The taste of melancholy

The days are still sunny – thankfully, we even have blue skies – and wearing shorts and T-shirts is still not out of the question, but fall is coming.

When I walk the dogs in the morning, the air has a chill, and the sun is peeking over the hill noticeably later every day. Most of all what I notice is the taste of fall.

All summer long I munched on fresh fruit – apricots, cherries, and then peaches all fresh off the trees. They were luscious and juicy, sweet and flavourful. Their colours even seem to advertise summer with all those warm tones of orange and red.

Now though, the pears are in season, and as much as I love the floral and honey flavours in a freshly picked pear they make me a bit sad. They remind me that summer is over.

Pears are the perfect symbol of autumn with their more reserved appearance and muted flavours. I admire their character.

However, I find pears remind me of getting back to more formal routines and more structured tastes. I am one of those people who doesn’t give summer up easily. If melancholy has a taste, it tastes like the first fresh pear of fall.

Pears can be elegant; they are used as a design element in some homes through paintings and sculpture. We don’t eat pears just like that, the way we munch on summer fruit.

They like to be prepared, even if it’s with a cheese platter. Poached pears are like a work of art on a plate in their minimalist style, and even pear butter can have a refined taste and texture.

Since I’m in a rebellious mood, I’d like to offer up a recipe that is a bit more unusual. The pears offer a beautiful flavour but served face down in this tart they show off a more casual presentation.

I learned how to make Pear Tart Bourdaloue when I lived in France, and it remains one of my favourite desserts, only made in pear season.

It’s an old French recipe that dates back hundreds of years and is still made in many pastry shops.

I hope you don’t think I’m trying to present a case for eating one’s way out of a blue funk. (That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the odd cookie or spoonful of ice cream to cheer me up…)

Think of this as an outside-the-box experience, a way to ease into the autumnal season with a rustic dish. It’s like wearing shorts and sandals even when the temperature starts to dip a little, or sitting on the patio wearing a sweater.


For the pastry

  • 1 2⁄3 cups flour
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. chilled butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 2 1⁄4 cups sugar
  • 4 Bosc pears, peeled
  • 2⁄3 cup blanched sliced almonds
  • 1⁄3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 1⁄3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. chilled butter
  • 1⁄2 cup (approx.. 6) crushed Amaretti cookies


Sift together flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or your fingers. Stir together egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, then work into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add 3 tbsp. ice water, 1 tbsp. at a time, mix until dough holds together, then form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out dough into a 14'' round on a lightly floured surface; ease into a 12'' tart pan with removable bottom and prick all over with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and set shell aside to cool. Do not turn off oven.

For filling, bring 4 cups water and 1 1⁄2 cups sugar to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, halve pears, and poach until tender, 20–25 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then cut out cores.

Combine 1⁄3 cup almonds and icing sugar in a food processor. Grind just until fine. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk and heat till warm in a small saucepan over medium heat. Combine eggs, remaining sugar, and flour in a large saucepan.

Slowly whisk in hot milk and cook, whisking, over medium heat until thick, 3–6 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add almond meal and butter, and stir until butter melts. Set aside to cool.

Spoon cooled custard into tart shell. Lay pears, stem end in to the centre, in custard and bake until crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle amaretti and remaining almonds on top of tart, dust with icing sugar, and broil until brown, about 2 minutes.

Tart can be eaten warm or cold.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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