In the Oven: Whiskey Pear Tart

We’re back to Baked Explorations this week, with a boozy pear tart. Note that this isn’t a last-minute thing; the tart is pretty simple to make but the pears need to sit overnight. Posting date is September 23!

Whiskey Pear Tart
yield: one 14-by-4-inch rectangular tart or one 11-inch round tart

For the pears and poaching liquid
1 (15-ounce) can pear halves in heavy syrup, about 6 halves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whiskey
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the basic sweet tart dough
¼ cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg, beaten

For the almond cream filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold
4 1/2 ounces almond paste
1 large egg
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon whiskey

For the pear glaze
Reserved syrup and reserved “poaching” liquid from pears
1 teaspoon whiskey
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Make the pears and poaching liquid
Strain the pears and reserve the heavy syrup (for the glaze) in a small, covered bowl or cup in the refrigerator.

In a medium, nonreactive bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, whiskey, sugar, and vanilla. Toss the pears with the liquid, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Make the sweet tart dough
Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses). Add the egg and pulse just until the dough begins to form a mass. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least 1 hour).

Bake the crust
Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick into either a rectangle about 15 inches long or into a round about 12 inches in diameter. (Note: The dough will be sticky. Make sure to turn it with a bench knife or offset spatula as needed and keep the working surface floured. Some people find it easier to roll dough between two layers of plastic wrap. This can ease transfer and be a bit less messy.)

Ever so gently, guide the dough into the tart pan, without pulling it, and lightly press it into place. Roll the rolling pin over the pan to trim off excess dough. Place the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill it three-quarters full with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. Leave the oven on.

Make the almond cream filling
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and almond paste on medium speed until the mixture is light, fluffy, and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the filling and turn the mixer to low. Drizzle in the whiskey and beat until it is combined. Spread the almond cream filling evenly over the cooled tart shell.

Drain the pear halves, reserving the soaking liquid, and arrange them decoratively on top of the almond cream. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up and sets and the crust turns golden brown. Let the tart cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.

Make the pear glaze
Place the syrup and soaking liquid in a medium pan over medium heat and gently boil until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove it from the heat and whisk quickly and continuously for 1 minute to speed cooling. Add the whiskey and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat, bring the glaze to a boil, and cook it for 1 minute. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze gently to the tart.

Remove the tart from the pan and serve it as soon as possible. The tart will keep at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days, but the crust will turn slightly soggy after the first day.

Baked Note: At first, I was hesitant to use canned fruit for this tart, but if you find the right brand (with all natural ingredients), you will get a consistent and wonderful tart every time. If you happen to come across excellent fresh pears at a farmers’ market, poach away, using the traditional method in the book. This is a two day project so make sure you read through all the steps before getting started.

Excerpted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Copyright © 2010 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Excerpted by permission of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of Abrams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


  1. says

    Ok, so pies and tarts are my baking nemesis. I bake pies once per year…for Thanksgiving and I (gasp) use a store bought crust. As such I do not own pie weights. Nor do I have a bag of dried beans. Does anyone know if I can use rice?

    Despite my utter dislike of pie crust, the crust for this tart seems to be going well so far. I did have to warm it up a little bit after removing it from it’s overnight chill. It kept cracking when I rolled it. I kneaded it a few times and then I was able to roll it out without incident.

    • says

      Linda – pie crusts and doughs like this can be a hassle, I agree. It worked fine for me with a little light pressure as I was rolling it, and I took it right out of the fridge. A little tip I learned to prevent cracking in a chilled dough is to take the knuckles of your hand, BEFORE rolling your dough out, and make slight indentations along the perimeter of the dough ball. This “lowers” the edges and puffs up the middle so that as you roll it out, the rolling pin pressure is making initial contact with the (puffier) center of the dough and not exerting too much pressure on the edges of the dough, thus making it crack. I think I read about this in Cooks Illustrated or someplace ‘clever’ like that. I noticed this dough cracking as I flat-out rolled it, but when I pressed my knuckles into the edges, it seemed to appease the cracking a little bit. I may actually post this tip in my blog as well, as I’ve found it very helpful when rolling out many a pie crust or tart crust.

      I love making pies and tarts, so I’m happy to lend any advice! :-) Have fun and I can’t wait to see how yours (and all of ours) turn out. My tart crust is baking now as I type this!

  2. says

    I’m going to use my leftover almond paste for an apple pie. I debated making the tart again with apples, but my husband is desperately craving an apple pie.

    Thanks for the tip, Mark! I’ll have to try that next time. Despite my reluctance, this crust turned out better than I expected and was well worth the effort!