Frangipane Pear Tart

Pour la version en  français, cliquez ici

In my opinion, a great cultural divide undoubtedly exists between Americans and French. I'm talking about desserts of course! Americans like fruit pies, thick and covered with a flaky sweet crust and the French like fruit tarts with thin shortbread crusts, onctuous pastry cream and fresh fruit. And I can tell you, even if I now have an American passport, I've never succeeded in making a perfect apple or blueberry pie. Mine are always soggy, or too runny... If you have any secrets that your mother gave you, please leave them in the comments... #frustrated.

Tarts, on the other hand are my domain. In France, fruit tarts rule. They are made year round with whatever seasonal fruit you have on hand, and they are the choice display in every boulangerie and patisserie come Sundays. It's probably the first dish you master as a baker, and the easiest to bring to a potluck or a diner. I also like that they are not as sweet as pies and that you let the fruit shine with just a sprinkling of sugar.

I like mine with a slightly sweet pastry crust made with almond flour and powdered sugar. I call this dough, miracle dough and I faithfully follow the recipe created by Pierre Hermé. I've been using it for so long I don't even remember where I first got it. It tastes like a delicate shortbread cookie.

Frangipane, a mix of almond, butter and eggs (this is called almond cream), that then gets folded in with pastry cream, is the base of many tarts. It is found most often in the Galette des Rois ( Kings Cake). We eat these cakes now, at Epiphany in France to celebrate the arrival of the three wisemen in the Christmas story. My boulangerie has the best king's cakes I've ever had, so I see no reason to bake my own. 

But Marc loves frangipane and it makes a great combination with the pears we get at the market. Brittany is apple and pear country and there's an abundance of them straight through the winter. Plus they are cheap, less than $1.5 a pound. So pear and frangipane tarts are on the menu. 

The frangipane I like to use in tarts does not incorporate the pastry cream, just the almond cream. It gives a lighter and more nutty flavor. 

If you have not done it yet, you should get one of those digital kitchen scales: it is much more precise to measure weight than volume ( cups and spoons) and the scales allow you to switch easily from grams to ounces

Ingredients - sweet shortcrust pastry dough (Pâte sablée, Pierre Hermé recipe)

Makes enough dough for two  8 to 10 inches crusts.

  • 5 oz (140g) sweet butter
  • 0.8 oz  (25g) almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2.6 oz (75 g) powdered sugar
  • 8.8 oz (250 g) flour

Instructions

  1. leave the butter at ambient temperature for at least one hour before using it
  2. In a food processor, mix the butter with the egg until completely emulsified
  3. Mix the almond meal, the powdered sugar, the salt and the flour (dry mix)
  4. Slowly add the dry mix to the the egg/butter, pulse a few times until it forms a ball
  5. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and let it rest for 2 hours in the fridge (don't skip this step, the dough will not cook as well if it has not been chilled)
  6. The dough will be very fragile and delicate to work with : roll the pastry dough between two sheets of parchment paper
  7. Peel the top sheet of parchment paper and lay your dough in your tart mold
  8. When I make small individual tarts in small molds, I use a different method: I make a small ball of dough and press it in the mold with the ball of my hand and my fingers, and then chill it in the fridge for one hour
  9. Bake the pastry crust blind for 20-25 minutes at 390°F - it's best to slightly underbake it.

Ingredients - Pear and Frangipane tart

For a rectangular 10 inches x 3 inches tart mold (like this one)

  • 5 pears
  • 40 g beurre
  • 40 g sugar
  • 40 G almond meal
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Peal and cut the pears in two and slice them thinly 
  2. Mix the butter with the sugar until creamy
  3. Add the egg and the almond meal
  4. Don't over mix or the cream will rise while cooking and deflate unevenly when it cools down
  5. Place the pears on your pre-cooked crust, and pour the cream around the pears
  6. Cook for 40 minutes at 380°F