Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pear and Walnut Tart

Nick Malgieri's Pear and Walnut Tart is nothing if not beautiful.  I made it for a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation charity auction.  My friend Alta supplied me with a charger and wrapped it in a lovely cellophane container and put it into a basket that she filled with Nick's cookbook, and some cooking tools needed to make it.  And then she donated the whole thing to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

I am not a fan of walnuts, so I made one tart with almonds for the auction and one for us with pecans.  You could use any nut that you like.  This is a great do-ahead recipe.  First, I made the sweet pastry tart dough and refrigerated it several days ahead of time. 
Then, I poached some pears, and refrigerated them covered in the poaching liquid 2 days ahead of time.  I also chopped and mixed the dry ingredients and stored them in bags.  All I had to do was roll out the sweet pastry dough and assemble, bake and glaze the tart. 
 It was easy and I loved the quick "day-of" assembly.  This seems like a complicated dessert but it was so easy when done in components.  The recipe in it's entirety is below just in case you missed the previous posts.

Poaching fruit is easy and you can use this same poaching technique for any fruit. Put the fruit on a tart as I have done or core the fruit from the bottom with the stem on and stand it up on a plate.   Drizzle it with chocolate or raspberry sauce,and set it in a pool of silky Creme Anglaise. There are so many ways to use poached fruit.

Pear Walnut Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart

Poached Pears:
Very cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 ripe Bartlett pears, about 2 pounds
½ cup of granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick

Walnut Filling:
1 cup of walnut pieces
½ cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of walnut pieces, finely chopped

Apricot Glaze:  ¾ cup of apricot preserves
2 tablespoons of water
One 10-inch tart crust made from Sweet Pastry Dough
Confectioner’s sugar for finishing

Poach the pears:
Fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and add the lemon juice. Peel, stem, and core the pears (I used a melon ball tool). Cut them in half lengthwise and set them in the acidulated water. When all the pears are cut, remove the water until the pears are covered by 1 inch. Add the sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and stir gently. Cut a round of parchment paper the same diameter as the sauce pan and cut 8-1 inch holes to vent the steam. Place the parchment over the pears and push it down to submerge it until it is wet. This will keep the pears from rising out of the poaching water. Bring the water to a full boil. Cover the pan with a lid and remove from the heat. Allow the pears to sit in the liquid until they are completely cooled. When cooled, use a slotted spoon to lift them into a plastic container. Pour the poaching liquid over them, and add the vanilla bean. Cover and refrigerate until needed (up to 5 days ahead).

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F. and move a rack to the lowest oven position.

Filling:  Combine 1 cup of nuts, sugar, cinnamon, flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Scrape the bowl well, and add the butter and eggs and pulse until the eggs absorb into the dry ingredients. Scrape the bowl and pulse 3 more times. Scrape the filling into the tart shell and smooth. Evenly scatter the ½ cup of nuts on top.

Drain the pears on a paper towel and arrange them in a circle onto the filling with the widest ends out. (I trimmed the middle pear to a round shape). Bake the tart until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the filling looks set, about 30 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

Glaze: Stir the preserves and water together and heat to a boil, over low heat. Strain into a bowl and return the strained glaze to the pot. Reduce it slightly.

Dust the tart well sifted confectioners’ sugar and wait until it melts on the pears. Blot the sugar off the pears with a paper towel and brush the glaze over each individual pear. Unmold and slide the tart to a platter.

Cover and store leftovers at room temperature.

Sweet Pastry Dough

Makes two 10-inch tarts or one bottom and top crust of pie

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/3 cup of sugar
¼ teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (cut into 8 pieces)
2 large eggs

Mix the dough by hand:
Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is powdery. Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up. Toss them into the four until the dough is almost completely mixed. Invert the dough onto a floured work surface and gently knead it into a mass.

Mix the dough in a food processor:
 Combine the dry ingredients and the butter in the bowl and pulse it a few times. Add the butter and pulse again until the dough forms ball.

Invert the mixed dough onto a floured work surface.  Divide the dough in half, and then flatten each half into a disc. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. May also be frozen.

"Cook's Notes"
I live in an arid/dry high desert area and almost always have to add a bit of water to my pie dough.  Add extra water just 1 tablespoon at a time if needed until your tart dough just comes together.   

Linked to Friday Potluck, Turning the Table Tuesday


  1. You are a fine pastry chef, Bonnie!
    My Jenny has ordered a pumpkin pie, so I may make one today. Bill brought two pies from the pie shop and how much pie can one family eat? A lot, I know!

  2. It's a beautiful and impressive tart.
    I really like it

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