Pear and Hazelnut Tart — Day 1

Pear and Hazelnut Tart — Day 1
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hazelnut and pear tart
Hazelnut and Pear Tart. Lovely!

This happens to be one of the fanciest-looking tarts in Tart It Up! Sweet and Savory Tarts and Pies, by Eric Lanlard, and, at first glance, it looks impossible for us to tackle. But, here at Scratchin’ Central, we tackled it with a vengeance, just so you could, too. In case the title of this post doesn’t warn you, making this tart takes two days, which sounds intimidating, but, we’re not going to be intimidated, are we? Nope! Not us. Let’s get to it.

Since the pears for this tart need to steep overnight, and the crust could chill overnight, we thought the best way of writing this recipe was to break it into two pieces, each piece describing exactly what we needed to do on each day. That way, you can see that nothing in this tart is beyond your capabilities, and, in fact, it’s actually a pretty easy tart to put together.

Pear and Hazelnut Tart — Day 1

Pear and Hazelnut Tart — Day 1


    For the crust
  • 2 1/4 cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbs sugar
  • 14 Tbs (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, chopped into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs ice-cold water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the pears
  • 6 medium pears
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • For the custard
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 Tbs cornstarch
  • 6 1/2 Tbs (80 g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, ground
  • For topping
  • 2 1/2 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Abbreviated Instructions

Day 1
Make crust.

Combine flour and 4 Tbs sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add pieces of butter and rub into flour with your fingertips. Make a well in the center, add egg, vanilla extract, and water and mix with your fingertips until you have a smooth dough. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Make pears.

In a large saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and split vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer to dissolve sugar.

Peel, halve, and core pears.

Place pears in simmering sugar water, cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they can be pierced easily with a knife. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

For custard.

Measure the 6 1/2 Tbs sugar into a small bowl. Bury a vanilla bean in the center. Cover and let sit overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place 1 cup hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast 10 to 12 minutes, or until skins split and start peeling off. Remove from oven and let cool.

Rub hazelnuts with a dish towel to remove remaining skins. Place in a closed container overnight.

Day 2.
For crust.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out crust and press into a 10-inch tart pan. Pierce bottom all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden browned. Let cool completely.

For Custard

Grind 3/4 cup of hazelnuts by placing in a food processor and pulsing until finely ground. Set aside.

Bring milk to a boil. Remove from heat, and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs into cornstarch one at a time. Remove vanilla bean from the container of sugar, and whisk in the 6 1/2 Tbs of sugar.

While whisking vigorously, slowly add the still-hot milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan, heat until the custard is very thick. Remove from heat.

Stir ground hazelnuts into custard, then spread into cooled tart crust.

For pears.

Drain pears and arrange on top of custard.

For topping.

Chop remaining hazelnuts.

Melt chocolate, drizzle over the pears, and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Ingredient discussion:

Eggs: free-rangers are the way to go. Pears: We used organic (Bartlett pears) to avoid the pesticides. Use a variety that you like, and, ideally, you want ripe pears; leaving them on the counter until the neck is just soft works. Butter, should be unsalted. Why let a complete stranger salt your food? Chocolate: no skimping. Go for the gusto and get the best you can afford. Vanilla beans: yes, they’re expensive. We buy them in bulk over the Internet, still pricey, but, oh, so worth it. You might think of going in with friends and family and purchasing a pound of vanilla beans. When they arrive invite everyone over for their share.

Procedure in detail:

Today, we have several tasks to complete: Making the crust dough, poaching the pears, making vanilla sugar, and toasting and skinning the hazelnuts. Nothing really tough, so we’ll take it step by step, starting with the crust dough.

mix sugar and flour
Mix together the flour and sugar. Sometimes we use a whisk, sometimes a spoon. It depends on what we have at hand.

