And now for another installment of the ongoing saga that was Bastille Day. For all you following along, we are now up to the dessert section of the meal. Let me tell you I am very impressed with myself with this little dessert. The images here are of my "experimental" tart. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, I just wanted to test whether it would come together well or if it was a massive flop. I cheated, again, and used ready-made shortcrust pastry for the trial. I knew I would use sweet almond pastry and that always works well, I just wasn't sure about the actual pear component of the tart.
I'm one of those people that always strikes it lucky when I cook something for the first time, well usually.....my macaron effort broke my lucky streak! Damn you macaron! But with this tart I wasn't overally confident. I wanted to achieve something that was restaurant quality, both in look and flavour. I had never used an oven to dehydrate fruit before, bread?....yes, cakes?...yes but dehydrated cakes are usually not the intended result. My dehydrated fruit turned out awesome, so much so I've been dehydrating up a storm! Its a perfect way to use that fruit that is so close to making it to the compost bin. The second part of the pear was dipping it in some toffee and getting a good crunch when biting into it. Chilling the toffee quite quickly after it is added to the pear achieves a nice teeth splitting crunch.
Jolly gosh was I stoked with myself. I served it up to the unsuspecting Daz and let him eat it without saying a word. After he had consumed the last crumb, I asked him, in the calmest voice I could muster, "do you think that is a restaurant recipe?or something I made myself?" Without a split second of a pause he said "Restaurant! No way that's you!" Score, mission accomplished.
When I served it at the party, everyone wanted more pear. I had made about 20 pear slices dipped in toffee, it was all gone....very quickly.
So here is my recipe for Almond frangipane tart with toffee pear.
Makes 8 tarlets
For Dehydrated Pears/Toffee Pears
2 pears sliced thinly
100 g Castor sugar
For Sweet Almond pastry (this makes alot of pastry, but it freezes really well, just defrost in the fridge overnight to use again)
1¼ cups plain flour
1/3 cup pure icing sugar
¼ cup almond meal
125 g cold butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
For Almond Frangipane
80 g slivered almonds, lightly toasted
50 g butter
50 g pure icing sugar
50 g almond meal
1 tsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
20 ml port
Icing sugar to dust
Cream, whipped and flavoured with vanilla essence or vanilla beans
For Dehydrated Pears/Toffee pears
1. Line a flat baking tray with some baking paper. Arrange the pear slices on the tray making sure that the slices do not overlap.
2. Place in the over with it at the lowest setting possible. Bake for about 4 hours or until dehydrated but still soft, i.e. not crunchy. Alternatively you can put the pear slices in a hot over, after its been turned off, and leave them in there overnight, similar to making dried bread crumbs.
3. Prepare a baking tray by lining it with some baking paper and putting it in the fridge to chill, this is important to get a very crunchy toffee. To make the toffee, place sugar in a small heavy based saucepan, add a few tablespoons of water, enough to wet the sugar. Heat over medium heat until toffee in colour and smell, remove from heat. Take tray from the fridge and working quickly, one by one, dip the half the dehydrated pear slice in the toffee. Place the slices on the tray and return to the fridge. Remember to be very careful as the toffee is extremely hot. Adriano Zumbo's tip of having a bowl of cool water near by is spot on. If you get a drop of the toffee on your fingers, quickly dip them in the water to solidify the toffee before it burns you.
For sweet almond pastry
1. Using a food processor, process dry ingredients until combined,
2 Add butter and process until fine crumbs form.
3. Add egg yolk and 1 tbsp cold water and process until mixture just forms a dough.
4. Dust a work surface with some flour and knead briefly to bring together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm-thick, grease and flour the inside of 8 tartlet tins then line them with the pastry. Trim edges flush with sides. Prick base with a fork and bake blind until starting to colour (10-15 minutes). Make sure not to overcook the pastry or it will be dry and brittle
For Almond Frangipane
1. Combine icing sugar, almond meal and flour in a separate bowl
2.Beat butter in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.With motor running, gradually add the dry mixture to butter until completely combined.
3.Add egg, beating well to combine, then slowly beat in port. Fold in the almonds.
1. Spread frangipane in the tart cases. Make sure not to overfill as the frangipane will puff up some. Bake at 180C until slightly golden on top, about 10-15 minutes
This is what happens when you fill them too much
2. Once the tarts have cooled, turn them out and place on a plate. Dust the top with some icing sugar. Place a quenelle on top, sorry my quenelles are not as perfect as Gordon Ramsays! Shove a toffee pear slice in the middle. Hopefully it will stand unassisted!
You can make these in advance, especiall the pastry.