Pear, almond and Saint Agur tart

This is an interesting alternative to a classic pear and almond tart. The saltiness of the Saint Agur blue cheese balances perfectly with the sweetness of the pears. I encourage you to give this recipe a go and surprise the taste buds of your loved ones.

Recipe © Raymond Blanc / Photograph © Chris Terry

Preparation Time: 30 (plus 1 hour 30 mins resting time) minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Tart ring 21cm diameter x 2.5cm, wooden peel or flat baking sheet Baking stone (optional)
  • FOR THE PASTRY:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g butter, unsalted, diced, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 egg, medium, organic/free-range, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 50g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g almonds, ground
  • 1 egg, medium, organic/free-range
  • 6 pear halves, tinned, drained, cores removed
  • 30g pecans, chopped
  • TO FINISH AND SERVE:
  • 50g Saint Agur blue cheese, crumbled icing sugar to dust (optional)
  • 6-8 tbsp crème fraîche (optional)

Method

  1. FOR THE PASTRY: Place the flour, butter and salt in a large bowl and rub together delicately using your fingertips until the mixture reaches a sandy texture. It is very important the butter is at room temperature in order to get an even distribution of butter within the mixture which helps give the pastry its flakiness. Create a well in the centre of the mixture and add the egg and water. With your fingertips, in little concentric circles, work the liquid ingredients into the flour and butter mixture. Then, at the last moment when the egg has been absorbed, bring the dough together and press to form a ball. Turn the ball onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently with the palms of your hands for 10 seconds until you have a homogeneous dough (do not overwork it). Break off 20-30g of dough, wrap separately in cling film and place this small ball in the fridge to chill. Wrap the remaining dough in cling film and flatten it to about a 2cm thickness. Leave to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Once rested, unwrap the large piece of dough and place in the middle of a large sheet of cling film, about 40cm square. Cover with another sheet of cling film, of similar dimensions. Roll out the dough to a circle 2–3mm thick. Place the tart ring on a wooden peel or flat baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Lift off the top layer of cling film from the dough and discard, then lift the dough by the lower cling film and invert it into the tart ring, removing the cling film. Press the dough onto the base and the inside of the ring with the small ball of dough from the fridge, ensuring that the pastry is neatly moulded to the shape of the ring. Trim the edge of the pastry by rolling a rolling pin over the top of the ring. Now, push the pastry gently up by pressing between your index finger and thumb all around the edge of the tart ring, to raise the edge 2mm above the ring. With a fork, prick the bottom of the pastry case. Reserve to one side.
  2. FOR THE FILLING: To create the almond cream, in a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, almonds and egg, and mix until well blended. Place the mixture directly into the lined tart case. Arrange the pear halves on top of the almond cream and scatter the chopped pecans over top. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least one hour before baking.
  3. TO BAKE THE TART: Pre-heat the oven to 175°C. Place the tart on a pre-heated baking tray or a baking stone in the middle of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden in colour. Note - A common problem with tarts is an undercooked soggy base – the result of insufficient bottom heat. Using a bottomless tart ring and a baking stone overcomes this, as there is an instant transfer of heat from the hot baking stone to the pastry base.
  4. TO FINISH AND SERVE: Remove the tart from the oven and scatter the crumbled Saint Agur over top to allow the residual heat to partially melt the cheese. Leave to cool for 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove the tart ring and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar. Portion into 6 or 8 pieces and serve with a generous helping of crème fraîche.