For the longest time, I didn't like pears. I suspect some of that had to do with the fact that I never tasted a pear that wasn't from a can until I was well into adulthood. Still, if anyone asked me, I would have said that I didn't like them. Then we started getting them in our CSA box. Hmmm not bad. I liked them in salad and with sharp cheese. Started eating them with lunch. Last year I made Rivka's Cocoa Pear Crisps for a party and couldn't stop eating them. Now I'm a huge fan of the pear. I made Amanda's peach tart with pears, and in this recipe, played with my favorite lemon bar recipe (Alice Medrich's) to make pear shortbread cookies.
I used King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour, but unbleached white four will work, too.
This recipe really plays up the almond flavor, but it's infinitely adaptable. If you're allergic to nuts, use rolled oats instead. You can use other spices--I've used a combination of ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and clove. You can bake this in a tart shell and cut it into wedges.
Heat oven to 350. Place rack in center of oven. Line an 8X8 baking pan with foil. (You can use parchment if you prefer, but the foil makes it easier to lift the bars out of the pan once they’re cool.)
Whisk together flour, almonds and salt.
Cut butter into chunks and melt it in a large saute pan over medium heat. Let it brown slightly—watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and almond extract. Scoop into the flour mixture and fold gently till just until incorporated. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until the crust is well browned at the edges and lightly browned in the center.
For the Pear filling
While the crust is baking, peel and core the pears (I highly recommend a serrated peeler for this, and I used a melon baller to remove the core.) Slice them thinly. I’ve used a knife and a mandoline—the mandoline makes more uniform slices. If you’re anal retentive, go with the mandoline. But wear those protective gloves while you do it—pears are slippery. Squeeze lemon juice over the pears and cover with a piece of plastic wrap so they don’t brown.
Stir together the lemon zest, sugar, salt, allspice and flour in a medium bowl until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks, stirring well after each so that eggs are fully incorporated. Stir in the almond extract.
When the crust is ready, turn the oven down to 300 and remove the pan. Place the sliced pears in single rows onto the crust, slightly overlapping them and covering the crust completely. Pour the filling over the pears. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, covering the filling as uniformly as possible. Mix salt and turbinado sugar together and sprinkle over the almonds.
Bake for 30- 35 minutes, or until the topping is slightly browned and dry. Place on a rack to cool completely in the pan. Lift the ends of the foil liner and transfer to a cutting board. Gently remove the foil from around the cookies, being careful not to break off the edges. Use a long sharp knife to cut into sixteen 2 inch bars. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.