Of all the desserts that have come out of my kitchen, Pear and Almond Tart always gets the most raves.  Not only is it festive and gorgeous—it tastes even better than it looks.  A golden brown, crisp pastry shell is filled with a rich and creamy almond custard, which serves as a cushion for delicately poached and artfully arranged pears.  After the tart has baked and cooled, an apricot glaze is brushed over it for a show stopping presentation.

I like to make Pear and Almond Tart during the fall and winter when pears are at their best. It’s a great dessert to have on hand for the season’s holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, or any special gathering of family and friends.

Although the recipe may look somewhat daunting—there are several components to it—none of the steps are difficult to follow.  I would recommend making the tart shell in advance. You can make the dough, line the tart shell, and freeze it up to a month ahead.  You can also prepare the poached pears 2 to 3 days beforehand. With the tart shell and pears prepped in advance, the tart will come together quickly when you are ready to assemble it.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!


Tart Shell

  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 4 ounces shortening, cold and cubed (I use Crisco)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold orange juice

Before you begin, make sure to have on hand a 10” metal quiche pan with a removable bottom.

Place flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a few seconds to combine.  Add the shortening, then process with on/off pulses about 10 times or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, beat the egg and orange juice together, then pour into the food processor through the feed tube and process for about 10 seconds or until the mixture starts to hold together.  Do not over process.  Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead briefly until smooth.  Pat into a circle of about 6 to 8 inches.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle of about 14 inches and about 1/8-inch thickness.  Fold the dough in ½, then fold in ½ again, so that you have a rough triangle shape.  Gently lift up the triangle of dough and place on the quiche pan, with the point of the triangle in the center.  Unfold the dough.  This dough is fragile and may crack or tear.  No problem—simply use your hands to press the dough into place on the bottom and sides of the quiche pan.  You will want the base of the pan to be lined with about a 1/8- inch thickness of dough, and the sides to be about ¼-inch thick.

Place the tart shell into the freezer until firm, or, if you prefer, you can freeze for up to a month before using.


Poached Pears

  • 2 pounds pears*, peeled, cored and halved lengthwise, then placed in a pot with the juice of one lemon and enough cold water to cover the pears by an inch.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon (yellow part only)
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a pot, stir together well, then cover with a circle of parchment paper (with an inch hole in the center), or partially cover with a lid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You don’t want the pears to get too soft, since they will bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Remove the pears with a slotted spoon, and place cut side down on paper towels to drain.

After the pears have cooled, and you are ready to place them on the tart, you can leave them as they are, or thinly slice each pear from the blossom to the stem end to have them ready to be fanned out when they are placed on the tart.


*Bartlett, Comice, and Anjou pears are particularly good this time of year


Almond Filling

  • ¼ pound almond paste
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Cube the almond paste and place it along with the sugar, egg yolk and lemon zest into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth for a minute or two.  Add the butter and beat until smooth and light.  Add the vanilla, egg and Amaretto, and beat until combined.  Make sure to scrape down mixing bowl in between the additions of the ingredients. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated.


Apricot Glaze

  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto or water

Assembling the tart:

When you are ready to bake the tart:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chilled tart shell from the freezer. Spread the almond filling smoothly over the tart shell. Place the poached pears cut side down and stem end facing the center. You can place them as they are or thinly slice and fan out before placing on the almond filling (see recipe photo). You will need approximately 6 pear halves for a 10-inch quiche pan. If there is a space in the center of the pan, it’s okay to leave as is—you can garnish with nuts or candied flowers after it is baked. Or you can slice some small pieces of the leftover pears and overlap to make a design.

Place the tart in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the almond filling is set and golden brown.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature.

If desired, you can glaze the tart with the following glaze:

Place apricot preserves and Amaretto into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Strain into another saucepan and simmer the strained preserves until it coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then brush the glaze on the tart, making sure to glaze the pears, the almond filling, and the tart shell.

Serves 8 to 10

December 2015