Sweet Almond Pastry:
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
Scant 1/3 cup (30 grams) almond meal (ground almonds)
2/3 cup (65 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (optional)
5 tablespoons (70 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
3 large cold egg yolks (52 grams)
1 cup (100 grams) almond meal (ground almonds
2 tablespoons (25 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Seeds from one vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract)
1/3 cup (80 ml/grams) seedless raspberry jam or preserves (homemade or store bought)
6 Pear Halves (cooked) (I use canned Bartlett Pears that have been packed in either heavy syrup or pear juices)
1/3 cup (80 ml/grams) apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon Cognac, Calvados, Rum or Water
Pearl Sugar or Sliced Almonds
Sweet Almond Pastry: First, sift the flour with the almond meal, confectioners sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then place in the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. (Can also use a hand mixer). Add the chunks of cold butter and beat on medium low speed until the mixture is mealy (grainy with no visible pieces of butter). Add the cold egg yolks and seeds from the vanilla bean (if using) and beat on low speed until the dough comes together (pastry will be yellow in color).
Place the pastry onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Divide the pastry into 6 equal pieces (about 60 grams each). Wrap each piece of pastry in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least six hours (the pastry can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for up to three months). After the pastry has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll each piece into a 5 1/2 inch (14 cm) round. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll.) Place the rounds of pastry on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (to firm up the pastry which makes it easier to place in the tart rings). Then gently place each round into a 4 x 3/4 inch (10 x 2 cm) tart ring (or pan). Never pull the pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the tart ring). Gently lay in tart ring (or pan) and lightly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart ring (pan). With a sharp knife cut excess pastry from top of tart ring (pan). Then with a thumb up movement, again press dough into creases of ring (pan). Place the tart rings (pans) on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover, and place in the refrigerator while you make the Frangipane.
Frangipane: In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and seeds from the vanilla bean, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl as needed. Then add the almond meal, flour, and salt and beat until combined. (If not using immediately, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to three days.)
Place the seedless raspberry preserves (jam) in a small piping bag fitted with a small plain tip.
Assemble: Prick the bottom of each tart shell with the tines of a fork. Next, pipe thin concentric circles of the raspberry jam on the bottom of each tart shell. Then fill the tart shells about 2/3 - 3/4 full with the frangipane and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. Lastly, pat the pear halves dry with a paper towel. Slice each pear half into thin slices and place one pear half in the center of each tart. Place the baking sheet with the filled tarts in the refrigerator while you preheat your oven.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Bake the tarts for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown (the frangpipane will puff up during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Apricot Glaze: In a small saucepan heat the apricot preserves until boiling. Remove from heat and strain to get rid of lumps. Add the Cognac or water.
If desired, using a hand held butane kitchen torch, brown the tips of the pear slices. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the tarts, both the pears and frangipane, with the apricot glaze. Sprinkle the edges of the tarts with pearl sugar or sliced almonds.
The Pear Frangipane Tarts are at their best the day they're made. But you can cover and refrigerate for about two days. The tarts can be frozen but the pastry crust will not be as crisp. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Makes 6 - 4 inch (10 cm) tarts.
Whenever I go into a French Bakery, I love to look at all the beautiful pastry tarts. One day I decided I wanted to learn how to make them. So I went to the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) and took a pastry class on making tarts and pies. One of my favorites was these individual Pear Frangipane Tarts. They start with a deliciously sweet and crisp almond pastry crust. Then each tart is filled with a layer of raspberry jam, a layer of almond cream (frangipane), topped with thin slices of juicy sweet pears. But as with most French pastry tarts, it is the finishing of the baked tarts which sets them apart. So when they come out of the oven, the edges of the pears are browned, and then to make the tarts "pop", the entire surface of the tart is brushed with a shiny apricot glaze and the edges of the tarts are sprinkled with either pearl sugar (my favorite) or sliced almonds.
French Pastry Tarts typically have quite a few components. For these Pear Frangipane Tarts we have a sweet pastry crust, raspberry jam, almond cream, slices of pears, an apricot glaze, and pearl sugar (or sliced almonds). Luckily you can make some of the components ahead of time to make things easier. The pastry crust can be made a day or two in advance or you can even make and freeze the pastry for a couple of months. The raspberry jam can be either homemade or store bought. If making homemade (my preference) you can make it up to a week ahead and store it in the refrigerator. The almond cream (frangipane) can be made a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Or you can even freeze it. For the pears, my preference is to use canned Bartlett pear halves, the ones that are packed either in pear juice or a heavy syrup. The reason I like canned pears is the quality is consistent year round, they taste very good, and there is very little work involved. All you need to do is to drain the pear halves and slice them. However, you can use fresh pears but you will need to first poach the pears in a sugar syrup just until tender.