Warning: this pie is so good that I made it one night for a bourbon tasting party, and then made another 2 (one with plums instead) the next night for a different party– and they were quickly consumed, with heaps of praise in between people taking more slices. This pie is good.
While living in San Francisco I fell in love with Almond Croissants– particularly the ones at my favorite bakery, “Thorough Bread and Pastry”. Imagine the flakey butteryness of a warm croissant filled and topped with an almond cream/paste that stays gooey in the center, and bakes into a marvelous coating, topped with powdered sugar and sliced almond… my mouth is watering.
That almond filling/topping is called “frangipane” and it tastes like heaven with rainbow sprinkles (if rainbow sprinkles were delicious).
I decided to make a pie with frangipane and fruit– but it turns out that the French have perfected that as well. Let me introduce to you the glory of the “Pear Frangipane” tart.
I mildly adapted the recipe from http://dessertfirstgirl.com/2006/11/pear_and_almond.html, itself adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.
I’m copying over the recipe with my (very modest) changes below, mainly so that I have a record of this tart if every other recipe for pear frangipane pie suddenly disappears from the internet. Feel free to ignore the rest of this post: but do NOT ignore this pie. I leave you with another picture:
Pear & Almond Frangipane Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart (original recipe said 9inch, but there was enough dough and frangipane leftover to make a 10 inch)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1-2 egg yolks
up to 2 Tbsp cold water or cream if needed.
Poached Pears or plum
2 large peeled ripe pears (I used 5 small Anjou), or 5 plums.
3 cups water
a few slices of fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
For the pears: Combine the water, sugar, ginger, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, (plum peel), vanilla, and salt in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, cut the pears in half, remove the core.
Add the pear halves to the simmering syrup and reduce heat to low. Cover, and let pears poach for about 10 minutes, turning them halfway. The pears will become slightly translucent, very tender, and easily pierced with a knife or skewer.
Let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature before using. Or, you can store them in their liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the tart shell: Combine the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt. Add the pieces of cold butter and use pastry fork (or normal fork) to cut in the butter until it is pea-sized. Add the egg yolk and and mix until turn from dry to clumpy. Do not let the dough form one giant ball or it will be be overworked. If there is a lot of dry flour and the dough does not stick together when pressed, add a teaspoon of cold water.
Butter a 9 inch pie tin. Turn the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. You probably will not need all the dough – save the extra for patching the shell after you bake it. Do not press the dough too hard or it will become tough – just enough for it to form to the tin.
Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To partially bake the tart shell, take a piece of foil and butter the shiny side, then press the buttered side tightly to the shell. You do not need pie weights. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
For the frangipane: Combine the butter and sugar in the food processor and combine until smooth. Add the ground almonds and blend together. Add the flour and cornstarch, and then the egg and egg white. Process the mixture until it is very smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts just to blend. The frangipane can be used immediately or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If it becomes too firm in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for a while to soften before using.
To finish the tart: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the frangipane evenly into the chilled shell.
Take the poached pears out of their liquid and drain them on paper towels. You don’t want too much excess liquid or they will make the frangipane soggy. Cut each pear half crosswise into 3/8 in thick slices. Do not separate the pear half yet.
Slide a spatula or other flat utensil underneath the pear so you can transfer the entire half onto the tart. Press on the pear to fan the slices toward the top narrow end of the pear.
Slide the pear half onto the frangipane carefully – you can move the pear after you place it, but not much.
Repeat with the other pear halves.
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed, golden brown, and firm to the touch. Cool the tart on a wire rack.