). Remove and allow to cool a bit, then pour syrup over the pears.

Testing  

Small-size (7.5″ – 8″) pan

10/4/16: Although I’ve made this in my 10″ quiche pan many times, I decided to make a smaller version in my 7.5″ ceramic pan. So I guessed at ingredient amounts for the crust and filling. The Yogurt-II crust made enough for my 8″ pyrex pan, so I made that size instead, which was a good thing, because my pears were too long for the smaller pan. Pears: I used 2 pears and had to cut a bit off the small end to fit them in the pan (then put those small pieces in between the halves). The cooking water with 1 Tbsp Rapadura did not thicken much when I cooked it down, but had nice caramel color. Custard: Used ¾ cup whole milk, 1 small whole egg and 1 medium egg yolk, and ¼  tsp stevia mixed with 1½ Tbsp white flour. Made more than the pan full of pears could hold, so put large end of 1½ pear in a buttered custard cup, then poured the left-over custard over. Placed in a pan of water to bake during last 20 minutes of baking time for taste. Small custard needed an additional 7 minutes in oven after I removed the tarte. Total baking time: 35 min for tarte; 27 min for small custard;  Recipe note: Since amount of custard depends on size of pears, I’ve not adjusted custard amounts in recipe, but added note to use leftover custard in a buttered custard cup with extra bit of pear. Result: First I tested the custard cup: delicious and reminds me of clafoutis, and I didn’t really miss the crust. I didn’t pour any of the syrup on the custard cup, and didn’t miss that either. Next I tested the tarte: Excellent, just as always. Crust is tender; custard is lightly sweet, perfect so it won’t overwhelm the natural sweetness of the pears.

10″ Quiche Pan size

10/2/18: Although I’ve made the 10″ version many times before starting this blog, it has been a few years since the last time because I’ve been on a keto dietary plan, so I decided to record this test. First I prepped 5 large, ripe, Bartlett pears (from my tree) in 1 ½ cups water and juice of 1 lemon, simmering 2015 min before adding 2 Tbsp local honey for another 5 in of simmer. Into fridge overnight. Will boil down syrup next day, while tarte bakes. Then prepared 10 presoak crust as written, using whole wheat flour. Next day: pressed crust into quiche pan, and arranged pears over. Custard: warmed scant 1 cup milk; beat 2 small-medium yolks with ¼ tsp stevia and 2 Tsp flour; very thick mix – probably should have added a third yolk or some of the whites, but didn’t. Had to use immersion blender to get the flour mix to break up in the warmed milk. Poured custard over pears; just enough left to fill a custard cup with ½ leftover pear. Baked 20 min at 400° F; added custard cup (set in water) and baked 20 min more; tarte tested done so removed to cool, but custard cup needed another 5 min. Syrup: simmered about 35 min, then let cool a bit before pouring over tarte and custard cup. Result: Tasted custard cup – delicious but custard is clumpy. Tasted the tart (next day): very good; clumpy custard not noticeable. Next Time: use larger eggs (or if small, add a 3rd yolk or include some of the whites).

10/12/18: Made as before except for custard and adding a small extra pear. Crust: Usually I use regular whole wheat flour but I bought some Bob’s Red Mill brand whole wheat pastry flour to use. Otherwise as written but saved part of the crust for a small tart using my small, round Pyrex baking pan for the extra pear (instead of a custard cup). Pears: Cooked 6 pears, halved as written. Then realized I had missed a small very-ripe small pear, so  cooked it in 1¼ cup water with 3 drops lemon juice and 1 tsp honey, then added the reduced syrup to that for the 6 pears. Custard (to fill quiche pan and smaller pan), increased milk to 1 cup + 2 Tbsp, used 2 medium egg yolks plus a bit of the whites, enough to mix better with 2 Tbsp plus ½ tsp flour and ¼ tsp stevia. Added a bit of warmed milk and mixed, adding more warmed milk a couple times until the flour was well mixed into the liquids. Added rest of milk and mixed again, then poured over the pears in the two pans. Bake: Into 400° F oven at 11:30. Set timer for 35 min (instead of 40) to test the smaller pan; it is done so I removed it to cool. Set timer for another 5 minutes (about 42 min total) to test the quiche pan. It was done so removed it to cool. After both had cooled about 10 minutes, I poured the reduced pear syrup over both. Result: First, it is not clumpy; I attribute this to mixing the milk into the egg/flour mix a little at a time, rather than the other way around, and also to adding a bit of the egg white to the yolks for more liquid, since one of the eggs is smaller than the other. I updated the recipe method with this info. Crust is thinner because I used part of it for the smaller tarte. This is delicious. I kinda miss the thicker crust, but the custard is much creamier and the taste fabulous.

Pear-Hazelnut Tart Variation

This variation is adapted from Fine Cooking.com’s (2) interesting twist using a hazelnut filling. You can make it in a rectangular pan, first spreading the filling over the crust, then arranging sliced pears in a “shingled crosswise pattern over the filling, alternating directions with each row,” or make it in a quiche pan as above and arrange the sliced pears in rows like spokes of a wheel. You don’t pre-cook the pears in this version, and you don’t add custard.

The original uses puff pastry, but I’m so enamored with my yogurt spelt crust, that I use that.

I’ve not yet tested this variation.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Crust: 
  • Pastry Brisée or Yogurt Pie Crust II for one-crust pie, sweetened with 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar or 1/16 tsp stevia extract powder (optional)
  • Hazelnut filling
  • 2 oz hazelnuts (filberts), preferably pre-soaked, then toasted and skinned
  • ¼ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar; OR ⅛ stevia extract powder plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 farm-fresh egg, room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted real butter, softened
  • ½ tsp real vanilla extract
  • To finish the tart
  • 2 or more pears
  • 2 tsp Rapadura sugar
  • ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Equipment
  • 10″ pie pan or quiche pan
  • food processor
  • cooling rack

Method:

  1. Prepare pastry; roll and fit (or press without rolling) into pie shell.
  2. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  3. Peel, core and halve pears; immerse halves in large bowl of water with 1 Tbsp lemon juice to keep them from browning.
  4. Pulse nuts in food processor until coarsely chopped. Add sugar (or stevia plus sugar) and pulse until finely chopped. Add egg, butter and vanilla, and process until creamy.
  5. Spread nut mixture evenly over crust, up to the edges.
  6. Remove pear halves from lemon-water one at a time and slice them crosswise, ¼” thick. Carefully transfer slices together to tart so that small end of pear is toward center, and big end is toward edge, like a spoke. Using your hand, push the slices to tilt toward the edge so that they overlap each other, like shingles.
  7. Combine cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle over fruit.
  8. Bake tart until fruit is tender, about 20 – 25 minutes.

References:

  1. Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas; see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book
  2. Fine Cooking.com (finecooking.com/recipes/pear-hazelnut-tart-puff-pastry-crust.aspx)

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