Let me start by saying I just love pears. I love them poached, baked, freshly peeled in a salad with some rocket and balsamic glaze………oh my god……yum. So this weeks blog post is about these delicious gems.
A few weeks ago I took my daughter to her gymnastic lessons. Parents are not allowed to stay and watch so I always go the library with my son during her lessons (the time we have before picking her up again is too short to go back home). So he reads the latest Donald Duck while I read a foody magazine, a win-win in my opinion. As I was reading my magazine I came across a recipe of a gorgeous pear and almond frangipane tart. It looked so good, I wanted to run home immediately and make it. That was not going to happen of course but I made a picture of the tart and filed it to make it another time. At least that’s what I thought I did. Because when I was looking for it this week I could not only find the picture anymore, I also did not remember in which magazine I found it. Have you ever heard of momnesia? I know a lot of people have dismissed it as a myth, but I like to think I’m the living proof of the existence of ‘maternal amnesia’ which continued even after birth. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband.
Anyway, I had set my mind on making a pear tart so I started browsing the internet for a similar recipe and after reading a dozen of them I found out they basically were all alike. It’s relatively similar to the traditional French pear tart, where sweet poached pears are nestled in a frangipane filling surrounded by a crunchy crust. So I just took a few recipes and combined them into the recipe below.
Frangipane is an almond filling for tarts, cakes or other pastries. It is made of creamed butter and sugar, with eggs and finely ground almonds added in. Frangipane purists have to look away, because they are not going to like what I did in this recipe: I also added flour to the frangipane simply because I like the texture………….sorry, not sorry 🙂
The result of this recipe is a wonderful combination of sweet, tender pear, a nutty filling surrounded by crisp pastry crust and topped with a crunchy layer of flaked almonds. Because the pears will be exposed you best choose pears that are firm with no soft spots or blemishes. It will make the end result look pear-fect.
There are quite a few steps required to make this tart; but if I can do it, so can you. Pear-pressure can be quite stressful, can’t it? Today I put my hand in my bag and felt a stress ball. So I was like ‘oh, didn’t know I had a stress ball in my bag….’. After I squeezed it I found out it was a pear and it exploded in my hands thus in my bag. Now I’m much more stressed then I was earlier. Does anyone have a stress ball for me?
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!
- 5 pears
- 500 ml water
- 40 g of sugar
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp corn starch (for the glaze)
- 300 g flour
- 200 g butter
- 100 g sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 55 g flaked almonds
- 55 g sugar
- 1/2 egg white
- 125 g soft butter
- 125 g sugar
- 1/2 egg
- A pinch of salt
- 100 g almond flour
- 25 g all-purpose flour
- 10 ml milk
Combine the water, sugar, star anise and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. In the meanwhile halve the pears from stem to blossom end and remove the core using a melon baller for a clean look. Also remove the 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 15 minutes, turning them halfway. The pears will become slightly translucent, very tender, and easily pierced with a knife or skewer. Be careful not to overcook the pears as they will continue to cook in the oven. Carefully remove the pears from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and allow the pears to cool and drain.
Stir the cornstarch with a dash of the cooled cooking liquid into a paste. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and add the corn starch paste. Cook the liquid down to yogurt thickness. Save this cooking liquid for later, because you will be using it to glaze the tart. Glaze is a thin, liquid, sweet coating that adds both shine and colour to pastries. When brushed on fresh fruit, a glaze serves as a protective coating to prevent the fruit from drying out.
I always make the dough by hand and use a large bowl (you can use a standing mixer if you want). First stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Then using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour until mixture becomes crumbly. Add the egg and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. It should come together easily without being sticky. Flatten ball slightly with your hands to form a thick disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you don’t want to use the dough right away, you can refrigerate it for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to a month and then thaw overnight in the fridge.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften slightly for easy rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out big enough to fit a 24cm tart pan lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from counter. Then place gently into the tart pan (preferably with a removable bottom) by flouring a rolling pan and rolling the dough loosely around it, then unrolling it into the pan. Brush away any excess flour on the surface. With a sharp knife, trim the edges of the pastry to fit the tart pan. Prick it all over with a fork and don't forget the sides. Cover pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until needed.
Put the flaked almonds with the sugar and the eggs in a bowl, mix and set aside.
Use the creaming method to beat the softened butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Creaming is a mixing method where sugar and butter are beaten or mixed together until light, fluffy and lighter in colour. Add the ground almonds and beat on medium speed until blended, approximately 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the egg to the mixture on medium-low speed. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the flour and the salt. Beat on low speed until just incorporated, approximately 1 minute.
Preheat the oven to 180 ºC.
Take the crust out of the refrigerator and spread the almond filling evenly inside the crust. Arrange pear halves, cut-side down, over the frangipane mixture. Start with one pear in the middle from which you have cut of the stem to make it kind of round. Then arrange the rest of the pears around the one in the middle pointing the stems to the middle. Sprinkle the edge of the tart with the flaked almonds mixture. Bake the tart until golden and tester inserted into centre of filling comes out clean. That will take about 55 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it cool down on a wire rack. Push the pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the fruit with the glaze you made with the cooking liquid.
Serve as is or with a dollop of whipped cream.