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Pear and Frangipane Tart

The best pear varieties to use for baking are Anjou and Bartlett because their texture remains firm and smooth. Anjou pears are almost egg shaped, with green skin that often has a yellow tinge when ripe. Bartlett pears, also known as Williams' pears, have thin skins that ripen from dark green to light green and then to yellow. When choosing pears for baking, select ones that are firm but not rock-hard, have a good fragrance, and are smooth and unblemished with their stems still attached. Autumn is the best season for these pears, but they are available almost all year long.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rolled-out round of basic tart dough (see
      related recipe at left)
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 1⁄2 cups raw unblanched whole almonds,
      finely ground
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1⁄2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs. dark rum
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Anjou or Bartlett pears, peeled, quartered
      and cored
  • 1⁄3 cup apricot jam

Directions:

Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan. Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking.

Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Leave the oven temperature at 375°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to the touch. In a bowl, stir together the ground almonds, sugar, eggs, almond and vanilla extracts, rum, salt, lemon zest and melted butter. Spread evenly in the tart shell. Slice each pear quarter crosswise into slices 1/8 inch thick, keeping each one together. Arrange each quarter core side down and stem end toward the center in the pan. Use your hand to flatten and fan each quarter slightly and press the slices into the filling.

Bake the tart until the filling is firm to the touch in the center and slightly golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the jam until it liquefies. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the tart with a thin coating of jam.

If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, let the sides fall away, then slide the tart onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes one 9 1/2-inch tart; serves 8.

Note: The term frangipane refers to pastry cream or custard made with ground almonds.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pie & Tart, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2003).