I don't think of myself as a baker, and I think I must still be dreaming, or did I really make this beautiful tart? I had some trepidation about even attempting to make it, but I am glad I did. It turned out beautifully. I love contrasts and textures and this tart gives you a lot of visuals for your efforts, and the taste--oh my! It is special and what a great way to tell friends or co-workers that they are special too. Be sure to allow plenty of time. I split the preparations over two evenings and if you needed to, you could actually add a third block of time. Don't be put off by the instructions, or time, or the effort (like me) because if you reject this one, you will miss out on one hypnotic, mesmerizing fete. I cannot get out of my mind how the pears fanned out and circled around on that bed of frangipane. I cannot get the taste out of my mind either. I'll just have to stare deeply into my photos or make another one, 'cause it has vanished, just like a dream! OOH LA LA
Pear and Almond Frangipane Tart
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
makes one 11-inch tart
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoon butter, very cold or even frozen, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
3 ripe medium pears (I used Bosc)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
For the pears: Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, cut the pears in half, remove the seed core and fibrous cores at either end, then peel the pears.
Add the pear halves to the simmering syrup and reduce heat to low. Cover, and let pears poach for about 10 minutes, turning them halfway. The pears will become slightly translucent, very tender, and easily pierced with a knife or skewer.
Let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature before using. Or, you can store them in their liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the tart shell: Put the flour, confectioner's sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to turn from dry to clumpy. Do not let the dough form one giant ball or it will be be overworked - just keep checking after every pulse and when the dough pieces looks like they will stick when you press them together, stop.
Butter an 11-in tart tin with removable bottom. Turn the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. You probably will not need all the dough - save the extra for patching the shell after you bake it. Do not press the dough too hard or it will become tough - just enough for it to form to the tin.
Freeze the tart shell for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To partially bake the tart shell, take a piece of foil and butter the shiny side, then press the buttered side tightly to the shell. You do not need pie weights. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
For the Frangipane: Combine the butter and sugar in the food processor and combine until smooth. Add the ground almonds and blend together. Add the flour and cornstarch, and then the egg and egg white. Process the mixture until it is very smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts just to blend. The frangipane can be used immediately or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If it becomes too firm in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for a while to soften before using.
To finish the tart: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the frangipane evenly into the cooled tart shell (It should be liquid enough to smooth out on its own).
Take the poached pears out of their liquid and drain them on paper towels. You want them dry or they will make the frangipane soggy. Cut each pear half crosswise into 3/8 in thick slices. Do not separate the pear half yet.
Slide a spatula or other flat utensil underneath the pear so you can transfer the entire half onto the tart. Press on the pear to fan the slices toward the top narrow end of the pear.
Slide the pear half onto the frangipane carefully - you can move the pear after you place it, but not much.
Repeat with the other pear halves until there are six halves on the tart, evenly spaced.
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed, golden brown, and firm to the touch. Cool the tart on a wire rack.
Before serving, you can brush the pears with some warmed apple jelly to glaze, or dust confectioner's sugar over the tart.