If you search online for ‘Bourdaloue’, beware – you may find yourself reading about a French Jesuit priest, long sermons and chamber pots. This Bourdaloue, a pear tart, is definitely NOT connected in any way whatsoever! The tart is a Parisian culinary speciality with its origins in a small street in the 9th arrondissement of 19th century Paris.
The invention of the Bourdaloue dessert, or cake, or tart, is a bit complicated but it was first attributed to a certain pastry chef called Nicolas Bourgoin who worked for the Lesserteur company in the 1850s. The address of the company was 7 rue Bourdaloue, hence the name. In its original form it was a baked pear tart and the recipe was thought to include crushed almonds, sugar, eggs and a kirsch glaze. A pastry cook called Fasquelle later succeeded the Lesserteur company at the site and some think it was he who created the dessert but there is some confusion, not least because the ingredients in the recipe seem to vary considerably. For example, sometimes the fruit used was apples or apricots instead of pears, although the almond component was always there. Larousse Gastronomique, the classic culinary reference book, describes it as “composed of poached Williams pear halves, drowned in a vanilla frangipane cream, covered with crushed macaroons, and glazed in the oven”. To add to the complications there exists a ‘Bombe Bourdaloue’, an anisette flavoured ice cream, and also a Bourdaloue bombshell which is a cocktail (sporting a crystallized violet flower as decoration!), not to mention another dessert called Bourdaloue, involving various poached fruits on a bed of semolina or rice pudding. All rather confusing!
Interestingly, if you want to succeed in gaining the prestigious French Patisserie Certificat d’Aptitude Professionelle (CAP) qualification you have to make the classical version of this tart as part of the course work.
The classical version is certainly my favourite and I have decided to keep the recipe I use as close to the original as possible. I use carefully selected Williams pears as I think they are the best and I poach them in vanilla syrup myself. The shortcrust pastry is also hand crafted by me, as is the almond cream which goes on top. I then bake the Bourdaloue and hope that the choice of recipe suits my customers – my neighbour who tried some certainly seemed very happy!