“Whilst visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”
The sugar plums mentioned in “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, were most likely either a simple confection comprising sugar coated coriander seeds, or a small ball of dried fruits. The name is wondrous, though the sweet itself may be quite prosaic.
As well as sugar plums on the bonbon tray, Christmas historically required a display of marzipan fruits, especially in the UK and Europe.
These often magnificent replicas of everyday fruits, are still available today, and have their faithful devotees. I love marzipan, especially when it’s homemade and I wish I had the skills to present a display of marzipan fruits for the Christmas table.
Well, maybe I can’t make marzipan fruits, but, what I can do is make a beautiful tart that combines the flavour of almonds with sweet pears and luscious Armagnac. Extravagant, indulgent and totally suitable for a Christmas time dessert or afternoon tea.
This is my recipe, it’s not difficult and I guarantee you’ll love the results.
This special tart delivers a flavour marriage made in heaven: crisp, almond shortcrust pastry fresh, sweet pear slices and sumptuous, Armagnac scented almond cream.
I made 5 individual tarts. You could use the recipe to make 1 x 23cm tart if you prefer.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease your tart tin/s
The Almond Pastry
* 1 1/2 cups of plain flour
* 175g unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup ground almonds ( I used packaged almond meal)
* 2 tablespoons caster sugar
* 1 egg yolk
* iced water
I use my food processor to make pastry and here’s what I do.
Blitz the flour sugar and almonds with the butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Do not over process.
Whisk your egg yolk with a 1/4 cup of iced water. This may be all the liquid you need, but you might well need more so keep the iced water handy.
With the processor running, add the yolk/water.
What you want to see is the pastry form a ball.
Use your judgement and add small amounts of extra iced water if you need to.
Once again, do not over process, you don’t want to melt you little globules of butter. They help your pastry become crisp and flaky when they melt and create little pockets of air in the heat of the oven.
Tip out your pastry onto a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap, gently gather into a ball and pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Gently roll out your pastry. Try not to add too much extra flour.
Fit it into your cases and use a floured piece of pastry, rolled into a ball to push the pastry into the corner and flutes of the tin.
Put a piece of baking paper or foil into the tin and fill with baking beads.
Bake until lightly golden along the edge.
Remove the paper and baking beads and pop back into the oven until the base is set and just cooked.
* 4, just ripe pears. I used Beaurre Bosc, peeled and cut into thin slices.
* 1 cup of cream
* 4 egg yolks
* 1/2 cup ground almonds
* 1/2 cup caster sugar
* 2 tablespoons Armagnac. Armagnac is a special and unique French brandy. It has Protected Designation of Origin status just like Champagne or Roquefort cheese.
I bought my Armagnac online at Jims Cellars. You could substitute the Armagnac with brandy, or Amaretto.
* flaked almonds
Fill your cases with the pears. As I said, I thinly sliced mine and made an attempt to keep it all neat and pretty…
Combine the other ingredients and gently pour into your cases.
Sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Lightly dust with icing sugar and serve at room temperature.
I served mine with pouring cream but these would be divine with whipped cream or mascarpone.
I hope you enjoy my nostalgic flavours of Christmas inspired tart.
’till next time,