Okay, it’s day 2, and we’re on the downhill stretch with only a few things to do to finish our Pear and Hazelnut Tart. Basically, we’re going to roll out and blind-bake the crust that we made yesterday, make the custard, then assemble. Ready? Good. Let’s get scratchin’ and get this tart ready for tonight’s dessert.
We’re not going to repeat all the instructions from yesterday. Instead, we’re just going to jump right in with what we need to do. The sooner we get started, the sooner it’s done. Nothing in today’s instructions is really difficult, although you probably need to be a bit careful with the custard, so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
First off, remove the vanilla beans from the sugar and the pears. Rinse if needed, let dry, and store for a future recipe. The vanilla is still good and can be reused a few times, especially for vanilla sugar. You paid a lot to get those beans, so use them up!
Procedure in detail:
Roll out crust. Get the dough out of the refrigerator, place it on a floured work surface, and start rolling. It will be difficult at first, but, with some effort, you’ll soon have a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter. Perfect.
Place in pan. Transfer crust to the pan, press it in place, and trim off the edges so it looks nice.
Dock. Use a fork to poke holes through the bottom of the crust. Do this all over, as it helps to prevent the crust from puffing up in spots when you’re baking it. Now, many people talk about lining the crust with baking parchment and placing pie weights or beans on top to prevent puffing, but we do it another, easier way.
Freeze. Place the crust, pan and all, in the freezer for 15 minutes. Freezing the crust will keep it from puffing while it bakes, and avoids all that pie weight jazz. Cool little trick, huh?
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat the oven while the crust is freezing.
Bake. Place the frozen crust right in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown.
Cool. Remove the crust to a rack and let it cool completely.
There, blind-baking a crust wasn’t so bad, was it? Let’s move on to the custard.
Grind hazelnuts. Yesterday, we toasted and skinned the hazelnuts. Today, we need to grind up some of them. Place about 3/4 cup of the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind away. In just a few seconds, you’ll have a nice ground hazelnut meal. Set aside.
Chop hazelnuts. Chop the remaining hazelnuts with a knife. We cut them into four to eight pieces, which should make a nice garnish for the tart. Set aside.
Boil milk. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking continuously. Once it’s at a boil, remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes.
Mix cornstarch and eggs. Sorry, but you need to do these next two steps right away. No taking a break, because you don’t want that milk to cool too much. A little is okay, but not too much. So, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and one egg. Once the first egg is whisked in completely, add the next egg. Whisk it in, then add the third egg and whisk that in, too.
Whisk in sugar. Now, dump in the sugar and whisk that in, too, until you have a smooth mixture. Now comes the only tricky part; to make it a bit easier, it helps to have an assistant.
Whisk in hot milk. Start whisking the egg mixture like crazy while you have your assistant slooooowly pour in the hot milk. Keep whisking and slowly pouring until all the milk is whisked in. If you pour the milk in too rapidly, it will cook the eggs, resulting in a lumpy custard. If you’re not whisking, same thing. Again, that was the only tricky part.
Cook custard. Pour the custard back into the saucepan, place it on the stove over medium-low heat, and cook, whisking continuously, until it thickens. It will thicken a lot, so keep cooking and whisking until you’re sure that it’s finished thickening. It may even boil just a bit at this point. If it boils, that’s okay; remove it from the heat, because it’s done.
Place pears. Drain the pears and place them nicely on the top of the tart, cut side down. Relax, we’re almost finished. It’s looking good, right?
Drizzle with chocolate. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl. You can do this over simmering water, or, you can do it by placing the chocolate in a microwave and heating it in 30-second increments at half power. Your choice. But, once it’s melted, drizzle it over the tart, and scrape out any chocolate that sticks to the bowl with your finger. Chocolate that sticks to the bowl, well, you’ll have to eat it. Sorry.
Top with nuts. Now, sprinkle those chopped hazelnuts over the top and admire your beautiful Hazelnut and Pear Tart. Unfortunately, even though it’s tempting, you can’t test it quite yet.
Refrigerate. Yep, chill the tart for at least 2 hours, or even longer. We thought that it tasted better the next day.
This tart was great! It looked really nice when it was finished, and the custard was lovely and creamy, with a lot of hazelnut flavor (especially after sitting for a full day). For our tastes, the only thing that we would consider changing would be the amount of sugar used when poaching the pears. Those pears turned out just the slightest bit too sweet; we’ll cut back (probably to 1/3 cup) the amount of sugar the next time we make this. Which we have to, since we didn’t make the crust correctly the first time, so we weren’t able to taste the tart in all its glory. Ah, the punishment of baking for an audience! That being said, the filling and topping were delicious; an easy four stars.