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.

Crust: No matter which recipe you use, I prefer to use whole spelt flour instead of whole wheat because of spelt’s nutty flavor. Spelt is sweeter than wheat, so I don’t add the sweetener, but its up to you.

My preferred option (I you don’t want to do a presoak) is Pâté Brisée (Short or Crumb Crust, which is easier than Pâté Sucrée (French Rich Short Crust) to work with (the original recipe uses Sucrée).  They are very similar, but Sucrée includes egg and 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.

Instead of the above option, I prefer my 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, like a graham cookie crust.

Another option is to use sprouted grain flour, but I’ve not tested that yet.

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’ve made the large, quick-pan size tarte many times before I started this blog. I’ve since recorded testing for both pan sizes; see below the recipe.

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 (Pre-soak) for one-crust pie in 10″ quiche pan, sweetened with 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar or 1/16 tsp stevia extract powder (optional). I prefer spelt instead of wheat flour.
    • Pears:
    • 4 – 6 pears, halved or quartered (if large)
    • 1 ½ cups filtered water
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
    • Custard:*
    • 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 or tapioca starch **
    • Equipment
    • 3 quart saucier or saucepan
    • small saucepan
    • whisk
    • 10″ pie pan
    • cooling rack
  • 7.5″ ceramic or 8″ Pyrex pie pan; or 6″ x 8″ Pyrex storage 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; Nov 2019 testing of 6″ x 8″pan used 2 large and 1 medium pear, but could have used just 2 large or 2 ½ medium pears – it is pretty crowded; 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 or tapioca starch **
    • Equipment
    • large saucepan, for simmering 2 – 4 pears
    • small saucepan, for warming milk
    • whisk or immersion blender
    • 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.

‘** If using quiche pan and plan to have extra custard and pear for a small bowl of custard, use additional 2 Tbsp milk, ½ tsp flour/tapioca starch, and tiny pinch stevia. 9/30/19 test had a weird texture in the custard cup that wasn’t in the tart, so that could be from the tapioca starch. May not want to use it in future.

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 (or quarters if large) and place in saucier containing water and lemon juice.
    • I find it helps to arrange the pears on the raw pastry in the pie/quiche pan to see if you need more or if there will be some left-over.
    • If there is some left-over, and you want to use that for a small custard cup, you can cook it with the rest of the pears, rather than cooking it separately (as in step 7a below).
  3. Transfer the prepped pears to the cooking water/lemon juice.
    • If have extra pear, transfer it to buttered custard cup.
  4. Simmer 15 – 20 minutes.  Add honey and simmer 5 – 10 minutes more; remove pears to plate; cool.
  5. Reduce syrup in saucier until thick, 10-15 min at a simmer.  Set aside to use after baking the tart (step 7 below).
  6. Custard: Warm milk and sugar (if using – I use stevia mixed with yolks) 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.
  7. Whisk warmed milk into the yolk/flour mix, 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).  This doesn’t mix well with a hand whisk – little clumps of the egg/flour mix remain; I recommend using an immersion blender.
    1. NOTE: if have left-over custard, you can use it for a pear custard cup. Use half (or less) of a small pear and simmer in ¼ cup water (or a bit more) with 2-3 drops lemon juice and a half-tsp of the thickened syrup added (instead of honey/sugar), about 10-15 minutes, ’til tender. Remove pear and allow to cool; simmer the liquids until thick and add to rest of the reserved syrup. Add cooled pear to buttered custard cup, pour left-over custard over. Set cup in a small pan with water half-way up the outside of the cup. Place in oven about 15 minutes before tarte is done, to bake until done.
  8. Tarte: Arrange pears, cut-side down, in attractive design on top of the crust.  Pour custard over.
  9. 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; see also 6″ x 8″ pyrex pan, below (they are about the same size, ingredient-wise)

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.

Testing 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: Had 7 large pears and 1 much smaller and very ripe pear, so decided to use the larger ones for tarte in 10″ quiche pan, and small one for tart in my small Pyrex baking pan.  Crust: Used Bob’s Red Mill brand whole wheat pastry flour (instead of regular whole wheat). Saved part of the crust for the small tart. Pears: To the cooking water mix, I added 1¼ cup water, 3 drops lemon juice and 1 tsp honey to accommodate the small tart.  Arranged over crust in the 2 pans. Custard (for both tarts), 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 pre-heated 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. Removed quiche pan 5 minutes later (total 40 min for quiche pan). 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.

