What I especially liked about the recipe is that it was good for making ahead. Since I had friends coming over to work on our basement remodeling project, I needed something that wouldn't involve a lot of last minute fussing. This could be made in stages, and Rose said the pears, which are peeled, cored and halved, then poached in water, sugar, and Poire William eau-de-vie, would develop more flavor by sitting overnight in the poaching liquid. However, I wasn't about to spend $50 on a bottle of Poire William for the three tablespoons required for this recipe. I've never tasted Poire William so I didn't know what else might be appropriate, but decided to substitute a combination of Cointreau and Lillet because that's what smelled right. I'm sure I looked funny standing in front of the liquor cabinet sniffing bottles of liqueur. My cats were the only witnesses, and since they think humans are strange and inferior anyway I'm sure it didn't faze them.
I poached the pears and put them in the fridge. I also made the filling, which consisted of finely ground blanched almonds (I used Bob's Red Mill almond meal to save time and effort), egg, sugar and vanilla. It too went into the fridge overnight.
When I made tartlets last week, I made a full batch of tartlet dough but only used half. The other half I chucked into the freezer for later use. Since I hadn't been thrilled with RLB's crust recipes, I decided to use Flo Braker's beautiful tart dough. It was a little difficult to work for a large tart, so I may have used a bit too much flour when rolling it. I had to piece and patch a little in some spots, but since the filling would cover any boo-boos, I wasn't too worried about it.
Rose says that if you thoroughly chill a 9-inch tart shell you don't have to use pie weights. That pleased me since I have issues with pie weights. They mock me by spilling all over the floor, the foil thwarts me by sticking, and in general pie weight usage is accompanied by a lot of bad language. So I put the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking. It worked pretty well - there was a little bit of slumping/shrinking on the edges but overall, it was a success. It didn't puff at all in the middle, and it browned evenly. Score another one for that tartlet dough. That recipe alone was worth the price of the cookbook.
Saturday morning I assembled and baked the tart for evening service. The chilled almond filling was a tad stiff and I had to be very careful while spreading it on the crust so I didn't break it. It may have been better to make that right before baking since it isn't difficult or time consuming. It would certainly be much easier to spread. The pears were cut most of the way through and then fanned out just a bit. I know my presentation needs a bit of work but with a square crust I couldn't arrange the pears the way Rose suggested.
Part of the poaching liquid is reduced by 2/3 to make a glaze for the finished tart. After the liquid is reduced and cooled slightly, a bit of arrowroot (or cornstarch) is added and it's brought back to a boil to thicken it. Usually I am impatient and don't reduce the liquid enough, but this time I over-reduced not once, but twice! That's OK, it got even more flavorful and I had plenty left. I brushed the glaze over the baked tart and set it aside.
While it did get a bit soggy on the second day, that evening the tart was perfect. After a meal of gluttonously thick T-bones served with a mushroom/red wine sauce, sauteed green beans, and baked potatoes, it was bit rich, but everyone somehow managed to clean their plates. I had a very satisfied crew, and my ceiling in the new family room is up! Yay!