I can’t let the autumn season pass without featuring a recipe using pears. When tucked into a rich pastry shell along with a praline glaze, we have a simple but elegant pear dessert. The pears shine. This tart recipe is not too sweet, full of flavor. All the stone fruit available in autrumn — peaches, plums, cherries, apricots — have unique aromatic flavor qualities. I love them all. Pears, especially, make great snacking. However, my goal today was to create an easy pastry dessert using pears. I wanted something simple, yet elegant. It turned out to be a challenging project and took a number of recipe attempts with different types of pears, combinatons of fillings and toppings. I finally succeeded and here’s my final result. “Elegant Praline Pear Tart” tastes great! I hope you like it, too.
Praline Pear Tart Recipe
This dessert is just right for a holiday meal especially when served with ice cream or whipped topping. I even found a little mint from my yard garden to garnish the tart.
For this pear tart recipe, the crust is my favorite rich, flaky pie crust pastry. I use it for “Classic Deep Purple Plum Pie” and it works well for tarts, too. I mix it up in a food processor; it takes just a few minutes to mix up and roll out the crust. The D’Anjou pears are simply peeled, sliced and layered onto the pastry shell on top of chopped pecans. I topped the pears with a syrup made of melted butter and brown sugar. When the tart bakes, the brown sugar makes a praline-like glaze. The recipe is easy. Getting ripe but not overly ripe and mushy pears is the trick.
About Pear Types
I love ripe, juicy and flavorful pears for a snack. Like other stone fruit, pears grown in the USA are harvested for only few short months in autumn. Let’s make the best of this fruit whiile they are still in season. Pear varieties vary greatly in juciness — or crispness — and sweetness. Selecting the best pear for the recipe and intended use is one of the challenges of cooking with pears. For snacking — a sweet, juicy pear is better, who wants one which is a hard as a rock. For cooking, a sweet, soft pear which falls apart isn’t ideal. A firmer pear is better.
Pears (except for Asian pears) will ripen in a warm spot on a kitchen counter after you bring them home from the grocery store. Once they begin to become soft (but before they start to bruise), transfer to the refrigerator to stop the ripening process. So purchase pears several days to a week in advance and let them ripen up; an unripe pear lacks aromatic flavor and won’t be good in this recipe.
From left to right are: Bosc, D’Anjou, Asian and Bartlett pears.
Bartlett and Comice (not shown) pears are juicy, soft and aromatic. Let’s snack on these. On the other hand, Bosc pears are crisp and not as sweet. Great for cooking. Red and Green D’Anjou pears are somewhere in between. Asian pears are crisp and fragrant and are picked when fully ripe. Use them for cooking or eating raw. Asian pears are super-expensive — pay attention to what you are purchasing.
These D’Anjou pears were quite green and hard when I purchased them. They lacked that great pear aromatic flavor. Yes, these pears had to sit on my kitchen counter for several days (actually 5 days) and wait for me to make the recipe. And that’s the challenge of pears — getting them to ripen when you want to make the recipe!
For this recipe, short, squatty pears work better, especially when using a smaller (9.5″ diameter) tart pan. That was another advantage of the D’Anjou pears.
This pear tart recipe has three layers:
- The crust of the tart,
- Fresh D’Anjou pear slices arranged on the tart shell over pecan pieces sprinkled around,
- A praline glaze made of brown sugar and butter.
Rich Tart Crust
For the crust, I’m made an easy but rich pie pastry. The ingredients are flour, real butter (not margarine), a little sugar and salt. It contains just a small amount of sugar, which is unusual for a pie crust, but this really addes to the “shortbread” flavor of the crust. Although making a homemade pie shell may seem daunting, I’ve done this many times. My recipe always works like a charm — just measure the ingredients accurately (we’re not T.V. chefs here who just throw in a pinch of this or that).
A food processer is a necessity for making pie shells and tart pastry, in my opinion. Here’s what I do. Pulse together the flour, sugar and salt in a large food processor bowl. Then cut cold butter into chunks (the butter should not be soft or melted). Add the butter chunks through the shute and pulse with short on and off spurts until the butter is cut into small specks. Add exactly 1/4 cup ice water down the shute and let the food processor run until the pastry pulls away from the edges into a ball.
Transfer to a well floured pastry board or cutting board. Shape into a round disk. (The tart shell is round — this gives us a head start when rolling out the crust.) Use a rolling pin to gently roll the pastry into a circle about an one inch larger than the tart pan. Add flour to the board as needed so the dough doesn’t stick. Roll out from the center of the dough disk — not the edges — and rotate the disk around to that the dough is even in thickness.
When the dough is rolled out, gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin (see photo on right). Transfer to the tart shell. Gently push the dough into the tart pan — do not stretch the dough (or it will shrink during baking). Trim the edges of the dough. You’ll have some scraps left over, so if your tart pan is larger that a 9.5″ diameter, it will still work.
This tart shell can be made several days ahead of time. So, either place the tart shell in the refrigerator and store or finish the tart immediately. My 9.5″ diameter tart pan has a removable bottom which makes it easy to remove the tart from the pan after baking.
When you are ready to finish the tart, pre-bake tart shell for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. To keep the tart shell from shrinking (yes, it will shrink), I cut a parchment circle to fit in the bottom of the tart pan. Use a knife to trace the circle (see photo on left) and then cut out with sissors. Place parchment circle on the pastry dough in the tart pan. Add dried beans (such as Great Northern beans or navy beans), spreading them in a single layer completely to all the edges. Next pre-bake the shell.
Pecan and Pear Layer
To give this tart additional crunch and a praline-like aromatic flavor, I added chopped pecans around the inside edges of the tart shell. Along with the glaze, it gives a “praline” taste to the tart. First toast pecans for 5 minutes in the oven. Then chop them and sprinkle in a circle around in the pre-baked tart pastry shell. (When the pecans were sprinkled on top of the pears — they burnt during baking.)
