Late Summer Harvest: Pears – Pear Custard Tart

My children both love pears and there is a farmer near our house that sells incredibly sweet Bartletts at this time of year. We look forward to them all year long. I set them in a bowl on the kitchen counter and let them ripen to a lovely pale yellow then they are ready to use in this tart. You should use a pear that is still slightly firm and not overly ripe.

This custard tart is so versatile. It is one of my master recipes. You can make it with plums, apples, apricots, cherries, rhubarb, peaches and nectarines. The tart dough recipe my sister gave me (I am not sure of the source) and the custard filling is adapted from one in Saveur Magazine. My husband likes to eat this warm out of the oven. I prefer it cold. I think the filling takes on a better flavor when cold. Your choice. The dough comes together quickly; it takes less than 5 minutes in the food processor. It needs to chill before rolling out and often I will make it a day or two before I need it. The dough also makes good, simple cut-out cookies.

Pear Custard Tart
1-2/3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
Zest of half a large lemon
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Custard Filling
2 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a food processor combine flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until butter is pea-sized. It should take 5-7 pulses. Combine egg and vanilla and mix lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture and pulse until a crumbly dough just begins to come together. Remove dough from food processor bowl and turn onto the counter. Bring dough together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into a round disk and fit into an 11 inch tart pan. Resist the urge to add more flour to the dough while rolling. Pre bake tart dough for 10 minutes. While the tart crust is baking, combine in a bowl the pear slices, lemon juice and 1 tsp. sugar. Toss to mix. Make the custard by combining vanilla sugar and flour. Add cream and milk. Stir. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Remove prebaked crust from the oven. Place pear slices in a circular pattern on top of crust. Strain custard and pour over fruit. Return tart to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the edges of the custard are puffed and the center is not runny, but set. Makes 1 (11-inch) tart which serves 10-12.


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