Brown Butter Pear Tart with Shortbread Crust
Soft, sweet baked pears, nestled into a decadent brown butter shortbread crust. This pear tart is the perfect fall fruit dessert.
We’re starting to get our first taste of fall weather in these parts. Not necessarily today, with a forecasted high of 76, but the evenings post-sunset are cool and crisp, we’ve already had our first morning frost, and tomorrow’s high is a mere 51 degrees. So I’m going to go ahead and call it: my favorite season has officially arrived!
But as much as I love the cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and lack of humidity that comes with fall (not to mention the puffy vests and tall boots), the seasonal fruit selection is a little… well… lacking. Apples! Pears! More apples! More pears! How about some extra apples to go with those other apples?! It’s always a bit of a letdown after the amazing variety and abundance of summer produce. Given the lack of variety, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we’ll get one or the other (or both) in our weekly CSA shares, and well, there’s only so many apples and pears you can eat plain in a week.
We recently received both apples and pears from the CSA. Of course, we had already bought pears earlier in the week before knowing what would come in our CSA box. But much to my delight, I heard my favorite phrase. We invited over a former colleague of my husband’s (and his wife) for dinner, and they graciously offered to pick up dessert. Naturally, my husband told them not to worry about it — dessert is my forte — but asked the ever-important question: are you fruit dessert people, or chocolate dessert people? “Well, if you’re going to offer, we’d like something fruit based.” Ding ding ding, the magic response! Time to put those pears to use.
But… what? A pear pie? Pear crumble? Poached pears? Pear cobbler? Pear galette? Pear upside-down cake? In the end, I settled on a simple brown butter pear tart with a shortbread crust, topped with homemade cinnamon ice cream (featuring my new favorite ice cream base — will share soon!). Simple, but flavorful — the sweet pears, the nutty browned butter, the buttery soft shortbread crust. And of course, ice cream always makes everything better!
Instead of thinly slicing the pears and arranging them along the crust, like I did with my blueberry peach coffee cake or the nectarine yogurt upside-down cake, I halved and cored the peaches and baked the halves, resulting in a firmer, more solid pear. If you prefer them softer, go ahead and slice into small pieces, but I really liked the texture of the firm pears. Using the halved pears worked beautifully with my rectangular tart pan*, but if you’d prefer to use a traditional 9″ round tart, I’d double the filling mixture (the crust will work for either; just a bit thicker in the rectangular tart than the round tart pan).
I really, really liked this pear tart. I loved that it portions itself perfectly, slicing into 6 lovely sections around each pear half. It’s delicious and luxurious, but not over-the-top rich, like so many gluttonous chocolate! peanut butter! chocolate ganache! peanut butter chips! cream cheese! type desserts. It’s a perfectly in-season fall dessert, but something slightly different and unexpected, standing out in a sea of pumpkin pies, pecan pies, and apple pies that grace our tables this time of year. I’d go so far as to suggest that it would even be a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving table – pears are plentiful in North America through December or January. A half-slice of this brown butter pear tart with a half-slice of pumpkin pie sounds like a spectacular dessert pear-ing (wink, wink).
Brown Butter Pear Tart with Shortbread Crust
Soft, sweet baked pears, nestled into a decadent brown butter shortbread crust. The perfect fall fruit dessert.
For the crust:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
For the tart (double for 9″ tart pan):
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/8 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 pears, peeled, halved, and cored
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Using a mixer on low speed, beat together the butter, flour, and powdered sugar until combined.
- Press crust mixture into the bottom of a 14x5x1-inch tart pan. Prick the dough several times with a fork.
- Line the crust with foil and pie weights and bake for 10 minutes, until slightly brown and puffy. Cool completely before filling.
- To prepare the filling, whisk together the sugar and egg in a small bowl. Add in the flour, vanilla, and salt. Set aide.
- Head the 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until dark brown, approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the butter into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined.
- Arrange the pears, core-side down, on the cooled tart shell, alternating the direction of the pears. Pour the brown butter mixture around the pears.
- Bake tart for 40 minutes, or until set and golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving.
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