Pear and Almond Cream Tart

Pear Almond Cream Tart

Pear Almond Cream Tart. Well, Christmas is coming and I wish to share today my favourite french tart to these special days. This glorious tart makes a truly indulgent dessert. It might be varied according to the season -it equally successful made with pears, nectarines, peaches, apricots or apples.

Ingredients for the pastry:

200g/ 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
salt
25g/1/4 cup icing sugar
100g/1/2 cup butter
2 egg yolks
15ml/1 tablespoon chilled water

Ingredients for the tart:

3 firm pears (or nectarines, peaches, apricots or apples)
a little lemon juice
15ml/1 tablespoon peach brandy or rum or water
60ml/4 tablespoon peach or orange preserve

Ingredients for the almond cream filling:

100g/3/4 cup blanched almonds
50g/1/4 cup caster sugar
65g/5 tablespoon butter
1egg, plus 1 egg white
a few drops of almond essence or rose water

Pear Almond Cream Tart Method:

To make the pastry, sift the flour with the salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix the egg yolks and water, sprinkle over the dry ingredients and mix to a dough. Knead for a few seconds until smooth. Wrap in clear film and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry and use to line a 23cm flan tin, then chill. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Pulse the almond and caster sugar in a food processor until finely ground but not pastry. Add the butter and process until creamy, then mix in the egg, egg white and almond essence.

Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 190c/Gas 5. Thinly peel and halve the pears, remove their cores and rub them lightly with lemon juice. Put them cut side down and slice thinly crossways, keeping the slices together.

Pour the almond cream filling into the pasty case. Slide a palette knife under one pear half and press the top with your fingers to fan out the slices. Quickly transfer to the tart, placing the fruit on the filling like spokes of a wheel. Remove a few slices from each half before arranging and use to fill in any gaps in the center.

Place the tart on the hot baking sheet and bake for 500-55 minutes or until the filling is set and well browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, heat the brandy or water and the preserve in a small pan, then brush over the top of the hot tart to glaze. Serve at room temperature.

Candied fennel sponge cake

Original french name: Bras de Vénus, crème legere au fenouil confit
Place of origin: Roussillion, Southern France

A candied fennel sponge cake is a very light and delicious french dessert. It originates from Southern province of France, Roussillon. Generally,  in this fruit-growing area of France there is abundance of dessert recipes. Today’s one however is a bit unusual because the main ingredient in the cake is fennel which is a vegetable generally used for cooking salads or soups. People of Roussillon provence found an interesting way to make incredible desserts based on vegetables.

Locals of this area are familiar with the cultivation of apricots, peaches and cherries, apples and kiwi fruits, raspberries, wild strawberries and blueberries, persimmon and figs, citrus fruits and during late summer – grapes and almonds. Catalonia offers simple astonishing desserts with different incredible variations such as a goat milk cheese sprinkled with honey or eggplants as a dessert that is another surprise. In the classic version of this dish they are simply sliced, baked in the oven and served sprinkled with sugar. Roussillon is known of a whole variety of fine cakes, fritters and creams usually flavoured with orange flower water. The most famous is Catalan cream and candied fennel sponge cake.

I tried this cake for the first time being a bit sceptical about results but found it absolutely fabulous. The cake is very fresh and light and I was surprised how delicious it was. I definitely think this candied fennel sponge cake can be something special for the upcoming Mother’s Day.

Originally this fennel dessert looks like a sponge roll filled with a fennel cream. I suggest more simple version using a sponge base instead of baking a sponge roll. The taste and structure is pretty the same and the cooking time is much shorter. That is my little tip to make french cooking a bit simplier ;)

Ingredients for sponge

1 round or square sponge base weighting about 350g

Ingredients for candied fennel

2cups (500ml) water
1 1/2 cups (350g) sugar
1 fennel bulb, cut into small pieces

Ingredients for fennel cream

around 1 tablespoon gelatin (use amount following the recommendations)
4 tablespoon (50 ml) milk
3/4 cup (200ml) fennel juice (from 400g fennel)
1-2 tablespoons corn flour
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoon sugar
400ml cream, whipped

Method

Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan and make a syrup. Rinse and clean the fennel, slice and cut into small pieces. Add to the boiling syrup and cook on a very low heat for about 45minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in cold water. Take an equivalent amount of gelatin to approximately 800ml of water. Bring the milk and fennel juice to a boil in a saucepan. Mix the corn flour with a little of water and add to the pan. Stir continuously over a gentle heat for a few minutes. Set aside.

Then beat together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly and constantly add the fennel milk blending to maintain a smooth consistency and prevent curdling. Warm together carefully in a saucepan and thoroughly dissolve the gelatin in the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave to cool.

Gently mix the candied fennel into the whipped cream and carefully fold this into the fennel custard. Place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour until cold.

Cut the every sponge base into two or three if possible.  Select the best layer for the top and the bottom. Coat the base with the amount of chilled fennel cream that depends on the number of layers. The top layer should be sprinkle with only the custard sugar (before serving).

Place the sponge cake with the fennel cream in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight to allow the flavours to infuse. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.