Mix flour and sugar. We took the time to measure the flour by weight into a sifter and sift it. If you measure by weight, you really don’t need to sift these days, but, sometimes, we like to break it out for old times’ sake. Plus, it’s not that hard. Then measure the sugar right on top, and mix in with a whisk or spoon.

adding butter
Cut the cold butter into small pieces so that you can mix it into the flour faster. You don’t want the butter to melt. If it does, you will not have a flaky crust.

Add butter. First a confession. We made our crust incorrectly, so we want to make sure that you do it right. The original instructions called out the amount of butter in ounces; unfortunately, we mistook it for tablespoons, so we didn’t have enough butter, making our crust tough. So, add those 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) of butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until your mixture is the consistency of a coarsely- ground meal. Try to do this quickly so the butter doesn’t melt.

adding liquids
We mixed in the liquid ingredients by hand. Our fingers were right there, so it was pretty easy.

Add remaining crust ingredients. Make a well in the center, add the egg, the vanilla extract, and the ice water, and mix. Just mix it up with your fingers, keep mixing, more, a little more. That’s it. Perfect, now you have a smooth uniform dough.

dough wrapped for the refrigerator
That’s it for the crust dough. Just wrap it up and refrigerate overnight.

Refrigerate. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and pop it in the refrigerator. We’re now finished with the dough for today. Not bad, right? And, that was about the most difficult thing we’re doing for the tart today.

Now, let’s move on to the poached pears. Basically, we’re going to be cooking them in a vanilla-flavored simple syrup. That’s it.

making simple syrup
Simple syrup really is simple: one part water, one part sugar, and boil it together. Here we’ve added a vanilla bean to liven up the flavor.

Mix sugar, water, and vanilla bean. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, put it in a saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water, and slowly bring it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Don’t forget to remove, rinse, dry, and save the vanilla bean tomorrow.

peel and cored pear
Sometimes you can just scoop the core out of the pear, sometimes you need a knife. It depends on the ripeness of the pear.

Prep pears. Peel the pears — we used a vegetable peeler — and cut them in half.  If your pears are ripe, you should be able to scoop out the core with a small spoon or even a melon baller. We had to use a knife on a few of ours.

cooked pears
Once simmered in the syrup until cooked, slide the pears into the refrigerator so they can become infused with all that lovely vanilla flavor.

Simmer pears. Drop the pears in the simmering simple syrup, cover, and let the pears cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are quite tender. A knife should slide into them easily. Remove from heat and let cool.

Refrigerate. Once they’ve cooled a bit, place the pears, still in the saucepan, in the refrigerator to let the vanilla infuse into the pears. That’s everything we need to do for the pears today.

making vanilla sugar
Vanilla sugar is nothing but sugar infused with vanilla, giving it a tasty flavor.

Make vanilla sugar. Some people make a quart of this at a time. We don’t bother, since we can easily make it the day before, and have no problem reusing the vanilla bean many times. So, find a container with a lid, measure out the 6 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, and bury the vanilla bean right in the middle. Cover and let it sit. That’s it for today. Tomorrow, you’ll want to remove and save the bean for a future recipe.

Last thing for today is toasting and skinning the hazelnuts. Don’t worry, it sounds as if it might be difficult, but you’ll see. It’s easy, too.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake hazelnuts. Pour a cup of hazelnuts onto a baking sheet — feel free to add a few more for snacking, we always do — and slide it into the oven. Let them bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the skins have split and are starting to fall off. They should smell really good right about now, too.

toasted hazelnuts.
The skins on hazelnuts split open as they toast, making it easy to rub the skins right off. Leaving them on will result in some bitterness.

Let cool and skin. Let the hazelnuts cool for a few minutes, then place them in a towel and rub vigorously. The skins should come right off like magic. Place the nuts in a covered container, because we’re finished working on our tart for today.

So, the things we had to do today weren’t too bad, were they? The only things that really had to be done today were cooking the pears, and the vanilla sugar; the crust and hazelnuts could have waited until tomorrow. But, we figured that we might as well get these done, too. That way, tomorrow, we’ll only have the crust to bake, nuts to grind, custard to make, and the tart to assemble. Well worth it for a really upscale tart!

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