The whiskey almond pair tart is Dan’s favorite ‘special occasion’ dessert. The kind that you don’t make often, but when you do, it turns heads. Dan offers some tips from his experience.
“Find yourself a 14″ x 4″ rectangular tart pan for a real show-stopper. I picked mine up just down the street from the nice folks at the Happy Cooker. Make sure you roll the dough out the shape of your pan (ball for a tart, or log for the rectangle), and follow the note about rolling it out between sheets of plastic wrap. It makes it way easier to get it into the tart pan without breaking it. But if you do, don’t worry. Just smush all your crumbled bits back into the pan and it’ll turn out fine!”
Yield: one 14-by-4-inch rectangular tart or one 11-inch round tart
For the pears and poaching liquid
1 (15-ounce) can pear halves in heavy syrup, about 6 halves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whiskey
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the basic sweet tart dough
¼ cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg, beaten
For the almond cream filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold
4 1/2 ounces almond paste
1 large egg
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon whiskey
For the pear glaze
Reserved syrup and reserved “poaching” liquid from pears
1 teaspoon whiskey
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
Make the pears and poaching liquid
Strain the pears and reserve the heavy syrup (for the glaze) in a small, covered bowl or cup in the refrigerator.
In a medium, nonreactive bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, whiskey, sugar, and vanilla. Toss the pears with the liquid, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Make the sweet tart dough
Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses). Add the egg and pulse just until the dough begins to form a mass. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least 1 hour).
Bake the crust
Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick into either a rectangle about 15 inches long or into a round about 12 inches in diameter. (Note: The dough will be sticky. Make sure to turn it with a bench knife or offset spatula as needed and keep the working surface floured. Some people find it easier to roll dough between two layers of plastic wrap. This can ease transfer and be a bit less messy.)
Ever so gently, guide the dough into the tart pan, without pulling it, and lightly press it into place. Roll the rolling pin over the pan to trim off excess dough. Place the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill it three-quarters full with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on.
Make the almond cream filling
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and almond paste on medium speed until the mixture is light, fluffy, and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the filling and turn the mixer to low. Drizzle in the whiskey and beat until it is combined. Spread the almond cream filling evenly over the cooled tart shell.
Drain the pear halves, reserving the soaking liquid, and arrange them decoratively on top of the almond cream. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up and sets and the crust turns golden brown. Let the tart cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.
Make the pear glaze
Place the syrup and soaking liquid in a medium pan over medium heat and gently boil until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove it from the heat and whisk quickly and continuously for 1 minute to speed cooling. Add the whiskey and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat, bring the glaze to a boil, and cook it for 1 minute. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze gently to the tart.
Remove the tart from the pan and serve it as soon as possible. The tart will keep at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days, but the crust will turn slightly soggy after the first day.
Note: At first, I was hesitant to use canned fruit for this tart, but if you find the right brand (with all natural ingredients), you will get a consistent and wonderful tart every time.