Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've never been much of pear enthusiast. But I recently made a peach frangipane tart, and had an extra round of pastry dough and the remaining half of the frangipane in my freezer. And pears were on sale. So I thought, why not? I have to say that a pear frangipane tart is a real show stopper. The beautiful design of the sliced, fanned-out pear halves over the top of the tart makes an eye-catching dessert. I tasted the pears before I cooked them, and they tasted....well....like pears. Juicy, sweet and mild-flavored Bartlett pears. I made this dessert for a party we went to Saturday night. It was well received, and there were no leftovers. One person went back for seconds and, at last encounter, was still raving about the tart. I, however, was totally underwhelmed. Give me a peach frangipane tart any day. But keep the pears. There's just not enough flavor. So I'll stick to peaches, and probably apples, but I'll skip the pears from now on. That being said, if you are a pear lover, then this is your dessert. And, like I said before, I'm not a pear person.

Pear Frangipane Tart
Rating: 6 out of 10


Gallette Dough:
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, very cold or frozen, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt, pulsing briefly till mixed. Add butter and pulse at intervals until mixture is like coarse meal, with the butter in tiny pieces no bigger than small peas. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse till mixture forms into a ball. If needed, add the extra Tbsp. water, but be sure you really need it. If you add too much the mixture will be too sticky. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. You will need almost all of this for the tart pan. The piece that is left over can be frozen or used for an individual tart. Roll out about 3/4 of the dough to an 11" circle on a floured board. Fit into a removable-bottom tart pan, pressing dough up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate.

Frangipane: (enough for 2 tarts -- you can freeze one half)
1/4 cup butter, very soft
1/2 cup confectioner's (10X) sugar
3/4 cup almond meal flour
1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Beat together the butter and sugar till fluffy and light in a medium bowl. Add almond meal and AP flour and beat till smooth. Beat in the egg till everything is mixed well. Spread half of the frangipane over the bottom of the pastry crust; refrigerate. Freeze remaining half, or use it for another frangipane tart within 2 days.

Pear Filling:
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup almond liqueur
3 Tbsp. water
3 medium-large Bartlett pears, peeled, halved, cored and stems removed

Melt butter in large heavy skillet. Add sugar, lemon juice, liqueur and water and cook over medium heat till mixture starts to bubble. Add pears and cook about 3 minutes; carefully turn pears over and cook another 3 minutes, till just barely soft. Transfer pears to a pie plate in a single row to cool. The syrup remaining in pan should have cooked down. Set skillet aside to cool, about 30-45 minutes.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 400F. Slice the cooled pears lengthwise, starting at the wide tops and going to the narrow bottoms, but do not slice all the way through. This will give a fan effect. The pears are soft, so you must work gently. (See top photos for example.) You will use 4 pear halves for the main design, placing the narrow ends towards the center of the tart, and letting the pears fan out on the outside edges. Fill in the center and between the pear halves with slices of pear. You will have 1 pear half and some pieces left over that you can enjoy as a snack or dessert with creme fraiche, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream. Once you have the pears arranged, spoon the cooled syrup over the pears evenly. If it has congealed too much, simply put it back on the burner and heat it briefly just to liquefy it. Then brush or spoon it over the pears. Bake 40-50 minutes or till filling is bubbly, crust is browned, and any moisture from the pears has evaporated. You will see juice come out of the pears, but don't worry, the juice will evaporate as the tart bakes. (If crust browns too quickly on edges, cover with foil.) Let tart cool for about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold with creme fraiche, ice cream or whipped cream. Yield: 8 servings

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