My sister is a remarkable artist who attended the Rhode Island School of Design for college. Why is that relevant to this blog? Well, it’s because Providence, where RISD is located, has an amazing food scene. As such, I was introduced to a lot of great food every time I visited her there.
I was in high school when she left for RISD, and at that point my favorite TV station was Food Network. When Scialo Brothers Bakery (a Providence tradition) was featured on one of its shows, I made sure to check it out the next time I was in town. While I never tried their famous zeppole or sfogliatelle, it was there that I was first introduced to the pear and almond tart. It was scrumptious.
I moved to California for college in 2003, and as the years past I forgot about that delicious tart. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I happened upon this post on Smitten Kitchen for a beautiful pear and almond tart—the memories of Scialo Bakery came right back.
A lot of changes were made to the recipe, including a more streamlined approach. There are a lot of pieces to this tart, but they don’t take too much hands-on time (an hour, tops) and can even be completed over a couple of days. The most awesome thing is that the tart shell does not need to be defrosted or par-baked; you just remove it from the freezer, fill, and bake.
The combination of buttery crust, almond-scented filling and sweet pears is hard to resist!
A Few Ingredient Tips
Blanched Almond Meal:
While you can blanch and grind up almonds yourself, it is a really tedious process (not to mention difficult to make lump-free). I use Bob’s Red Mill almond meal, mostly because it’s easy for me to find at Whole Foods and Amazon.com. Trader Joe’s carries an unblanched almond meal that I imagine would work just as well, but there will be brown flecks in the filling from the almond skin.
I always use the jarred pear halves from Trader Joe’s instead of poaching fresh ones. They’re already cooked, halved, cored and stemmed so all you need to do is drain and slice them. One jar (25 ounces, 14 ounces drained) is all you need for this recipe.
Pear and Almond Tart
Bon Appétit, February 2005, shell heavily adapted from The Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2008)
Active Preparation Time: 1 hour
Inactive Preparation Time: 3 hours, minimum
Baking Time: 55-60 minutes
Almond Filling (Frangipane):
- 75 grams (2/3 cup) Almond Meal/Flour
- 8 grams (1 tablespoon) Arrowroot Starch
- 84 grams (7 tablespoons) Granulated White Sugar
- 84 grams (6 tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 large Egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
Sweet Tart Shell:
- 48 grams (1/4 cup) Granulated White Sugar
- 46 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) Millet Flour
- 46 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) Garbanzo Fava Bean Flour
- 60 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) Potato Starch
- 24 grams (3 tablespoons) Arrowroot Starch
- 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 6 tablespoons cold Unsalted Butter, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 large Egg
- 1 teaspoon Water
- Millet Flour, for rolling
Assembling and Serving:
- 1 jar Pear Halves in Grape Juice (6 halves), cores and stems removed -or- 3 whole Poached Pears, halved, cores and stems removed
- Powdered Sugar (optional)
In the work bowl of a food processor, combine almond meal, arrowroot starch, and sugar. Pulse together to blend — you want this mixture to be finely ground and well-combined. Add butter and almond extract; process until smooth—about 1 minute. Add the egg; process until well blended—30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours (up to 2 days).
Make Tart Shell:
Whisk together sugar through salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle in butter pieces. Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix until the butter and flour mixture resembles peas. Add egg and water, mix until the dough just begins to form. If the dough has gotten too warm at this point, form it into a thick disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes until firmed up but still pliable enough to roll.
Lightly flour work surface with flour and roll the dough into a 12″ circle. Fit the dough into a 9 1/2″ tart pan with a removable bottom, make sure there aren’t any air bubbles or cracks. Fold the excess dough back into the pan so that the sides of the tart are now about double the thickness of the bottom. Neatly trim away excess dough around the top of the pan.
Freeze for a minimum of 1 hour (up to 3 months) before proceeding.
Assemble, Bake and Serve Tart:
One hour before assembling and baking tart, remove almond filling from the fridge to soften. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Drain pears and pat dry. Cut 1/4″ slices at a 45° angle to the cutting board from bottom to stem end (see photo).
Remove tart shell from the freezer, place it on a large, rimmed baking sheet, and spread the now softened almond filling evenly over the crust (a small, offset spatula is really helpful here). Place three of the pears on the filling as if you were dividing the tart into three equal sections; press the pears lightly so they fan them out and cover the filling from the center to the edge of the tart (see photo). Fill in the remaining spaces with the other pears using the same fanning technique.
Place tart (baking sheet and all) on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s golden brown and the filling is set. Cool tart completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan and slicing. Serve slices dusted with powdered sugar, if desired.
Store the cooled tart in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for up to a week. Enjoy slices straight from the fridge or allow them to return to room temp — about 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating (just a matter of personal preference).