PEAR, BAY AND ALMOND RUSTIC TART

How refreshing this tart is! And not just in the literal taste sense, but the method is also somewhat of an unconventional welcome. Rather than fiddling around with tart or flan tins - there's a time and a place - this is 'freeform' and requires only artistic licence of the creator. 

(c) John Whaite

Ingredients (serves 6/8) 

  • 1 quantity rich sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe here)
  • 2 large conference pears (of roughly equal size) 
  • 500g can pear cider 
  • 200g caster sugar 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4tbsp amaretto liqueur (optional, but so worth it) 
  • Small handful flaked almonds

Essential Equipment

  • 2 x flat baking sheets 
  • Baking paper 

Method

Make the pastry according to the recipe in the link above and chill. Peel the pears but don't core them or remove their stalks. Place the cider and sugar into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the bay and amaretto liqueur, then drop the pears in. Cover the surface of the pears/liquid with a disk of baking paper to avoid over-evaporation. Poach the pears for 15 minutes, or until a knife pierces the pears easily, with just a little resistance. Once the pears are poached, turn off the heat and allow them to soak for a further 5 minutes, then remove from the syrup and allow to cool completely, but don't throw away the syrup. Once the pears are cool, top and tail them, and then slice each into 8 long segments - if they have lots of pips, gently remove the core from each segment, but don't break them. 

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Place a baking sheet on the bottom shelf to heat up. 

Roll out the pastry in plenty of flour to prevent it sticking to the counter. Roll it to a rough rectangle of about 35x25cm then trim the edges to neaten. Place the pastry on the second baking sheet. Align the pears down the centre of the pastry leaving a little room on either side and at both ends. Sprinkle over a few flaked almonds then fold over the sides and the ends, squashing the pastry down at the corners to make it stick. If desired, crimp the edges of the pastry. Slide onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is gloriously golden brown. Don't be afraid to let the pastry go brown here - the sugar content in it means that it will naturally be a little darker than normal. 

Whilst the tart bakes, Place about 100ml of the syrup into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce down until very syrupy - like warm honey - then remove from the heat. Once the tart comes out of the oven, glaze the top with the syrup for both shine and extra flavour, then sprinkle over a few more flaked almonds.

TIP: if you're a fan of sweet pastry, make sure you get an end piece.