Monday, November 9, 2009

Drunken pear frangipane tart

David Lebovitz beat me to it today with his almond and pear tart post!  Then, the NYTimes Minimalist with this post on upside-down pear cake.  The whole world is going pear crazy, I swear.  (And, to my credit, none of their pears are drunken. :-) )

But with good reason.  Pears are good.  And, I subscribe to the belief that they can cure a sore throat.  So bonus to pears.

Anyways, I was so excited last week when I went to Costco for eggs and discovered boxes of beautiful seckel pears for ridiculously cheap!  These tiny little pears are so cute.  Kind of like what crab-apples are to apples, seckel pears are to pears.  (Yes, I rocked analogies on standardized tests.)  And who can't resist things in miniature?

This past weekend, I finally broke into my pounds of seckel pears.  So tender and sweet and juicy--really, I could just gobble them up as is.  But, no, no.  What would be the fun in that? :-)  So, I busted out the poaching liquid that I'd saved from making poached pears with rosemary pancakes and added a good half bottle of leftover red wine, since there wasn't quite enough liquid, along with some additional spices.  The resulting poached seckel pears were so flavorful and totally drunk with wine.  (Actually, as I was poaching, my roommate claimed she was getting drunk just on the smell of the poaching liquid. :-P)

Drunken seckel pear frangipane tart

The drunken pears were a perfect accent for the almond nuttiness of the filling, the sweet crispiness of the tart crust, and a hint of apricot glaze.  The alcohol came through in a bit of a whisper in the end of each bite, which was perfect.

I took the large, rectangular tart to a workshop for my day job, saving the small round one for personal devourment.  One participant of the workshop said to me afterward--and I quote--:  "You have truly attained proficiency in the grammar of high desserts."

Okay, that really cracked me up.  But it was an appreciated compliment nonetheless.  So, folks, here's the lesson: this tart may not look as pretty as its summer fruit counterparts, but, trust me, it is most definitely yummy.

Read on for recipe...
Drunken poached pears
Please note that the amounts in the recipe for poached pears are approximate.

1 cup white wine
1 1/3 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 whole vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Tbspn cloves
2 extra ripe Anjou pears
10 firm ripe Seckel pears (4 Bosc pears also work, if Seckels aren't available)

1. In a deep medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, and sugar.  Split the vanilla bean; scrape the seeds into the saucepan and add the entire bean.  Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
2. In a food processor, puree the extra ripe Anjou pears.  Strain the puree through a fine sieve into the wine mixture in the saucepan.
3. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
4. Meanwhile, use a melon baller to remove the center of the seckel pears, starting from the bottom.  Peel each pear.
5. Once the wine mixture has come to a simmer, add the seckel pears.  Cook at a simmer until done, about 10 minutes, depending on the original firmness of the pears.
6. Strain the pears from the liquid once they are done and set them on a cooling rack to cool and drain.  Keep the remaining poaching liquid in the refrigerator for future use.

Frangipane tart filling
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Doris Greenspan.  (Note: I never did have the original recipe, and this one's been cobbled together and hand-scribbled by me a few times over, so changes have been made, I think.)

3/4 cup blanched and slivered almonds
2 tspn AP flour
1 tspn cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
6 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
1 large egg + 1 egg white
1 tspn vanilla
1 tspn almond extract
1 tspn brandy

1. In a food processor, combine the almonds and flour.  Grind finely.
2. Add in sugar, butter, and flavorings.  Blend.
3. Finally, blend in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
4. Allow the filling to rest in the refrigerator for two to three hours.

Sweet tart pastry crust
This is my go-to sweet tart pastry recipe, with a hint of almond added especially for this tart. I even have to resist eating the dough raw!
makes enough for a 9" round tart

1 3/4 cups AP flour
7 Tbspn cold butter
4 Tbspn sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tbspn water
1/2 Tbspn almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend just until a dough begins to form.
3. Remove from food processor and place the dough on a floured work surface.  Knead gently just until the dough comes together.  Chill if the dough is too warm.
4. Roll out the pastry or pat down evenly into the bottom of the pan. (The patting works perfectly for this crust.)
5. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer.
6. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pastry several times.  Top with a layer of foil or parchment paper and then fill the crust with pie weights.  (I use dried beans--multi-purpose! Don't waste your money on pie weights.)
7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until almost done.  Remove and let cool.

Tart assembly and final baking

additional ingredient: apricot jam/preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spoon the frangipane filling into the baked tart shell and smooth.
3. Slice the poached pears thinly and arrange on top of the frangipane filling.  The filling will puff up during baking, so keep that in mind when you make your pear arrangements.
4. Bake the tart for 40-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed and firm to the touch.
5. Remove from oven and let cool.
6. Heat the apricot jam in the microwave until it is liquid.  Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of glaze onto the tart.



  1. I've got some pears and apricot jam. I think I'll try this. It looks really good!

  2. This looks really amazing. Lovely tart ... the crust looks perfect and the drunken pears sound to die for!

  3. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments!

    @Mrs. B: if you try this, please let me know how it turns out!

  4. Wow, this is a great tart! I used Bosc pears and it came out well. Just one thing - the qty of sugar is missing in the wine poaching recipe - I used 3/4 cup...


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