Pear Tart

  • Time: 3 hours
  • Serves: 8
  • Level: medium

‘Dad says if you only make one dish on this site, make it this one. Big words!’

Leo Williamson
‘This looks so good we didn’t want to spoil its perfection, but we did and it was worth it…’

What you need

Pears and syrup

800g of small – nearly ripe – pears

200g golden caster sugar 1 star anise, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, zest of half an orange

750ml water

Juice of half a lemon

 

Pastry

150g soft unsalted butter

75g icing sugar

1 medium egg

250g plain white flour

Pinch of salt

 

Frangipane

125g ground almonds

125g soft unsalted butter

125g golden caster sugar

3 medium eggs

60g plain white flour

 

Equipment

The equivalent of two 18cm x 3cm tart tins



Dad's Recipe Tales

Our neighbour popped-in with a large bag of pears from a tree in their garden.

They were conference pears, very small and still very hard. I was very grateful of course, but wondered how I was going to use them.

Meanwhile, I bought a Marcus Wareing book (second-hand), ‘One Perfect Ingredient – three ways to cook it’. Should be right up my street. (I do like the idea of thinking about cooking single ingredients in different ways for culinary enlightenment, as testified by my 3-way ventures with octopus and artichokes.) The best photo in the book is of a pear tart – where, rather like blackbirds, the pears are poking out from the frangipane attracting attention with their dark stalks sticking up in the air! I was tempted to copy this, but realised that I needed new baking rings and a very different type of pear.

I decided on my own pattern – the tarts don’t look too bad and according to Mrs WDC, were ‘seriously good’. We gave one of our tarts to our neighbours, who were delighted to see their pears returned in this new sweet format.

How Dad Cooked It

Frangipane is traditionally made with almonds. But the idea is based on a sweet mixture of nuts, butter and eggs with a bit of flour – so any ground nut will work. I have seen many variations including macadamia frangipane recipes from Australia. Pine nuts for Italian versions. Pistachios would make a great tasting frangipane, but the mixture becomes an unappetising dull grey-green colour. Marcus Wareing uses walnuts (see below). I would be interested to taste the difference between all types of nuts, but getting these tarts right is challenge enough, without adding extra complications. Here is a good version using a basic frangipane and our lovely neighbour’s pears:

  1. Start with the pastry. Using a hand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add an egg and salt returning the mix to a smooth texture. Then add the flour and mix slowly until the mixture is combined and just comes together.
  3. Shape into ball, wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.
  4. Then prepare the pears. Peel the pears, cut in half and cut out the core and seeds – retain the peelings.
  5. Combine the sugar, spices and orange zest with the water and bring to the boil. Add the pears and peelings and gently poach until the pears are just beginning to feel tender.
  6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and cool. Continue to cook the poaching liquid for 30 minutes.
  7. Strain the poaching liquid into another pan and reduce to a syrup – about 100ml – 200ml.
  8. While the pears are cooling and the poaching liquid is reducing make the pastry cases.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 170C or Gas 5.
  10. Depending on your available tart cases. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 4mm. Line your tart tins leaving some excess above the rim. Patch any holes or breaks with spare pastry.
  11. Using the tines of a fork, make a repeated pattern of piercings in the pastry – this allows the steam to escape and stops the pastry bulging. Using parchment paper, tinfoil or cling film fill the pastry cases with dried beans, rice or ceramic baking beans. Bake blind for 25 minutes.
  12. Remove the fillings and return to the oven for 5 -10 minutes until the base is cooked. Take out of the oven and allow to cool. Once cool trim the excess pastry from the rims using a sharp knife.
  13. While the pastry cases are cooking make the frangipane. Using an electric hand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy .
  14. Add the eggs one at a time – returning the mix to a smooth texture after each egg.
  15. Add the flour and almonds and mix slowly until the mixture is smooth.
  16. Spoon half the mixture over the base of the tart cases. Arrange the pears on their sides with the thin tops toward the middle. Continue adding pears making a circular pattern.
  17. Put the remaining mixture in a piping bag and pipe between the pears. Bake for 30- 45 minutes (depending on your oven and which tart tins being used). They are done when golden brown on top and a when a wooden skewer pushed into the middle of the tart, comes out clean.
  18. Spoon over the syrup while warm. When cool remove from the tins. Serve with extra syrup.

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