This French-inspired Pear and Almond Tart combines a crunchy sweet crust with a fluffy frangipane and spiced pear filling. It’s an elegant dessert to serve on a special night!
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I have a soft spot for frangipane.Frangipane is a dreamy almond cream made with ground almonds, eggs, butter, and sugar. You can make frangipane with different nuts and use it as a filling for many different sweet treats, such as pastries, cakes, and tarts or galettes.
My favorite way to use frangipane is in tarts, where it can serve as a rich, nutty base to complement fruits. You could, for example, pour the frangipane filling into a pastry shell and top with baking fruits, such as apricots, prunes, or apples, before baking, or bake the frangipane tart “naked” and top it with more delicate fruits, such as berries and cherries, once it has cooled completely. Frangipane tart is, to me, a staple I like to make year-round.
When I flipped through my friend Audrey Le Goff’s beautiful new cookbook, Rustic French Cooking Made Easy, I discovered a new recipe for frangipane tart. Audrey’s tarte Bourdaloue is a classic Parisian dessert, but instead of being super neat and tidy like many desserts sold in Parisian pastry shops are, this poached pear and almond tart is generous and rustic. The dessert was created in the mid-nineteenth century by a pastry chef who had a shop on Paris’ Bourdaloue Street—hence the tart’s name.
In this poached pear and almond tart, Audrey combines frangipane with a silky pastry cream. The addition of pastry cream lightens the frangipane to give it a delightful consistency that just barely holds the poached pears—it’s as if they are sitting on a sweet cloud. The fluffy frangipane filling is contained in a crisp, sweet shell made of pâte sablée, an easy crust you can pull off even if you’re not used to making tarts. The dessert comes together in a few steps, but you can make all the components in advance, then assemble and bake the tart the morning you plan on serving it. Indeed, the tart needs to cool for at least two hours before you serve it, so you won’t have to fuss when it comes time to serve dessert to your guests. Simply dust with powdered sugar, slice, and enjoy!
If you like the look of this elegant dessert—and French cuisine in general—I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Audrey’s cookbook, Rustic French Cooking Made Easy. As the cookbook title indicates, Audrey’s goal is to demystify French cooking (it’s not always fussy and technical!) and introduce the reader to lesser-known, yet extremely delicious, French dishes. The book is organized by occasions, such as “L’apéro” (cocktail hour), “Family Meals,” and “Afternoon Treats.” Browsing through the recipes, you’ll travel through France, from Alsace (kugelhopf cake; pork and sauerkraut stew) to Provence (vegetable and pistou soup; sweet olive oil bread). Through Audrey’s straightforward instructions, you’ll even learn how to make dishes you might have assumed were out of reach, such as Brittany’s renowned kouign-amann cake.
I’ve made several recipes from the book already and so I can vouch for it without any reservations. Her black olive and sun-dried tomato fougasse is a go-to, as are her panisses—chickpea flour fries I like to serve for l’apéro. Her galettes-saucisses (buckwheat crêpes filled with pork sausages and caramelized onions) delighted my family, as did the Catalan meatballs in tomato sauce. There are several more classic recipes I can’t wait to try—the tarte flambée (an onion, bacon, and cream tart from Alsace) and the rousquilles (lemon-glazed cookies from Catalonia) are just a couple that immediately come to mind. If you’re a Francophile, or just a food-lover, really, you’ll find yourself referring back to Audrey’s delicious Rustic French Cooking Made Easy again and again.
Helpful Tips for Making Poached Pear and Almond Tart
Practice your skills at picking ripe pears: The pears you use for this tart should be perfectly ripe. If the pears are overripe, they will break apart when you poach them. If they’re underripe, they won’t poach properly. You can tell if a pear is ripe when it is firm and aromatic and gives in slightly without bruising when you press it with a finger. You can also slice one and taste it: if it’s juicy and delicious, it’s probably perfectly ripe! If the pears you buy at the grocery store are underripe, let them sit at room temperature on your countertop for a couple of days to finish the ripening process.
Choose the right pear variety: Firm pear varieties that hold their shape upon poaching and baking work best in this tart. Audrey recommends Bosc pears, and my own favorite variety is the super-cute Forelle—a small, crisp, and super-juicy variety that’s just as suitable for baking as it is for snacking. Note, however, that you’ll need to plan on using more Forelle pears than the recipe indicates to fill up the tart properly. Anjou and Bartlett pears are also great choices.
Plan ahead: This poached pear and almond tart comes together in four components, and all of them can be prepared in advance. You could, for example, make all four separate components the day before and refrigerate them overnight. If you do, I recommend taking all components back to room temperature 30–60 minutes before you assemble the tart. This will make them easier to work with and ensure the baking time won’t be affected. If you’re pressed for time and prefer to assemble the tart cold from the fridge, make sure to lengthen the baking time accordingly.
Be patient—and enjoy leftovers for days: A frangipane tart is best enjoyed at room temperature. Cooling allows the filling to fully set and acquire its very best texture. Make sure to let the tart cool on a rack for at least two hours before serving it. The tart keeps very well under a cake dome at room temperature for a couple of days, or in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to three days. Refrigerating the tart uncovered will ensure the pastry remains crisp. Always bring the tart back to room temperature before serving it again.
For the poached pears: In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups (1 L) water to a boil with the sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise. Lower the heat to a low simmer while you prepare the pears. Peel the pears, remove the stems, cut them in half, and core them. Add the pears to the saucepan, bring back to a boil, then lower the heat again. Simmer the pears for 10 to 15 minutes, or until you can easily pierce one with a sharp knife. Drain (keep the syrup to add to smoothies, oatmeal, or cocktails) and set the pears aside to cool. If preparing in advance, store the poached pears in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
For the crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, all-purpose flour, and salt. Add in the butter and egg, and mix with a fork or your hands to form a smooth ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
For the pastry cream: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and vanilla, then bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Whisk continuously for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a glistening cream. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the frangipane: In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, almond flour, and eggs. Incorporate the rum and almond extract.
Pour the cooled pastry cream over the frangipane and mix to thoroughly combine. If preparing in advance, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
To assemble and bake the poached pear and almond tart: If you made them in advance, take the components of the tart out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Set a rack in the middle of the oven, then preheat to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease an 11-in (28-cm) tart pan with a removable bottom(see note) and set aside.
Place the crust between two large sheets of parchment paper, then roll it out to a 12-in (31-cm) circle. Peel the top sheet of parchment paper off the pastry, then flip the crust over to the prepared tart pan. Peel the second sheet of parchment paper off the pastry, then gently ease and press the pastry down into the pan. Poke the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.
Spread the frangipane filling in an even layer into the crust. Top with the poached pear halves, with the outside of the pear facing up (see note.)
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is puffed and golden. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
SERVING: Right before serving, lightly dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
STORAGE: Keep leftover tart under a cake dome at room temperature for a couple of days, or in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to three days. Refrigerating the tart uncovered will ensure the pastry remains crisp. Always bring the tart back to room temperature before serving it again.
Audrey advises to make this tart in a 9-in (23-cm) pan, but I found I had enough crust and filling to make an 11-inch (28-cm) pan. You could try using a deep-dish pie dish, but in any case, make sure not to overfill the pan because the filling puffs up significantly upon baking.
You can place pear halves straight over the frangipane, or for a different look, slice them thinly almost all the way up to the tip of each pear half, then gently press to fan them out. Set over the frangipane filling and bake as indicated.
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