Last weekend we were sitting at an outdoor table at a breakfast place in St Louis enjoying a brief warm spell. Ours were probably the last bottoms those cafe seats would see for several months, and we were in no hurry to relieve them of their duties. Sitting next to each of our plates was the little tried-and-true fruit medley bowl. Sometimes you can judge an entire menu on the quality of a fruit medley. In some breakfast spots, it seems put there just to annoy you and give you something to accidentally dump your maple syrup on. A crunchy, tasteless cantaloupe chunk served in the depths of winter is enough to confirm why every diner around you has pushed the little bowl as far from the rest of their meal as they can, like an unwanted puppy begging for scraps.
This was no such medley, thankfully. It was rather a good one, as was our meal. At one point a friend took a bite of fruit and lit up a little. “What is this?” he asked the rest of us. I leaned in. “Pear, looks like d’Anjou pear, maybe?”, I replied. “Well, I’m putting ‘pears’ on my list of fruit I like.” I don’t think that was a very long list for him, so it was proud day for pears. And after I took a bite myself, I decided they really didn’t even belong in a ‘medley’. This was more a solo artist kind of pear.
After we got home, I went to the market to see if the luck would hold out on pear season. A little bag of Red Bartletts and Red d’Anjou made it home with me, and they didn’t disappoint. The chubby d’Anjous were juicy and perfectly sweet, and the Barletts crisp and fragrant. But in my eagerness I bought a few too many to just eat as snacks and, tragically, needed to figure out what to do with the rest.
…but thankfully, I knew exactly the place to start.
Chocolate Almond Pear Tart
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Hands-On Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Seasonal note: The Bartlett is the parade master that leads the pear season in late Summer, and bringing up the rear is the d’Anjou, which is considered a Winter pear and something you can usually enjoy as peak season at a time when few other fruit are.
Ingredients, equipment or steps with options for substitutions/variations have an asterisk next to them (*). See notes at the bottom of the recipe for details.
Gluten-free, all natural, vegetarian, easy, minimal mess
9 inch tart pan with removable bottom *
Food processor *
8 tablespoons (1 stick) / 113g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 cup / 140g whole blanched almonds *
½ cup / 70g fine natural cane turbinado sugar*
3 large eggs
⅓ cup / 83g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
1 – 2 firm, ripe red pears, such as Red d’Anjou or Red Bartlett (In the recipe pictured, I used 1 very plump Red d’Anjou. The more pear slices you use, the moister the finished cake will be)
Honey for finishing glaze
Handful of sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat to 350F / 175C.
Generously butter a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Make sure to get the butter into the fluted edges. Melting the butter and brushing it on can help here if you don’t mind the extra trouble/mess, but isn’t a necessity; set aside.
Spread almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon over the almonds and toss to coat
Pop almonds in the oven and lightly roast until fragrant and beginning to turn pale golden: 5 – 8 mins. Remove and allow to cool (keep the oven on!). Reserve baking sheet for later use.
In a food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until very finely ground. Add butter, eggs, cocoa, remaining teaspoon of cinnamon, almond extract (if using) and salt and pulse a few times until batter is well mixed.
Spread mixture evenly in prepared tart pan.
Halve and core pears; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices on top of your batter, slightly overlapping, without pressing in.
Place filled tart pan on your baking sheet; bake until top is puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate mixture comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Gently brush or drizzle pears with a light sheen of honey.
To remove tart from pan easily, first place the tart pan on a sturdy cylinder (such as a vase or oatmeal container), then gently loosen around the fluted rim and push down and off the tart. Then, if you wish to remove the bottom for presentation, carefully run a thin pastry spatula between the base and the cake bottom to loosen. I usually just leave the bottom on, though, as it makes it easier to transfer any leftovers to the fridge!
Serve at room temperature with a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds, or an extra dash of cinnamon (if you wish)
*Notes on variations/substitutions
9-inch tart pan: An 8-inch pan also works here, but the baking time will likely be closer to 50 – 55 mins. 10-inch pans will make for a very thin tart, and not ideal.
Fine natural cane turbinado sugar: If you are using a food processor, larger-crystal turbinado can also be used in place of the fine, just add a tablespoon to the measurement. White granulated sugar can be substituted at the same measurement.
Whole blanched almonds: You can use blanched slivered almonds if you cannot find whole ones, just increase the cup measurement to 1 ¼ cup.
Food processor: If you don’t have a food processor, you can use pre-ground almond meal such as the Bob’s Red Mill brand. Increase your volume to 1 ¼ cup almond meal for 1 cup whole almonds. It can usually be found in the baking or natural foods sections of the grocery store.