Crunchy, Nutty, Fruity, Sweet: Pear Almond Custard Tart for Thanksgiving

Pear Almond Custard Tart. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Pear Almond Custard Tart

I’ve been making this tart for many years in countless iterations. It all started way back when with Julia Child’s version of a red wine-poached pear tart filled with frangipane. A gorgeous masterpiece.

Over the years, I simplified my version significantly, although it does still take a bit of work for all the different components. The nice thing is is that you can make the tart dough ahead of time (up to 1 day in the fridge or 1 month in the freezer), line the tart pan with the dough and freeze it (for up to 1 month in advance, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap), and poach the pears up to 3 days in advance (just store them in an airtight container in the fridge).

I poach my pears in a simple syrup flavored with orange zest and vanilla bean. The fragrance is simply incredible and will fill your house with the smell of the holidays. The buttery crust is reminiscent of pie dough meets a crisp cookie, and the smooth custard holds it all together. Topped with a shower of toasted almonds and a sprinkle of sugar for crunch, this is a definite every year on my Thanksgiving table.

Pear Almond Custard Tart Ingredients. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Pear Almond Custard Tart Ingredients

Recipe: Pear Almond Custard Tart

Serves 6–8

    Ingredients:

    For the tart dough:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    For the poached pears:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 ripe but firm pears, preferably Bartlett, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
    For the filling:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
    Instructions:
  1. To make the tart dough, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and confectioners’ sugar. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse until the butter is broken up into pieces about the size of small peas. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture, then process until the mixture comes together. Dump the dough into a large ziploc bag and press together into a flat disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day before using, or freeze for up to 1 month.

  • To poach the pears, in a saucepan, bring 2 cups water and the sugar to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pears, orange peel, and vanilla bean pod and seeds. Adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers and poach the pears, turning occasionally, until just tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool in the poaching liquid.
  • On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to a circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and line the pan, pressing together any cracks and making sure the edges are nice and thick (I usually trim the pastry and then fold it over on itself to make it doubly thick). Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bake until the crust looks dry, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and set aside while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  • Bake until the crust looks dry, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and set aside while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
    Bake until the crust looks dry, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and set aside while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  • Cut each pear quarter lengthwise into 4 slices, then lay the pear slices in the crust in an overlapping circle close to the rim. Use the remaining slices to fill the middle. In a bowl, beat together the egg and the 1/4 cup sugar until thick. Beat in the flour and then the cream, vanilla, and salt. Pour evenly over the pears.
  • Bake until the custard starts to puff up, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the almonds and remaining sugar over the top of the tart. Continue to bake until the custard is set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until warm or room temperature before slicing and serving.
  • Continue to bake until the custard is set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until warm or room temperature before slicing and serving. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
    Continue to bake until the custard is set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until warm or room temperature before slicing and serving.

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