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With the end of France’s La Rentree or "fourth season"—the term used to mark the country’s return to normalcy after the summer holiday season—folks are eagerly anticipating the autumn and winter delights.
Maybe none more so than Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini, the mother-daughter duo of The Cook’s Atelier. Dubbed Burgundy’s Best Cooking School, The Cook’s Atelier, located in scenic Beaune, offers single day market tours and cooking classes; seasonal, five-day programs; and a culinary boutique with items for both kitchen and home, a curated wine selection, and artisan coffee. The school's cookbook, The Cook's Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, And Stories From Our French Cooking School, published in Spring 2018, acts as a love letter to Burgundy's rich tradition of artisanal and organic cooking.
“We’ve always had a soft spot for autumn since it’s so beautiful,” Taylor explained, “Burgundy, specifically, because the vineyards turn a lovely golden yellow. We also tend to do more slow cooking. It’s a cozy time.”
Now in their 10th season, each week the pair design a new menu determined entirely by what's in season at Beaune’s artisan food market, stocked with the best produce and goods from local farmers, butchers, bakers, cheese makers, fishmongers and honey makers. “Our producers are the backbone of the business, and we couldn’t be us without them,” said Taylor.
One producer in particular, Madame Pechaux, visits the market every Wednesday, offering tiny pears in the fall season that are ideal for The Cook Atelier’s almond pear tartlets.
“This recipe is special because it’s the perfect picture of autumn,” Taylor notes. “It’s beautiful. It’s absolutely delicious, and we always make it for Thanksgiving. It’s our go-to autumn tartlet."
Made with almond cream, which puffs up around the thinly sliced pears, giving the dish a photogenic aesthetic, this recipe can also be repeated in the summer using peaches.
Recipe for Almond-Pear Tartlets
Makes 8 (4-inch/10-cm) tartlets
For the pears
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 lemon, cut into slices
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed, and pod added
4 small pears peeled
For the tartlets
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dusting
1⁄2 recipe Pâte Sucrée (see below)
1 recipe Crème d’Amande (see below)
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Pears: Cut a circular piece of parchment slightly larger than a large saucepan.
In the large saucepan, combine 4 cups (960 ml) water, granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon slices, and vanilla seeds and pod. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
Add pears, making sure they're fully submerged, and reduce heat. Arrange parchment round on top of the pan, then gently push it into the pan so it touches the pears and the edges go up on the sides.
Poach pears, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, until pears are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let pears cool in the poaching liquid. (Pears can be poached ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.)
On a lightly floured surface, use the pâte sucrée to make the tartlet shells. Utilize a bench scraper to divide each disk of dough into 8 triangular pieces, and with your hands, gently shape each triangular piece into a small ball, then flatten into small disks and roll into 1⁄8- inch- (3-mm-) thick, 5- to 6-inch (12- to 15-cm) diameter rounds.
Once the dough is slightly larger than your tartlet pans, gently roll it with a rolling pin, brushing off excess flour with a pastry brush as you go. Unroll over the tartlet pans, careful not to stretch as you ease into the bottom and up the sides.
Begin trimming edges by pushing your thumb against the sides of the pan, using the other thumb to peel away extra dough. Be careful to make dough the same thickness all the way around to create a uniform edge. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Take the almond cream out of refrigerator and let soften slightly at room temperature.
Partially blind bake the tartlet shells, using egg yolk and cream for an egg wash, for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the almond cream and returning to oven.
Using an offset spatula or small spoon, spread the almond filling evenly in tart shells. Remove pears from syrup and cut in half lengthwise. Use a small knife to remove stems, then scoop out cores with a small spoon. Cut each pear in half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear in half to fan the slices, while keeping the slices tightly overlapping, and arrange one pear half on top of each tart.
Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When ready to serve, remove the tartlets from the pans and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Makes enough for 2 (9-inch/23-cm) tarts or 16 (4-inch/10-cm) tartlets
3 cups (375 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 1⁄2 cup (100 g) sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup (2 sticks/225 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter. Using your hands, gently toss to coat butter in the flour mixture. Scoop mixture in hands and gently press flour mixture and butter between fingertips until the mixture looks grainy, with some small pieces of butter still visible. Work quickly to ensure the butter stays cold.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and cream. Drizzle over the dough and use a fork to gently toss until incorporated. Continue working the dough, gently squeezing it between fingertips until it comes together and there's no dry flour visible. Be careful not to overwork the dough. It’s ready as soon as you can squish the dough in one hand and it stays together.
Divide dough in half and shape each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight. Pâte sucrée can be wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Makes about 1 cup (240 ml)
2⁄ 3 cup (75 g) almond flour
6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick/85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar, and all-purpose flour. Add butter and egg and beat until smooth and fully combined. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours, before using. Almond cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Before using the cream, let sit at room temperature to soften slightly to a spreadable consistency.
As for what wine to pair with the almond pear tartlet, the duo said they are not keen on sweet wines and tend to suggest champagne. Or in Kendall’s words, “When all else fails...champagne.”