Sage Custard & Pear Tart With Caramelized Sage

"Savory spices in desserts. Pear tart with caramelized sage."
-- @sashagitin

Louise Aaronson’s Pear Tart with Sage Custard and Candied Sage Leaves

Louise Aaronson is a food writer and cooking instructor with 30 years of experience. This pear tart is French in origin, but it was while she was living in Switzerland that she learned to make the crust with confectioner’s sugar. Sage adds a new, seasonal taste.

By Joanna Pruess , photo by Sasha Gitin

Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: about 1½ hours (components may be made ahead and assembled day of sale) Shelf life: best in 1 day


For the pastry:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup slivered almonds or chopped hazelnuts
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, beaten
4 tablespoons seedless preserves or jelly, melted

For the pastry cream:
1½ cups whole milk
6 to 8 large sage leaves, cut in half
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch white pepper (optional)

For the pears:

2 cups riesling and 2 cups water, or 4 cups water
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
2 strips lemon zest
4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and halved

For the candied sage leaves:

½ cup superfine sugar
10 sage leaves
1 egg white lightly beaten with a pinch of salt


Make the pastry: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, almonds, salt, butter and egg yolk and pulse to blend. Do not overprocess. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap well and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for later use. If frozen, thaw overnight in refrigerator.

On a floured surface, roll the pastry out and transfer to a 9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze until ready to bake.

Position the oven rack in the center and heat a cookie sheet to 375 F.
Prick the crust all over with a fork, line with buttered parchment paper and fill with rice or dried beans. Place the shell on the cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and rice or beans, prick again and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Place on baking rack and brush with a little of the melted preserves while still warm. Cool completely before filling.

Make the cream: In a small heavy saucepan, combine the milk and sage leaves, bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the leaves and return to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and flour until smooth.

Remove the sage leaves from the milk and slowly pour half of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until thick, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the pan.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, butter and white pepper, if using. Transfer to a ceramic bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and let cool for about 15 minutes before refrigerating. This can be prepared 1 to 2 days in advance. Whisk well before using.

Prepare the pears: In a saucepan over medium, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon zest, and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Cook the poaching liquid for 3 minutes, carefully add the pear halves, reduce the heat to low, cover and poach for 10 minutes. Check for doneness with the tip of a small knife. Do not overcook; the pears should be firm, not soft. Cool the pears in the poaching liquid. They may be prepared 1 day in advance, covered and refrigerated.

Prepare the sage leaves: Pour the sugar into a shallow pan. Lightly brush the sage leaves with the egg white and shake them in the sugar until coated. Remove to a cooling rack and let dry for about an hour or until hard.

Assemble the dessert: Fill the cooled tart shell with the pastry cream and top with thinly sliced poached pears. Brush the pears with the remaining melted preserves and garnish with candied sage leaves.