9/29-30/19: Crust: Made as written using whole wheat and unbleached white flour, 1 1/2 Tbsp whole-milk yogurt, and total of 2½ Tbsp water with, to make dough form a ball. Wrapped in waxed paper and covered bowl with towel to rest on kitchen counter overnight (at 9 PM). Pressed into 10″ ceramic quiche pan. Pears: 9/30: Used 2 medium-large, and one small pear; had to cut off some at the small end and some at the sides of the large end to get them to fit. I’ll put the side-slices in-between each pair half. Simmered with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and water; removed pears and simmered liquids about 15 min, to thicken. Took break for lunch Custard: Used 2 med eggs for yolks, and a bit of the whites, stevia extract powder (mixed with egg yolk), and tapioca starch instead of flour. Pear custard cup: Have enough leftover custard for a small cup, and prepped a very small pear in ¼ cup water with 3 drops lemon juice and a bit of the thickened syrup from original pears; simmered for 10 – 15 minutes; transferred half-pear to custard cup, poured leftover custard over; placed custard cup into pan with water half-way up and set aside (to be baked later. Bake: Into 400° oven at 4:30 PM. Added custard cup (in pan of water) at 5 PM; checked both for doneness at 5:10 PM. Tarte almost done; cup needs another 10-15 min. Removed tart at 5:20 PM; custard cup not yet done; decreased oven to 350°. Removed cup at 5:30, but left it in the pan of water, covered; also poured syrup over tart Result: Tarte is delicious, but somehow the crust got wet (but is still good, just not as fall-apart tender) – perhaps from putting the silicon lid over the quiche pan while it was still slightly warm. Custard cup had a weird texture, not sure why but perhaps because of the tapioca starch. Next time I’ll use white flour for the custard cup (tarte doesn’t have that weird texture).  Oct 2019 testing note: Tarte in quiche pan did not get wet this time, perhaps because I cooked the syrup longer so it was thicker (less moist); for custard cup, used white flour instead of tapioca starch for the custard cup; that worked much better.

Testing 6″ x 8″ Rectangular Pan size

11/10-11/19: Wanted to use up the last of my Bartlett pears (from my tree); they were starting to turn brown in spots so after cutting those away, there was not enough pear for my 10″ quiche pan. So I decided to use my 6 x 8 rectangular Pyrex pan with a red lid for storage. I basically used the ingredient amounts for my 7½” – 8″ ceramic pie pan, to prepare the yogurt crust and tarte filling. 11/10: Prepped the crust dough, covered to let rest on counter overnight. Used 3 pears but into quarters, lengthwise, but had to compost equivalent of ½ pear. Simmered in water, juice of fresh half-lemon and little more than 2 Tbsp raw local honey for total of 25 minutes. Removed pears to a glass storage container to cool, and continued to simmer the liquids until thickened for the sauce, about 15 min. Next day (11/11): Pressed crust into 6×8 pan; arranged pear pieces on top. Prepared pears, using:  2 large and 1 ½ medium pears, quartered, 1 cup water, juice of ½ fresh lemon, and 2½ tsp raw local honey. Prepped custard using: ¾ cup whole raw milk, warmed; 2 small egg yolks plus a bit of white to completely mix ¼ tsp stevia powder and 1½ Tbsp unbleached white flour into the yolks. Poured over pears, but sides of crust were not high enough to fully contain enough custard to mostly cover pears, so removed enough pear to keep it from overflowing, about ½ pear (and placed in custard cup). Poured remaining custard over extra pear in custard cup and placed custard cup in a small baking pan with a bit of water. I’ve updated the Yogurt Pie Crust II recipe for this pan size to include a bit more flour and butter. Baked: Placed tarte and custard cup in preheated 400° oven at about 10:50 AM, and set timer for 30 min. Custard cup is done but left tarte in oven another 10 min; out at 40 min total. Result: Custard cup is just right, tho I probably cooked it 5 min too long. Crust is great – didn’t get wet. The largest pear had the texture of an uncooked pear; smaller pears were softer. But still delicious! 

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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