Really, I have to call it simply, "Pear Tart."
Because what it really is just doesn't make for a good name; wine-poached-pears-stuffed-with-almond-praline-atop-a-marzipan-yoghurt-custard-tart just doesn’t flow off your tongue, does it?
How did this happen? This is what comes from having a day off (not planning to cook) and deciding to clean out the fridge and cupboards.
Yoghurt. How long has that been in there? When did Lisa and Charlie visit...? We got it for them… It still smells good…
Marzipan. Bought it last Christmas to make cocoa-marzipan balls. That didn't happen. Now the tube of marzipan feels more like a billy club - so hard I could use it to tenderize meat. While it is probably past its expiration date (I didn’t look, but assume because of its hardness), I was confident that it wasn't "bad" or dangerous to eat. Well, it might be dangerous to your teeth....
Six tiny pears from last week's farmers market. I had to do something with them. Pears don't last forever, and these were beginning to get spots.
A jar of much loved and coveted almond praline made by Joël Durand in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a birthday gift from my favorite Modern Trobadors. I wasn't needing to clear this one out, but it did give me an idea. This is how my mind works:
Core the pears (partially, leaving the stems intact). Poach them. Drain, cool, and stuff them with almond praline. Brilliant. But, then what?
Ooh. A tart. A custard tart. No cream in the house. Yoghurt... of course! Wait ... can you use yoghurt to make a custard? Will it curdle? I guess we will find out.
Grind some almonds to mix with the yoghurt and... (insert epiphany here!) ... No, grate the marzipan billy club to use in the custard. Add eggs, some sugar, a touch of vanilla, fill a pastry crust, pop the stuffed pears on top, bake, glaze pears with marmalade, and, voilà, dessert.
The last two pieces of this one got tested by colleagues Lisa and Chris. Both gave it two thumbs up. Chris, in a moment of "look what I have!" sent a cell phone shot to his wife, who was home taking care of their two toddlers. Etiquette fail, Chris.
While I think everyone should have a jar of almond praline in their fridge, I am afraid the world is an unfair place. The good news is that stuffing the pears with some thick raspberry or blackberry jam is an unbelievably good substitute. Or simply make a fruit and nut purée.
That is the beauty of making things up. The fantasy can keep going, because you can't always have the perfect ingredients on hand. Use fresh marzipan to make this, or ground almonds mixed with butter and sugar. You can use cream in the custard. You don't have to stuff the pears - in fact, you can just top it with pear or peach slices or fresh raspberries after you bake it.
Go wild! Make it your own! Have some fun in that kitchen on your day off!
6 small Seckel pears, peeled
1 750ml bottle sweet white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Partially core pears leaving the stem end in tact.
Place wine, sugar, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Fill the wine bottle with water and add it to the saucepan. Add pears, bring to a boil, reduce heat and poach until pears are tender. This will depend on the ripeness of your pears - from 20-45 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
Place the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and, using the steel blade, use once to combine. Add butter in 8 pieces, and pulse 10 times. Place egg yolk into a 1/4-cup measure, break it up with a fork, and then fill the rest of the measure with ice water. Sprinkle this atop the flour and butter, then process until a ball of dough forms around the blade. (You don't need to clean the processor for the next step)
Roll dough into an 11-inch round and use it to line a 9-inch tart pan (with removable bottom). Trim the edges and chill till ready to fill.
7 ounces marzipan
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Greek (or Greek-style yogurt)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Using the coarse holes on a box grater, grate the marzipan into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade (same one used to make the crust). Then add the 3 tablespoons flour and sugar and process until the mixture resembles sand. Add yogurt, eggs, and vanilla, and process until smooth. Set aside.
3 tablespoons almond praline or other filling of choice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stuff a heaping teaspoon of praline into the cavity of each pear. Set stuffed pears aside on their sides so that the stuffing doesn’t ooze out.
Remove crust from the refrigerator, and pour filling into crust. Arrange pears, bottom-side down, evenly around the tart in a circle.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
Melt the two tablespoons of marmalade in a small saucepan. While the tart is still very hot, using a pastry brush, brush the pears with melted marmalade being careful not to get it on the custard.
Allow to cool completely before serving.
Serves 6-8 (if 8, not everyone will get a whole pear!)