I’ve recently been so busy that I haven’t been able to post many new recipes on my blog. I’ve been busy with studying two university courses in French language, teaching French cooking classes and getting ready to leave for Paris soon to complete the 10-week Advanced Cuisine class at Le Cordon Bleu. (I also just finished reading Julia Child’s wonderful book, My Life in France). Sounds like I may have some sort of addiction to French things? So what better way to celebrate than with a Pear Tart filled with an almond-based frangipane and topped with an apricot glaze! I’ve always loved the way the sliced pears are layered in this recipe – it takes a little time, but it’s worth it.
There are three stages to making this recipe:
- making the sugar crust pastry and blind baking it
- preparing the frangipane filling made with ground almonds and then baking it inside the prepared tart shell
- lightly poaching several pears and then layering the thin slices on top of the frangipane filling- then topped with a final apricot glaze.
So let’s get started.
Step 1: Prepare the sugar crust pastry (Pâte Sablée) A Pâte Sablée pastry is just like a short crust pastry, except an egg and sugar are added. The addition of the sugar makes it more difficult to roll the pastry because it can break a part more easily. Make sure your dough is thoroughly chilled before you roll it out. If the dough does break, try pressing the broken pieces together with your fingers. Otherwise, you can skip trying to roll out the dough and just press the dough into the sides and bottom of your tart pan, using your fingers. Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) tart Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 9 tbsp. butter, chilled and cubed
- 1 egg
- additional cold water, if required
Pre-heat oven to 180 C (360 F). Add the flour, sugar and salt to a large mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and then add to the dry ingredients. Rub the butter and flour together briskly between the palms of your hands and tips of your fingers until it becomes like sand. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the egg – blend well using a large spoon. Transfer the ingredients directly onto your benchtop (kitchen counter) and form into a rough ball. Using the heel of your hand, push a small part of the dough along the surface away from you, then regather the ingredients into a ball shape. Repeat several times until the ingredients are thoroughly blended and you form a nice, round ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour (or in the freezer for 10 minutes).
Step 2: Roll out the dough and blind bake
Next, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured work surface, ending with the dough at least 2 cm larger than your tart pan with removable bottom. Fold the dough in half and transfer to the tart pan, unfold and then press the dough gently against the sides of the pan. Roll a rolling pin across the top of the pan to remove the excess pastry. Prick the bottom of the pastry with the ends of a fork. Cover the bottom of the pastry with a large sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw beans and then blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 C (360 F). The crust should be a light biscuit-brown color. Remove from oven and let cool.
Step 3: Prepare the Almond Frangipane Filling Ingredients
- 6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 tsp corn flour (corn starch)
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 200 grams dark cooking chocolate (optional)
Combine the butter and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Add the ground almonds, flour and corn flour and pulse until combined. Add the egg and extra egg white, vanilla and almond extracts and blend until very smooth. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Spread the chocolate on top of the prepared pastry shell that has been blind-baked. Now add the frangipane custard on top of the chocolate layer and bake at 180 C (360 F) for 20 – 25 minutes until the custard is cooked until medium brown in color. Step 4: Poach the Pears and arrange thin slices in circular pattern on top of tart. Ingredients
- 3 medium ripe pears
- 3 -4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice with some lemon peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the Apricot Glaze
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- 1 tbsp. water or Cointreau
Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice and peel, cinnamon stick and vanilla extract in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. While the liquid is heating, peel and cut the pears in half. Remove the stems and core then place the pear halves in the water and reduce heat to a simmer. Poach the pears for about 6 – 10 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a knife, but still a bit firm. Do not overcook; they must still hold their shape. Remove the pears from the liquid and let cool. Slice them into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Arrange the fruit on top of the tart in an overlapping circular pattern and top with a strawberry (optional). Heat together apricot jam and water (or Cointreau) in a small saucepan until warm and smooth. Brush the glaze over the top of the tart, including the pears and exposed frangipane. Serve warm or at room temperature.