The Altitude Adjustment Section
This is a delicious, non-altitude-affected fruit tart which should be in your repertoire. The tart can be made in stages: the tart shell can be prepared in advance and frozen, and the filling can be made a day ahead. This makes assembly and baking a breeze!
Ingredients for tart crust
1/4 cup finely ground hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons ice-cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice-cold solid vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ice water
Ingredients for filling
½1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 firm but ripe Bosc Pears
2 tablespoons pear brandy, kirsch, or cognac
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Procedure for crust
Combine the hazelnuts, flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the sour cream and water, and process for a few seconds, just until a ball of dough begins to form. Do not over-process. (To make the dough by hand, place the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and use a pastry blender to cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture. Add the sour cream and ice water, and mix just until it comes together and forms a mass.) Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, gathering all the loose bits, and form into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Dust the work surface and dough with a little more flour, as necessary, to keep the dough from sticking. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, lift it over the tart pan, and unroll the dough over the pan. Adjust to center the dough, then press it into place. Trim the overhang to half an inch and fold in to reinforce the side. Freeze the tart shell for 20 minutes. (The tart shell can be made up to this point and frozen for up to 1 month.)
Line the tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake just until the side of the pastry begins to color, about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and foil, and bake until the base of the shell is golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Procedure for filling
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, stopping the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add the egg yolk, egg, and heavy cream, and process to blend thoroughly. Scatter the ground nuts and flour over the butter mixture, and process just until blended. Refrigerate while preparing the pears. Halve and core them and cut vertically into 1/8-inch slices.
To assemble: Spread the cream filling evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart shell. Arrange the pears over the filling in overlapping concentric circles, starting from the outside edge and working toward the center. Brush the pears with the pear brandy. Sprinkle the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar over the top.
Bake the tart in the center of the oven until the pastry is brown and the pears begin to caramelize, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack. When ready to serve, center one hand under the bottom of the tart pan and slip off the rim with the other hand. Set the tart on a round serving plate and cut into wedges.