September is pear season here in Washington State and there are a lot of different kinds of ‘just picked’ pears in the markets so today I am baking a Pear Frangipane Tart. I was looking through my Time Life Foods of the World cook book on Classic French Cooking and saw a recipe entitled ‘Poires Bourdloue” which means Pear Frangipane Tart. That sounded strange to me as I associated the word frangipane with a flower that grows in Hawaii and the Philippines, except it was also called plumeria and it was a beautiful, fragrant flower.
I had never heard of a frangipane tart before and I learned that it is an old, old recipe from France that was made with a sweet, rich pastry crust called pate sucree and it had a cream custard, flavored with almonds or pistachios. The only baking of the original type was just the pastry crust as the fruit topping was poached and placed on top of the cooled custard filling. A more modern version of a frangipani tart is the same type of sweetened crust but the filling is made of sugar, eggs, butter, flour, ground almonds and almond paste, then it is spread inside the baked, cooled pastry crust and the fruit topping is added and then it is baked.
The recipe in the Time Life Classic French Cookbook was made with the original custard-type filling but I have chosen to use the more modern version of a recipe that has been adapted from Use Real Butter.
Most frangipane tarts have a fruit topping and it can be made with poached or raw fresh fruit or a canned fruit. For this recipe of the modern version of a Pear Frangipane Tart, these fresh ruby-red D’Anjou pears are my choice, which I elected to not poach but instead slice them thin and allow them to bake in the oven.
The shortbread crust was easy to put together and I used a 11” tart pan with a removable bottom. I did a blind-bake with my pie weights before transferring it to the oven to bake. While the crust was cooling I prepared the filling of almond paste, eggs, flour, butter and ground almonds and when the crust was cool I spread this rich filling inside the crust.
Pears will oxidize and turn brown rather quickly when cut and exposed to the air and to prevent that from happening, I set up a shallow bowl of cold water with the juice from a lemon to put the slices of pear into. It is the acid in the lemon that keeps the pears from turning brown. I did not peel the pears but left that beautiful red skin showing and I used my kitchen mandolin, set at 3/16 of an inch thick to slice the pears and placed each slice into the lemon water. I did not blanch or cook the pear slices and when they were all sliced and in the water I removed them and placed each one on a kitchen towel and blotted them dry with a paper towel.
After spreading the filling into the cooled tart shell the fun part began. I selected the prettiest and most uniform slices of pears and arranged them in a flower pattern on top of the filling, transferred the baking sheet with the tart to the oven and baked it for 30 minutes, removed it from the oven and allowed it to cool completely.
If you choose to use confectioners sugar to dust the tart with, you must wait until the tart is served as the sugar dissolves quickly. I have a small supply of a special sugar and because it is pricey I hoard it. It is called, Snow White Non-Melting Topping Sugar and it can be purchased online at King Arthur Flour for $8.95 per 16 ounces. And shipping of course. I dusted the sugar lightly over the top of the tart and it did not dissolve even after sitting in the refrigerator overnight.
This pear frangipane tart makes a stunning presentation for a special dinner dessert and can be served warm or cold with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream which is my choice of topping.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 12 tablespoons butter (1-1/2 sticks)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon whipping cream
- 8 ounces of almond paste
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
- ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup ground almonds
- 2 large eggs
- 2 quarts cold water
- Juice of one lemon
- 5 pears, sliced ⅛-inch thick
- Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and whipping cream to the dry ingredients. Pulse until it resembles wet sand.
- Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Using the plastic, gather the dough into a ball and press it together into a disc. Wrap with the plastic and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Press the dough into a 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and lightly pierce the surface, including the sides, with a fork. Place the tart pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Prepare the frozen crust for a blind-bake by using parchment paper and pie weights/beans. Set the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, transfer from the oven and remove the pie weights and parchment paper, return the tart to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the pastry turns golden brown. Let it cool until ready to use.
- With a paddle attachment, beat the almond paste, butter, confectioner’s sugar, flour, and ground almonds in a mixing bowl until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Spread the frangipane filling evenly over the cooled baked crust, smoothing the top and set aside while you prepare the pears.
- In a shallow bowl or pan, add 2 quarts of cold water and the juice from 1 lemon. Wash and dry the pears and slice them lengthwise into ⅛-inch slices, adding the slices to the lemon water as you slice them. After all the pears are sliced and in the water, remove them and place them on a clean kitchen towel and blot the excess water off of them.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Set the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the fruit slices on the frangipane. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the frangipane is bubbling and the filling is firm.
- If you want to glaze the tart, heat ½ cup of apple jelly until melted, then brush the glaze over the tart. Or, you can dust with confectioner’s sugar when the tart has cooled or just leave the tart as is.