Today is the very first TWD of 2009 – how exciting!

Well, to be honest, I wasn’t terribly excited.  “Prince Charming” and I arrived home in the wee hours of Saturday morning and there wasn’t much in the way of fresh food in our house after our nearly 2 week absence and I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted from travel and a number of family events.  I didn’t feel like shopping and I wasn’t feeling inspired to bake.  I thought perhaps it might be best to take a break and return to TWD next week.

But, how could I do that when Dorie herself chose to participate this week?  Dorie’s selection is the French Pear Tart (found on pages 368 and 369 of her Baking: From My Home to Yours).  I couldn’t miss out on the recipe that Dorie had selected so I wrote up my shopping list, braved the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon and spent the last day of my vacation baking…

This recipe has three basic elements:

1) the crust

2) the fruit

3) the cream filling

While Dorie mentions a few other fruits that go well in this recipe, I decided (for once!) to follow the recipe as originally written.

This was my first effort in making a tart dough, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  I followed the instructions, pressed the crumbly mess into the pan, froze it and partially baked it as instructed.

Tart Crust

I don’t like my crusts very dark, so I cut down slightly on the partial baking time and here is the result.  I think perhaps I didn’t put enough of the dough in the pan, but since it seemed to have held together I was pleased.

Poached Pears

I opted for the fresh poached pears for my tart.  These are Anjou pears that I’ve just added to the poaching syrup.  You may notice that there is an extra pear in the pot – I’m using an 11″ tart pan and I wasn’t sure if the 3 pears would be enough for the larger pan.  Turns out that even three may have been too much, but you’ll see that shortly.

Almond Cream

I decided to use my stand mixer to make the almond cream.  It took longer than the food processor (times measured in minutes rather than seconds) but I was happy with the results.

With all the prep work for my three elements complete all that was left was the tart assembly.  I wasn’t certain how thick/thin to slice the pears so I think I may have sliced them a tad too thin.  I don’t think this is bad, per se.  But it did mean that the pears fanned out to a rather impressive length.  I managed to get the tart assembled (with about 1.5 pears left over) and into the oven.

Finished tart

After removing the tart from the oven I glazed the entire surface with apple jelly and after it was cool I dusted it liberally with powdered sugar.  Despite my heavy handed application, the pears were still moist enough to instantly melt the sugar.   While I wouldn’t say it is the most aesthetically pleasing dessert I’ve made, I’d say it’s not bad for my first tart effort.

But we all know that the true test is the taste test.  I was pleasantly surprised by this tart.  I thoroughly enjoyed the taste and texture of the crust (albeit still a little too dark for me – I’ll opt for an even shorter partial bake next time).  The almond cream is delicious and the pears are a sweet, tender and almost subtle complement to the cream.    So, it isn’t chocolate, but I think this will make it onto my “rebake” list.

Thank you so much, Dorie, for playing with us this week.  I really appreciated your recipe selection; not only a new experience for me, but a wonderfully tasty experience.

For those of you looking for the recipe, click over to Dorie’s site – you won’t be disappointed!