The filling of the tart is simply made of peeled D’Anjou pear slices arranged attractively in the tart shell and covered with the brown sugar glaze.
Peeling the pears is the tricky part of this recipe. However, I have discovered a system which works wonderfully with ripe or crisp pears which are not too, too soft. I was able to peel off the skin of the pears without removing huge chunks of the flesh. My secret is using a wide vegetable and fruit peeler. You hold it differently from a traditional peeler — this one is so much easier to use — why didin’t I know about it sooner?
First, cut out the blossom end of the pear with a small kitchen knife. Then peel the large, round top half of the pear in a circular direction. Rotate around the pear to remove all the peel.
Then, turn the pear 45 degrees and finish peeling going in a lengthwise motion.
Next, cut the peeled pears in half lengthwise, just next to the stem. Grasp the stem and pull upwards to remove the stem and course fiber.
Cut the seeds out with a small aluminum measuring spoon or a small melon baller.
With cut side of pear halves facing down, cut into slices about 1/4″ wide. Arrange in an overlapping circular pattern in the tart shell.
Again, short squatty pears work best in this recipe. (And I tried out many varieties of pears.)
The glaze which is spread on top of the pear slices adds a little sweetness to this tart. I made the glaze by cooking brown sugar, butter and a little water to make a syrup. Watch and stir the syrup constantly when it is cooking on the stove. The brown sugar can easily become super-concentrated, burn and become hard as a rock. If this happens — start over and make another batch of glaze. (And good luck getting the burnt syrup out of the pot. — Fill the pot with water and let the sugar dissolve.)
Evenly spread the syrup over the tart. Then bake the tart in a rather hot — 375 degree oven.
Let cool and carefully remove from tart pan and slide onto a serving platter. That’s it! A simple pear tart. Delicious.
This is a great recipe for showcasing pears. The crust can be made several days ahead of time. Purchase the pears ahead of time, too, and monitor their ripeness. Transfer to refrigerator when the pears begin to soften (before they begin to bruise) to stop the pears from ripening further. Make the tart the day of the holiday meal — or even the day before the holiday meal. This tart makes a nice, “lite” ending to a heavy meal. Enjoy the flavors of autumn and my recipe!
Elegant Praline Pear Tart
Ingredients for Rich Pie Crust:
- 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional flour to cover pastry board
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter cut into chunks (butter should be cold)
- 1/4 cup ice water
Ingredients for Tart:
- 1 recipe rich pie crust
- approx 1 cup dried navy or Great Northern beans
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 3 to 4 crisp but ripe D’Anjou pears (you only need 3 pears, but inevitably you will not use all the slices from each pear — so plan on peeling 4 pears and use the remainder of slices as snacks or add to a salad)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- Ice cream or whipped topping, for serving, if desired
- Garnish with fresh mint, if desired
Method and Steps for Rich Pie Crust:
- Place all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in large bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix.
- Add butter chunk down food processor shute to flour mixture. Using quick on and off motions, pulse until finely incorporated into the flour.
- Add ice water down shute. Process until dough pulls away from sides of food processor bowl.
- Remove from food processor, shape into a disk.
- On a well-floured pastry board or large cutting board, roll out pastry disk to slightly larger than a 9-1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Roll from the center of the pastry disk to avoid rolling edges too thin. Dust more flour on pastry board as needed, and rotate pie dough around in small turns so dough does not stick.
- Gently wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer to the tart pan. Use a 9.5″ diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Unroll the pastry over the tart pan, taking care not stretch the pastry. Push the pastry into the bottom of the tart pan. If the pastry tears, patch the pastry together with your thumb. With a sharp knife (wet with water), gently trim the top of the pastry even with the tart pan.
- Either complete making tart or refrigerate tart pastry shell up to 2 days.
Praline Pear Tart:
- To finish tart, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the tart pan. Place the parchment paper on top of the pastry shell in the tart pan.
- Place a single layer of dried beans on the parchment paper in the tart pan, spreading the beans entirely to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
- Remove the tart shell from the oven, cool to room temperature and remove the dried beans and parchment paper. Set aside tart shell aside; discard beans.
- Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Toast the pecan pieces. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Place pecan pieces on baking sheet, place on middle rack in oven and toast for five minutes. Immediately remove from oven and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, chop into small pieces.
- Sprinkle pecan pieces in a ring around the outer edges of pre-baked tart shell.
- Peel pears. Use a wide-type fruit and vegetable peeler to peel the pears. First cut out the blossom end with a small kitchen knife. Then, peel the large, round top half of the pear in a circular directon. Move around the pear to remove all the peel. Last, rotate the pears 45 degrees and finish peeling going in a lengthwise motion.
- Remove the stem and seeds. Cut the peeled pears in half lengthwise, just next to the stem. Grasp the stem and pull upwards to remove the stem and course fiber. Cut out the seeds with either a small aluminum measuring spoon or small sharp melon baller.
- With cut side of pear halves facing down, slice the pear halves into 1/4″ slices. Arrange in an overlapping circle in tart shell on top of pecan pieces.
- Make praline topping. Add the 2 Tbsp of butter, brown sugar and water to a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter and sugar are just melted and thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Monitor closely, do not let the brown sugar super-concentrate and burn. Spread sugar mixture on top of pear slices. If the syrup burns, start over.
- Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
- When cool enough to handle, gently push bottom of tart up to remove sides of tart pan and carefully slide tart onto serving platter.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Garnish top of tart with fresh mint, if desired.
- Serve with ice cream or whipped topping, if desired.