A crumbly pâte sablée, a delicate almond cream all topped with wine-soaked pears, what could be better on a winter’s night? We’ve made use of the abundance of pears during this season and prefer the sweet softness of Anjou to bosc or Seckel which generally take longer to poach. While pâte sablée benefits from remaining slightly longer in the oven to achieve a deep brown colour, it may make it difficult to remove (in one piece) from the tin. A dollop of cream or a scoop of bourbon ice cream makes this dessert complete. Or, serve it for breakfast with coffee or tea.
1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) salted butter, chilled
1/3 cup (80 ml) icing sugar
½ teaspoon (2 ml) ground cardamom (optional)
¼ cup (60 ml) plus ½ tablespoon (7 ml) softened butter
½ cup (125 ml) icing sugar
½ cup (125 ml) almond flour
⅛ cup (30 ml) flour
3 small pears, cored and peeled
1 cup (250 ml) red wine or red grape juice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod
3 star anise pods
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the pâte sablée: On a clean work surface, rub together the cold butter and dry ingredients with fingertips.
Work the mixture between hands until the texture resembles coarse sand. Make a well in the centre and pour in beaten egg. Bring the dough toward the centre a little at a time until egg is incorporated.
Knead the dough with palm of hand until smooth. Shape into a ball wrap in parchment paper or beeswax paper and chill in refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
For the frangipane: Place the butter in an electric mixer. Beat in the sugar and almond flour a little at a time. Follow with the flour. Continue beating and add the egg. The mixture should be light. Set aside.
For the poached pears: In a large pan over high heat, combine liquid with sugar and spices. Gently stir to dissolve sugar.
Submerge pears in mixture and lower heat to a simmer. Cover pot with a lid and turn pears occasionally to ensure all sides cook evenly. Use a sharp knife to test tenderness of pears after 30 minutes. Continue cooking if still hard. Once pears have cooked, remove from liquid. Let cool and cut into slices.
Boil remaining liquid until reduced to a syrup. Remove star anise pods. Set aside syrup.
To assemble: Set oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Grease 6, 4-inch (10 cm) tart shells. Lightly flour a clean work surface, cut the pâte sablée dough into 6 equal portions and roll each. Transfer to tart shell and repeat for remaining dough. Line each with parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights, rice or flour. Blind bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove parchment paper and weights.
Fill each tart shell with ⅙ of the frangipane mixture smoothed evenly on base. Spoon ⅙ of poached pear syrup over the frangipane. Arrange a few slices of poached pear on top. Repeat for each tart shell. Return tartlets to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes or until pâte sablée browns and frangipane puffs up. Cool slightly before serving.
A thick paste of ground Madagascar vanilla beans perfect for adding oomph to baking. Replace this for a vanilla pod in recipes. Vanilla Paste, 4oz; rodellekitchen.com
Always poach fruit in a wine you’d drink! This medium bodied offering has hints of licorice and clove. 120 Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon, 750 ml; santarita.com
Also known as almond meal or ground almonds, it is great to have on hand for macarons, muffins, flourless cakes and cookies. Organic Almond Flour (Blanched), 1lb; $15.99 (USD), nuts.com
Salted butter is a boon in the kitchen and a pastry chef’s secret. It accentuates the sweetness in a more subtle manner than salt alone. Butter Demi-Salt Roll, 250g; isigny-ste-mere.com
This original article first appeared in the Winter 2021/22 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.
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