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Apple And Thyme: Pear Tart With Grandma And Mom

It’s interesting how life comes at you full force, sometimes from people you don’t even know.
A few weeks ago one member of the Daring Bakers, Inge, posted an event she was hosting to honor the women, be it moms or grandmothers (or any person special to us) who influenced us in the kitchen. The event, Apple and Thyme, was somewhat prompted by the fact that a blogging friend of hers, Jeni from the Passionate Palate, had just lost her mother to a long battle with cancer.

Losing is the right term when it comes to loved ones, especially mothers. You lose a bit of your essence, a small part of your flesh is ripped and your heart is taken away from away from you. The hurt and the pain diminish with time but never really go away. I am sorry that Jeni had to experience such a tragedy. I often think about the pain my own mother must feel day in day out after losing her own mother and it just breaks my heart. I can’t think about a day without my mom, even though we do not talk on the phone everyday or even when sometimes we don’t really like each other (hey, we all have our moods!). Jeni, I offer you my deepest condolences and thank you for reminding me to hug my mom, even if only in my dreams.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how deeply my grandmother has influenced my baking. She had that magical touch…you would come to visit and within half an hour the table was set with a wonderful spread of foods. It seemed almost effortless to her to come up with the most delicious foods. I used to believe my grandmother was this goddess of the kitchen, even when she was too frail from battling cancer. It’s not that I thought less of my mother’s cooking and baking, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like my mother was showing me the ropes, the behind the scenes, while grandma was giving me the picture perfect, no mise-en-place necessary final product.

My mother is more of a cook than a baker but when she tackles the dough, man! She is good! Just as good as her own mother and I hope I am up to par with their talent. Most French house cooks and bakers do not make elaborate 5 courses meal or produce 3 layer mousse cakes every day of the week. We make yogurt cakes, chocolate mousses, clafoutis, flans, and tarts….lots of tarts!! I think the first item I ever baked was a tart, maybe a quiche, something with a crust, something with a filling, something with cream….and I got hooked, hence the blog name "Tartelette"…. There is always a tart of some sort in the fridge…no lie. Well, except tonight because I finished the last slice of this one. I love the contrast between crust and filling, the endless possibilities of ingredients combination. If a tart had a cousin, it would be a salad: both can be as rustic or elaborate as you wish, both can make a meal (savory tart) or a side, both make use of seasonal produce or what is overripe in the fruit basket and both adapt to a myriad of cultures and cuisines.

I remember my mother and grandmother teaching me the A,B,Cs of tart doughs, "pate sablee, pate brisee, pate feuilletee" (shortbread, basic, puff pastry), and I grew up making my doughs from scratch every time. Even when the times brought packages of ready made tart dough at the grocery store, they were still making them from scratch most of the time. It always seemed funny to me to buy them only to have them remain in the fridge drawer. "Juste au cas ou" …just in case. But again, "just in case" never usually happens in France…because nobody drops in "just like that"…we are a nation of planners you see, so there is always plenty of time to make dough…but that aspect of French culture is for another post. I have one of those pre-made dough in my fridge actually…and you know what? I think I ought to throw it away…it’s been there for a while and probably will never get used…why? In my mind, there is nothing like homemade: it is neither labor nor time consuming and if you are really lazy, you can turn a dough in your food processor in less than 5 minutes. A little resting time, a little rolling and "hop" you’re there…

For this particular tart to pay tribute to both my mother and grandmother I have chosen one of our favorite combination: pears and almonds. I miss you grandma and mom, and hope I make you proud everytime I step in and out of the kitchen.

Pear And Almond Tart

Makes one 10 inch tart.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chilled (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 Tbs ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Place flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water then the egg yolk, processing just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form into a disc. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat oven to 350F and blind bake the tart shells: roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, lay into tart shell, cover with parchment paper or foil, pour dry beans or pie weights on top and bake fro 15 minutes. Let cool before proceeding.

2 large pears, peeled and cored, thinly sliced (I chose Comice for this tart)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup slivered almonds

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until pale. Whisk in the ground almonds, milk and cream. Pour into the cooled pie shell, leaving about a 1 inch border so that the batter does not overflow when you arrange the ears on top. Arrange the pear slices over the top and sprinkle with the slivered almonds. Bake at 350 until golden brown, do not worry if it still wiggles a bit in the middle, the custard will keep on setting once removed from the oven. Serve warm or at room temperature…oh heck! Eat it anyway you want, it is darn good even cold!!

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Anh November 11, 2007 um 4:15 am

Helen, now we know where all your talents come from… What a fantastic post!

