Pistachio Tart with Poached Pears
I love tarts. I make them all the time and write about them here. Once I managed to figure out how to make the crust properly, I fell in love with them even more. For Betty and David’s goodbye party I made two tarts. One was an excellent lemon berry tart that I wrote about the day after. The second was a pistachio tart with poached pears that made me proud. I consider it a little win over a similar tart that I made with mediocre results for a semi-final exam at my pastry school.
At the time I was pretty accurate in my baking. And that’s exactly what made me fail. Ever since I learned that sometimes you have to just go with your gut and not follow the instructions to the letter, especially when something doesn’t feel quite right. I learned to taste the product while making it. I also learned not to assemble the final dessert until I tasted every part along the way. And that’s exactly what you should do with the pears in this tart.
First, you have to find pears that are semi-ripe. In other words, not too hard and not too soft. During cooking, the pears soften a little. Fortunately, I cooked five pears in wine although I needed only three. I tasted the poached pears after cooking and found out that only three of them were soft enough for this tart and the other two remained pretty hard. Baking won’t soften them more. So I only used the pears that passed the taste test.
The tart turned out great, full of pistachio in the filling and in the crust too, topped by a layer of soft poached pears that were a delight to the senses. The original tart is actually made with almonds. The idea to try it out with pistachios wasn’t mine but came from a dear friend (thanks Desby!). By the end of the evening one of the guests approached me. She said that my desserts were a crime to humanity. She’s a human rights activist so she must know what she’s talking about.
175 g flour
20 g shelled pistachios
65 g powdered sugar
2 g salt (½ tsp)
100 g cold butter (cut into cubes)
45 g eggs
5 pears (semi-ripe)
1 cup water
2 cups red wine
120 g dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp vanilla paste
70 g soft butter (at room temperature)
70 g powdered sugar
35 g eggs (at room temperature)
10 g red wine
70 g shelled pistachios
10 g corn starch
20 g chopped pistachios
50 g nappage neutre (neutral jelly glaze)
50 g water
A round ring, 20 cm wide and 2.5 cm high
A pastry bag fitted with a smooth 10 mm tip
Small spreading spatula
Grind pistachios and powdered sugar in a food processor until you get a powder. Transfer the mixture into the mixer bowl and add flour, salt and butter cubes. Keep in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Remove from fridge. Using the paddle attachment, start mixing at low-medium speed until the batter reaches sand-like consistency. Make sure the butter chunks are as small as possible at the end of the process without melting the butter.
Add the eggs all at once and keep mixing at medium speed until the dough starts to form but is not yet completely uniform. Remove dough parts from the bowl and combine. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Roll out the dough a little bit. Keep in the fridge for at least an hour. (It’s always better to prepare the dough in advance, the dough keeps for up to a week in the fridge and for about two-three months in the freezer.)
When the dough is stiff and cold, remove the plastic wrap. In a cool room, flour the work surface, place the dough on top and dust it with flour as well. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Keep turning the dough throughout and make sure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Roll out the dough to a 3-4 mm thickness.
Please note (!) If at any point the dough starts to soften, put it back in the fridge until it is stiff again.
Lightly butter the inner side of the baking ring so that the dough sticks to it. Place the ring gently on top of the dough and cut a larger circle around the ring. Place the ring on a parchment paper and place the dough gently on top of it. Lift the edges of the dough, gently push the rest of the dough down and attach the edges to the sides of the ring, starting from the bottom of the ring to the top. Gently press down on the sides so that the corners at the bottom form a right angle. (It’s not the end of the world if the dough gets torn accidentally. Just attach the sides that have been torn apart and move on). Go over the top of the ring with a sharp knife and remove the excess dough. Keep the crust in the fridge until it hardens (about half an hour).
Peel the lemon into strips using a peeler. Put water, wine, brown sugar, vanilla, a cinnamon stick and the lemon peel in a small pot. Place the pot on high heat and bring to a boil.
In the meantime prepare the pears: Using a peeler, peel the pears from their narrow side to the wide side. Remove the stem and the bottom of each pear with a sharp knife. Cut the pears in halves. Remove the core of each pear using a Parisian spoon.
Once the pot is boiling, lower the flame to medium and put the pears in the pot. Cook for about 15 to 25 minutes, until the pears soften and absorb the flavor of the syrup around them.
How do you know it’s ready? Stick a knife in a pear and lift it up. The pear should slide right back to the pot. But that’s not enough. It’s even more important to taste the pear and only then decide if the texture is soft enough.
Drain the liquids out of the pot. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the pears on top. Let the poached pears cool at room temperature.
Grind pistachios in a food processor until you get a powder. Keep aside.
If the butter is not soft enough, heat it in the microwave in 5-second pulses until it softens. Put the butter in the mixer bowl. Add powdered sugar and mix using the paddle attachment (on low speed at first, then high).
Beat the eggs slightly with a fork, then add gradually to the mixer. Wait each time until the eggs combine with the batter completely before adding more. Scrape the sides occasionally.
Add wine to the mixer gradually as well. Add pistachio powder and mix. Add corn starch and mix until uniform.
Fit a pastry bag with a smooth 10 mm tip and fill it with the pistachio cream.
Putting it all together!
Using a sharp knife, cut the poached pears into thin slices just like in the pictures above. Preheat oven to 170°C / 340°F.
Remove the crust from the freezer and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pipe the pistachio cream inside the crust in a spiral form, from the center out. Flatten the surface with an offset spatula.
Please note! Once the crust is out of the freezer, don’t dawdle, work fast and efficiently.
Lay the pear slices on top of the pistachio cream. Arrange them in a spiral form. Sprinkle chopped pistachios around the pears and in the center.
Place in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes until the edge of the crust starts to brown. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. Release the ring gently from the tart.
Prepare the glaze: Combine the nappage and water in a saucepan and whisk lightly. Heat on medium/high heat until nearly boiling. Remove from heat and cool just a little.
Using a brush, spread the glaze on the pears. Keep in the fridge for two to three days in an airtight container.Yum
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