Right about now many of you are probably asking yourselves, “What the heck is frangipane?!” For some reason, this exquisite filling has a pretty low profile in the States. Hailing from either Belgium or France (it’s up for debate), frangipane is essentially a filling derived from nuts (usually almonds), eggs, sugar, and butter. It’s basically a custard (thanks to the egg) but with the addition of flour, it takes on a more cake-like texture. The more flour you add, the more cakey it will be.
When used in a tart case, frangipane can be paired with any seasonal fruit of your liking. To my mind, pear works especially well with the nutty earthy flavor of frangipane. I like to add ginger to just about anything with pears and this tart is no exception. The floral, fragrant ginger provides a wonderful high note to the whole affair.
Keep this tart in your back pocket if you’ve got holiday entertaining coming up. Its sophisticated flavor belies the fact that it is very simple to whip up.
Serves 8 to 10
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon spiced rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
5 Seckel pears, peeled, halved and cored
- First, make the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and butter. Pulse just until the ingredients come together and resemble coarse meal. Add the sugar, egg yolk, zest, and 2 tablespoons of the water and process to combine. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together into a ball. Be careful not to over-process or your dough will become tough.
- Turn the dough out onto a surface that has been lightly dusted with flour and give it a turn through the flour. Using the balls of your fingers, gently press the dough into a 9-inch round removable-base fluted tart tin. Press up the sides and around the entire base of the tin to create an evenly covered surface with no holes in the dough. Place on a baking tray in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge to blind bake it. This will set the crust so that it doesn’t become soggy when you add the filling. Cover the crust with parchment paper and line the top of the parchment paper with pie weights (or if you don’t have pie weights use dried beans). This will weigh down the crust and decrease shrinking and puffing. Bake, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove parchment and pie weights.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixture, on medium-high speed, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the egg, egg yolk, rum, and extract. Mix until combined then add the almond meal, flour, and ginger and mix just until combined.
- Scrape the filling into the tart crust and spread out to evenly cover the crust. Gently push the pear halves into the filling in a decorative design. Sprinkle the pears with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the side of the tart tin and let cool completely on a rack before slicing and serving.