Fruit slices such as these made with pears are a standard in many pastry shops in France. Sometimes they are made with puff pastry, but this one is made with a tender sweet dough—a perfect complement to the melting texture of poached pears. This is an easy way of making individual tarts because you don’t need any special equipment aside from a jelly-roll pan.
- ½ cup (about 2 ounces) blanched almonds
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk or water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 6 firm-ripe Bartlett pears, about 2½ pounds
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 whole vanilla bean, not split
- 6 ounces canned almond paste, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon Kirsch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons water
- Toasted sliced almonds for finishing
- One 12 x 18-inch jelly-roll pan
1. To make the dough, combine the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse repeatedly to grind the almonds very fine. Scrape the inside bottom edge of the bowl with the point of a metal spatula. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times to mix the butter in finely. Add the eggs and milk and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured surface and carefully remove the blade. Form the dough into a cylinder. Refrigerate the dough in plastic wrap until firm, about 1 hour. You may keep the dough refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.
2. Half-fill with ice water a large enameled iron casserole that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the lemon juice. Peel, halve, and core the pears, one at a time, dropping the pear halves into the acidulated ice water. After all the pears are prepared, skim out the ice and add the sugar and vanilla bean. Bring the pears to a full rolling boil over medium heat and let them boil for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let the pears cool in the hot syrup. The heat retained by the syrup will finish cooking the pears so that they remain firm and do not become mushy. Refrigerate the pears in the syrup.
3. For the almond filling, combine the almond paste, sugar, and 1 egg in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat the mixture smooth on medium speed. Add the butter and continue beating about 2 additional minutes, or until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a large rubber spatula. On medium speed, add the remaining 2 eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Beat in the Kirsch and vanilla. Decrease the mixer speed to lowest and add the flour, mixing just until the flour is absorbed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the filling a final mixing with a large rubber spatula.
4. To bake the tarts, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it is smooth and malleable. Form the dough into a rectangle. Place the dough on a floured surface and flour it. Roll the dough into a 12 × 15-inch rectangle. Slide the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Use a pizza wheel to cut 4 strips, each ¾ inch wide, along one of the 15-inch sides of the dough. Cut the remaining dough in half to make two 4½ × 15-inch rectangles. Slide the ¾-inch strips off the paper and position the two large rectangles 4 inches away from each other. Carefully slide the paper with the dough on it to the pan. Paint the 15-inch edges of dough with water and position one of the strips on each of the 15-inch edges. Gently press the strips into place with your fingertips to avoid leaving deep indentations in the dough. If you have time, chill the tart bases until firm before continuing.
6. Spread half of the almond filling on each of the 2 tart bases in the center section between the narrow strips. Remove the pear halves from their syrup and drain them on a jelly-roll pan covered with paper towels. Slice one of the pear halves lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Fan it out slightly, pushing with the palm of your hand toward the stem end. Slide a metal spatula under a pear half and transfer it to the tart base, positioning it at one of the ends on the almond filling. Repeat with another pear half, this time arranging it in the direction opposite to the first one. Continue alternating fanned-out pear halves on the tart bases, placing 6 on each base.
7. Bake the filled tarts until the dough is baked through and the almond filling is set, about 40 minutes. Cool the tarts on the pan on a rack.
8. For the apricot glaze, stir the preserves and water together in a small saucepan. Place over low heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Strain the glaze into a bowl and rinse out the pan. Return the glaze to the pan and bring it to a simmer over low heat. Simmer the glaze for 2 minutes, or until it is no longer watery. For advance preparation, pour into a jar, cover, and refrigerate. Bring the glaze back to a boil before applying it to the tart.
9. Reheat the glaze if necessary and use a brush to paint it on the filling, avoiding the side strips on the tart bases. If necessary, trim the long sides of the tart bases straight. Trim the short edges and cut the tart bases into separate portions between the pears. Sprinkle the sides of the tarts at the narrow ends of the pears with a pinch of the sliced almonds.
Nutritional information does not include toasted sliced almonds for finishing.