Photography Julie Biuso
This is a knock-your-socks-off kinda dessert, which to be fair, requires a certain amount of dexterity to pull off (I'd have an extra pear or two on hand just in case you stuff up!). But the rewards ... well, expect plenty of 'oohhhs' and 'ahhhhs' when you serve them up. Frangipane pear tartlets can't fail to win hearts.
Rich shortcrust pastry 225g (8 ounces) plain (US all-purpose) flour A pinch of salt 1 Tbsp caster sugar 170g (6 ounces) unsalted butter, firm but pliable, cubed 1 small (size 5) free-range egg yolk 4 Tbsp chilled water Pears and glaze 4 cups water ½ cup caster (superfine granulated) sugar 8 small pears, peeled, stalks intact Small jar inexpensive apricot jam 1 Tbsp lemon juice Frangipane 100g (3½ ounces) unsalted butter, softened 100g (3½ ounces) caster (superfine granulated) sugar 1 large (size 7) free-range eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk 100g (3½ ounces) ground almonds 2 Tbsp plain (US all-purpose) flour
1 To make the pastry, put flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade and whiz briefly. Add butter and process briefly until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix egg yolk and water together and pour into the processor through the feed tube. Pulse until mixture gathers in large clumps. Tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. (Alternatively, sieve flour, salt and sugar into a bowl, cut in butter with two knives or a pastry blender, then rub in with fingertips. Mix in egg yolk and water, then bring together into a smooth ball of dough.) Wrap in plastic food wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2 Roll out pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface and line into 8 loose-bottomed 10cm diameter metal tartlet tins (if necessary, re-roll scraps and cut out more rounds). Prick bottom of tartlets with a fork and chill until pastry is firm.
3 Put water and sugar in a saucepan big enough to hold the pears, set pan over a gentle heat and dissolve sugar. Stir gently with a metal spoon towards the end. Once all the sugar is dissolved, bubble up and boil for 2 minutes. Add peeled pears, cover with a lid and poach gently for about 30 minutes or until nearly tender. This is the tricky bit. You need to turn the pears often, and keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t turn to slush. Remove each pear from the syrup as it is done and cool.
4 Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). To make the frangipane filling, whip butter and sugar together in a food processor until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. With machine running, gradually whip in the egg and extra yolk, then the ground almonds and flour. Spoon 2-3 Tbsp frangipane into each pastry-lined tin, and spread it evenly with a knife (any leftover frangipane can be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3-4 days). Slice pears carefully with a small sharp knife, cutting from the top by the core to the base, removing pips and core, but leaving slices attached to the stalk (see how they look in the photo). Put pears on top of frangipane, splaying the slices.
5 Bake tartlets for about 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Slip tartlets out of tins and put them on a cooling rack.
6 Heat apricot jam in a small saucepan with lemon juice. Bring to the boil, stirring, then pass it through a metal sieve and discard lumps. The glaze, while hot, should drop from a spoon and leave the spoon coated. Thin it with a little water if necessary, or bubble it to reduce it if it’s too thin. When ready to use the glaze, reheat to boiling point and use while it is very hot. Brush pears and pastry rim with hot apricot glaze, then leave tartlets to cool completely before serving.
For more information on baking ingredients Baking Ingredients