Katia Mangham November 11, 2007 um 4:36 am

Lovely post, I know what you mean about your grandmother, mine was much like that. In my mind, she will always be the perfect graceful hostess. Thanks for sharing, I have really enjoyed reading your blog.

Casey November 11, 2007 um 4:54 am

I love tarts beyond all other desserts and wish I had the self-control to have one always on hand. My mother was a cake baker and never made pies and it took me years to learn to make a good crust, but now I’m pretty happy with my pate brisee. But I also like zipping my jeans. Sigh. Your pear tart looks and sounds lovely.

Peabody November 11, 2007 um 5:14 am

You are making me all misty eyed!
You dessert is lovely.

Anonymous November 11, 2007 um 8:53 am

Lisanka, en mode contente, repue, charmée! Bref, cette tartelette sera mienne… ou ne sera pas 😉

Merci pour ce talent,



Rosa's Yummy Yums November 11, 2007 um 9:09 am

That tart looks marvelous! A nice post…



DDgirl November 11, 2007 um 9:31 am

my mouth is watering!!!

Anonymous November 11, 2007 um 12:08 pm

What a lovely and heartfelt post! And the tart looks wonderful. This Apples & Thyme event has really brought out a lot of inspired writing!

Danielle November 11, 2007 um 12:37 pm

It’s wonderful that your mother and grandmother were able to teach you to bake like that. (And the tart looks tasty, too.) Mine taught me to cook, but I taught myself to bake as a child precisely because they weren’t so into it.

SteamyKitchen November 11, 2007 um 12:47 pm

Beautiful post…I never got to know my grandmother as she passed away when I was little. I wonder if she looks over me in the kitchen now!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) November 11, 2007 um 1:00 pm

How lucky you are to have such wonderful teachers in your family! I can’t remember my mother baking anything that was not from a mix, and my grandmother was an extraordinary cook but did not bake. Baking is a gift that you will pass along in your own family.

african vanielje November 11, 2007 um 1:42 pm

Helen, your writing is as effortlessly elegant as your baking so you must have learned something from your grandmother. Time with the teachers in our lives is not always appreciated in the moment, but we are lucky if we can look back and recognise it, and like you and I, thank and hug our teachers, (in person adn in our dreams). Thanks for adding your story to Apples & Thyme. It’s going to be an emotional and heartfelt roundup.

Annemarie November 11, 2007 um 3:51 pm

A lovely post. Thanks Helen.

LizNoVeggieGirl November 11, 2007 um 4:06 pm

I’m not surprised that there is so much talent in your family, when it comes to cooking and baking – this Pear & Almond Tart is the perfect, delectable way to pay tribute to your grandmother, and to your mother as well. My grandmother was, and my mom still is, more of a cook than a baker, just like your mother; but I’m definitely more of a baker than a cook (although I do enjoy both forms of food-preparing).

It’s so wonderful being able to share talents with family members, as it creates memories and experiences that will be cherished forever :0)

Anonymous November 11, 2007 um 4:20 pm

Very lovely tribute Helen indeed. You are so right when you mention the love for tarts that we the French have, don’t we? This is another beautiful one.

test it comm November 11, 2007 um 4:51 pm

Looks good. Great photos!

Amanda at Little Foodies November 11, 2007 um 5:27 pm

Great post and tribute.

Anonymous November 11, 2007 um 6:48 pm

What a great post. They clearly taught you so much – thank you for sharing it with us here!
The tart looks delicious…

Lesley November 11, 2007 um 8:34 pm

That is a very nice story. Makes you stop and think.
And I think your tart looks so scrumptious!

Anonymous November 11, 2007 um 10:31 pm

Such a lovely post, Helene! Bless mothers and grandmothers everywhere … what would we do without them?

And the tart … well … it’s a thing of beauty!

kellypea November 11, 2007 um 11:28 pm

Such a lovely post, Helene. The tart looks delicious, of course! Where’d you get that great dish for it?

The Passionate Palate November 12, 2007 um 12:50 am

I loved your story and the beauty of your relationship with your mother and grandmother. Yes, do hug your mom as often as possible! And thank you for your kind words to me. We appreciate your participation in the event,

Cynthia November 12, 2007 um 12:55 am

A very touching tribute, Helen. Hope you are doing well.

Anonymous November 12, 2007 um 2:27 am

This looks absolutely delicious!
Great post, great blog!

Susan @ SGCC November 12, 2007 um 4:07 am

What a sweet and lovely post. I miss my dear grandmother too. I learned a lot from her. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can almost smell her lasagne!

Elle November 12, 2007 um 4:20 am

Lucky you to have such a grandmother! I never knew my maternal grandmother…she died young, and my paternal grandmother wasn’t a cook, although she had many other talents and gave me my red hair 🙂
The tart is a beautiful way to remember both your grandmother and mother. I agree about the pastry…it really isn’t difficult once you learn how to make it.

