It’s officially autumn. If the cold mornings and chilly nights don’t announce that clearly enough, then the persistent rain definitely does. How about a cosy, comforting tart to counteract all the dreariness? Pears are in season now, and pair up beautifully with the gentle orange-scented frangipane in this classic tart.
My cherished Sainsbury’s blender developed a great big crack in its glass jug when I absentmindedly rinsed it with cold water after blending hot carrot soup in it. There was no saving it so it had to be binned. I bought a new food processor (a Kenwood FPM810 Multipro Sense) but hadn’t christened it with a first use yet, so this recipe was perfect to try it out. I used to make pastry by hand, rubbing the cold butter into the flour, getting sticky and messy, but no more! The food processor made it so easy, with hardly any mess and in barely five minutes I had perfectly made pastry done. It was the same with the frangipane filling, easy peasy. You could just as well use a handheld mixer or a stand mixer for the filling, and mix the pastry by hand if you want to go old school.
I used Mary Berry’s recipe for the tart, and then to ‘tart’ it up (ha) further, Angela Hartnett’s recipe for the poached pears. Use semi-ripe pears, as they will soften further after poaching and baking, and try and get similar sized ones so they look as even as possible on the tart. I reduced the sugar content in the frangipane and poaching liquid and the tart was still plenty sweet for me. Mary Berry’s recipe uses a 28cm diameter, 2.5cm deep flan tin, but I only had a 24cm loose-bottomed one so used that instead. Any pastry and filling leftover I made into a roughly-shaped galette and baked that as well. The chilling steps are important as they help firm up the butter to prevent a greasy tart and relax the gluten, preventing it from becoming tough.
Pear and frangipane tart
100g fridge-cold butter, cubed
225g plain flour
25g icing sugar, sieved
1 egg, beaten
175g soft butter
125g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g ground almonds
40g plain flour
Zest from one orange, finely grated (minus 3 strips)
3 pears, peeled
175g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cinnamon stick
3 thick strips of orange zest
1/2 vanilla pod
- Make the pastry
If using a food processor, add the cubed butter, flour and icing sugar into the bowl and process until the mixture resembles ground almonds. Pour in the beaten egg and pulse until the dough starts forming a ball.
If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour and icing sugar with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then add in the egg in a well in the centre and gradually draw in the flour and mix until a dough forms.
Bring it all together into a circular disc shape and wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Make the filling
In the unwashed food processor, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the beaten eggs. It will look curdled, don’t worry. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to bring in any unbeaten butter and sugar mixture. Add in the ground almonds, flour and orange zest, and mix together for a few seconds until well incorporated.
- Roll out the chilled pastry onto a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Start by flattening it out all over by tapping it with the rolling pin, turning it 90 degrees at a time until it has about doubled in size. Then roll out the pastry sheet, turning it 90 degrees every few rolls until it has reached the desired thickness. To transfer onto the flan tin, roll the pastry up onto the rolling pin, then gently unroll over the tin. Press the pastry right into the edges of the tin and the sides so it will form the fluted edge. Trim the edges and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
- Make the poached pears
In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar with 500ml of water. Add in everything else, and top up with some water if required to cover the pears. Cover the surface with some baking parchment and weigh down with a small lid or dish to keep the pears submerged. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, depending on initial ripeness. Check they’re done with a small knife – it should pierce the pear easily to the middle. Remove from the liquid and cool.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C and place a baking tray in it.
- Spoon the frangipane filling into the pastry case until a few millimetres to the top, and smooth out the surface.
- Slice each pear into half lengthwise. Remove the core with a teaspoon. Slice each halved pear finely horizontally. Slide your knife under and push down on the pear slices slightly to fan them out. Lift them and place on the frangipane filling. Repeat with the remaining pears, and arrange the slices in a circle to form a six-petal flower.
- Place the tin on the baking tray in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes until the almond filling and pastry are golden brown.
- Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then remove and cool further on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraiche, or have it on its own like I did.