Dreaming of a stroll on the Left Bank in Paris? Maybe stopping by a pâtisserie for a treat to enjoy with a café crème? Well, it's not happening any time soon for me, so I have to create that experience at home, in my kitchen.
And what really recreates that feeling of being in France for me is a pastry made with almond cream. I have a hard time saying "no" to an almond croissant when in Paris - they are amazingly good over there!
And for me, these tarts with puff pastry, pears and almond cream come pretty close to replicating the taste of a French pastry. While baking, the smell of almonds permeates the kitchen. And since I had not planned ahead, canned pears were substituted for fresh; trust me on this.... canned pears work just fine.
The recipe makes more than enough caramel sauce; the leftover is now being enjoyed on scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.
Pear Tart with Caramel Sauce
• a recipe by Wolfgang Puck •
Makes 8 Servings.
• 1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
• 6 tablespoons Almond Cream (recipe follows)
• 2 tablespoons pear liqueur ( I substituted Cognac)
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 6 or 7 ripe organic pears, peeled, halved, cored and cut lengthwise into slices about 1/4-inch thick (or 2 cans canned pear halves in heavy syrup, drained and sliced)
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 2 cups Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
• 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
TO PREPARE PASTRY:
Roll out puff pastry sheets to 1/8-inch thickness. Place on baking sheet. Using tip of sharp knife or circular pastry cutter, cut pastry into 4 circles, each 6-inches in diameter. Remove scraps of pastry from around circles. Put baking sheet in refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
TO PREPARE OVEN:
Preheat oven to 400 ˚F.
TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE:
Let 6 tablespoons almond cream come to room temperature. In small mixing bowl, stir together pear liqueur and almond cream until smooth. Spread mixture to within 1-inch of edge of each chilled pastry circle. Brush uncovered edges with beaten egg. Arrange pear slices attractively and evenly on top of almond cream. Dot with butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (start checking tarts after about 18 minutes), or until pastry is golden brown.
Cut each tart in half. Place halves on 8 dessert plates. Spoon whipped cream and caramel sauce around or onto tarts.
Makes 3/4 pound.
• 3 1/2 ounces almond paste, cut into small pieces
• 1/4 cup minus 1/2 tablespoon sugar
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 2 egg yolks
TO MAKE ALMOND CREAM:
Put almond paste, sugar, butter and egg yolks in food processor fitted with stainless-steel blade. Process until thoroughly combined and smooth, scraping down side of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary. Use as needed.
TO STORE ALMOND CREAM:
Transfer unused almond cream to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. It will keep for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 2 cups.
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over moderate heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until sugar turns light golden brown. NOTE: Watch closely to make sure sugar doesn't burn. Remove pan from heat. Immediately and carefully, add cream, stirring until smooth*. Sprinkle butter pieces over sauce. Let them melt. Stir to combine thoroughly. Serve warm or cold.
* The sugar mixture will seize up somewhat when the cream is added. If necessary, place pan over low heat and stir constantly until the sugar-mass melts down and is incorporated smoothly into the cream. Remove from heat and add the butter.
I sprinkled some Fleur de Sel into the finished caramel for a "salted caramel" taste and to take an edge off of the sweetness.
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