Anonymous November 12, 2007 um 5:52 am

Beautiful post, Helen.The women in your family taught you well. I always stop by to see what beautiful thing you have created and I am never disappointed 🙂

Anonymous November 12, 2007 um 6:02 am

Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe.

By the way, do you call this dough pâte brisée or pâte sablée or something else?

Gloria Baker November 12, 2007 um 3:00 pm

When I come to your blog I feel hungry!!! Nice picture and recipe, Gloria

Cheryl November 12, 2007 um 4:27 pm

Oh you make them so proud, I am sure of that. Your baking is so commendable.

The tart is a beautiful tribute to them both.

Cookie baker Lynn November 12, 2007 um 4:56 pm

What a beautiful post. I can see how profoundly your were influenced by these two special women. What a beautiful homage tart, too.

Inne November 12, 2007 um 7:14 pm

Such a beautiful story Helene. You sure were lucky to grow up with such a wonderful family around you.

Anonymous November 13, 2007 um 7:21 pm

merci à toi ma petite chérie de ceblog emouvant qui m’a fait pleurer et rappeler tant et tant de souvenirs. Puisses-tu aimer ta mère comme je chéris la mienne, à longueur de journée.?Je suis fière de toi et je t’aime de tout mon coeur. Mam

Anonymous November 13, 2007 um 8:05 pm

I really need to start making some tarts for the fall. Now I see why you are the expert with tarts!

chem November 14, 2007 um 4:38 pm

I always enjoy reading your blog and trying the recipes. Am interested in this one, just one question. On the ingredients list, just under eggs, it calls for 1/2 cup. I was wondering if there was a something that 1/2 cup is referencing?

chem November 14, 2007 um 4:40 pm

Oh, I think it is sugar. Nevermind. Thanks again for a great blog.

Helene November 14, 2007 um 4:59 pm

Monique: thanks for pointing that out! I have updated the recipe.

Laurie Constantino November 15, 2007 um 4:05 am

Very emotional and interesting post. I’m a tart person myself. Just before I read this, I looked at the bowl of pears in my kitchen, thinking I needed to use them soon. Now I know what will happen to them! Thanks for a lovely post.

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso November 15, 2007 um 1:31 pm

Pears and almonds are some of my favorite things in the world…and tarts aren’t far behind.

Lovely recipe and tribute to your mother and grandmother 🙂

Amanda November 15, 2007 um 4:24 pm

What a delicious-looking tart, and a touching story.

Kyla November 15, 2007 um 5:11 pm

Pear and almonds! And just in time for the holidays. I love it. Nobody can resist a tart, that’s what I say.

The Caked Crusader November 16, 2007 um 10:43 am

Pear tart – my absolute favourite! What would I give for a slice of that right now…..?

Cakelaw November 17, 2007 um 3:39 am

Oh my – this tart looks scrumptious. Thanks for sharing your memories of your granmother and mother in the kitchen.

rokh November 18, 2007 um 1:34 pm

oh gosh, now i really want to have a tart! lovely post 🙂

Julie November 18, 2007 um 11:07 pm

Almond tarts! I learned to make almond tarts this past spring, and I fell in love. I’m like a frangipaniac! And in all seriousness, thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories of your mom and grandmum! I hope I one day develop that magical touch of instant food-filled tables, too.

Angel November 28, 2007 um 2:34 am

Your mother and grandmother sound like beautiful women. It is so wonderful the love that is passed down through cooking. Your tart looks gorgeous.

Bia Genio December 5, 2007 um 7:41 pm

Hello Tartelette! Congratulations for your delicious blog! I am think to make this tart "chez moi" and I am wondering if you could say to me what is Tbs measure. I am from Brazil (we speak portuguese) and sometimes we use different unit of measures.
Thank you, Beatriz.

Anonymous December 31, 2007 um 2:10 am

Hi Tartelette,

Lovely post. I too received a love of cooking from my grandma!

Thank you also for the recipe. I tried it out for Christmas but I’m not sure I did everything correct.

I used a whisk when making the filling, but it was very watery when I was ready to pour it into the tart crust. Was I to beat the cream with a hand mixture or simply use the whisk?

In the end, the custard didn’t fully set so some parts of the tart oozed with a soupy liquid. The taste was there, though, so I’d love to try it out again with some added direction. Please let me know.


Helene December 31, 2007 um 3:46 am

Hi J: couple of suggestions: make sure you use 3 large eggs, whole milk and heavy cream. The size of the eggs do make a difference as does the water content of both the cream and milk. Using a whisk is fine.
Hope it helps for the future.

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