2000s Recipes + Menus

Seckel Pear Tart with Poire William Cream

  • Active time:1 1/2 hr
  • Start to finish:3 1/2 hr (includes making pastry)
November 2008
Adorable Seckel pears are on display in this showpiece, but the essence of pear permeates the entire tart. Musky, honeyed Bartletts are juiced into white wine, creating a poaching liquid for the Seckels. Doubly infused with pear, that syrup becomes the base for the poire William–spiked pastry cream and glaze.

View more of our favorite recipes from this issue, and learn the story behind the Over the Top Thanksgiving menu in our series
The Recipe.

For tart shell

For pears

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ripe Bartlett pears
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 lb Seckel pears (24 very small or 16 small)

For pastry cream

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons poire William (pear eau-de-vie)
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

For glaze

  • 1 tablespoon poire William
  • 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
  • Equipment:

    a 13- by 4-inch rectangular fluted tart pan with removable side; pie weights or dried beans; a flour sack or linen cloth

Make shell:

  • Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 20- by 8-inch rectangle, reflouring surface as necessary. Transfer to tart pan, gently fitting dough into pan without stretching. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch, cutting off corners. Fold overhang inward to reinforce side, then trim flush with edge of pan. Reserve excess pastry for another use if desired. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
  • Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, then bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool completely in pan.

Poach pears:

  • Put wine in a wide 4-qt pot and set a sieve lined with dampened flour sack cloth over it. Grate Bartlett pears (including skin) on large holes of a box grater into cloth, then bunch up cloth around mixture and squeeze as much clear juice as possible through cloth into pan with wine. Discard solids remaining in cloth. Transfer wine mixture to a 2-cup measure and add enough water, if necessary, to bring total to 2 cups liquid, then return to pan and stir in sugar.
  • Carefully peel Seckel pears, leaving stems intact, then core through bottom with tip of vegetable peeler or a small knife to remove seeds.
  • Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups syrup), and reserve for pastry cream and glaze.

Make pastry cream:

  • Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean, reserving pod for another use. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in poire William and butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

Make glaze:

  • Stir together poire William and gelatin in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute.
  • Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about 1/3 cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.
  • Remove side of tart pan. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Stand pears upright on pastry cream, arranging them in 8 rows of 2 or 3.
  • When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Tart shell can be baked 1 day ahead and kept (covered once cool) at room temperature.
  • Seckel pears can be poached 1 day ahead and chilled, loosely covered.
  • Pastry cream can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered.
  • Assembled tart can be kept at room temperature 1 hour or chilled 4 hours.
  • We’ve also got web-exclusive recipe using the leftover wine.
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