This past weekend I was at the Brooklyn Museum signing copies of my books. If you have never visited the museum, you should if you have the chance — it’s a wonderful space. They have an exceptional collection of Egyptian art as well — we will be making another visit soon to take advantage of this!
Anyway, back to the event — My table mate was Lisa Greenwald who was signing three of her Y/A novels. One book, Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes, involves fortune cookies, so she brought a duffel bag full of fortune cookies to give out at our table.
The organizers at the museum ingeniously devised a game in which kids could collect stamps from each author table onto a sheet of paper. If they got all the stamps, then they could get a prize.
The night before the event, we had dinner at our friends’ place. I decided to bring an Almond Pear Tart. I wanted to make something autumnal that didn’t involve pumpkin or pecan since Thanksgiving is this week!
I love baking with almond paste (not to be confused with marzipan) but it can be difficult to find, and it is also somewhat pricey. I found a great recipe for almond paste to make from scratch. For a fraction of the price of a 10 ounce can of almond paste, I made 7 ounces from a bit of blanched almonds, confectioner’s sugar, almond extract, and some egg whites.
I bought some pears a few days before the dinner and they were pretty hard, so I stored them in a paper bag. As the fruit ripens, it emits a gas called ethylene. When the gas is trapped in a bag, it speeds up the ripening process. It did the trick!
If you have a melon baller, use it for coring the pears– it makes it a cinch!
This is an amazing recipe. The almond paste filling is very light and creamy and goes perfectly with the baked pears. I served it with whipped cream spiked with apple brandy (I would have used Poire William — a pear liqueur — but I didn’t have any on hand). The only thing I changed in the recipe are the directions for placing the pears on the filling for baking. I think placing each slice one and a time from the outside moving in is a better method.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!
4 oz. blanched almonds
2 ½ oz. confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
½ egg white (I used about 1 tablespoon liquid whites)
½ teaspoon almond extract
- Finely grind almonds in food processor.
- Add in confectioner’s sugar and salt and process again.
- Slowly pour in egg white while processor is running. I eyeballed it and stopped when the consistency looked right. Add extract and process some more.
Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
Makes 6 7/8 ounces of paste
Pear Almond Tart from Bon Appetit 2003
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons apple cider
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons chilled butter
1/2 cup (packed) almond paste (5 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 medium Bartlett or Anjou pears
1. Whisk egg yolks and apple cider in small bowl to blend. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add chilled butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk mixture and process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. Roll out dough between two sheets of saran wrap to prevent sticking. Lay dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; chill while preparing filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
2. Position rack in lowest third of oven. Preheat to 375°F.
3. Blend almond paste and sugar in processor until almond paste is finely ground. Add 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter and process until thick paste forms. Add eggs and vanilla extract and process until smooth. Spread filling in crust; cover and chill while preparing pears.
4. Peel pears. Cut each pear in half lengthwise and core. Slice 1 pear half crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Press on pear half to fan slices toward wider end. Arrange slices in a concentric circle from the outer rim moving to the center of the pan. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Brush over pears.
5. Bake tart until pears are tender and crust is brown, about 50 minutes. Cool 30 minutes. Remove from pan and serve warm or at room temperature. (Tart can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)