When faced with a choice at the French patisserie counter it’s always difficult. I have already posted a recipe for Tarte au Citron so now, as promised some time ago, here is Tarte aux Poires. Both are candidates for the title of our favourite, but the jury is still out… It is a crisp pastry shell filled with cooked pear halves, a delicious soft almondy filling and a top scattered with toasted split almonds and is a relatively straightforward recipe. Arranging the pears decoratively is not too difficult, just a bit fiddly, but it is worth it for both the positive comments of guests and being able to produce something to keep the family happy! Another often seen title for Tarte aux Poires is Pear Frangipane Tart, the word frangipane relating to the addition of ground almonds. (More information about this can be found with the recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight). The original recipe I used was called by another relatively common name, Pear Pie Bourdaloue, but the many variations of spelling make the meaning of the name difficult to trace. Some sources credit a Parisien baker called Coquelin, owner of La Pâtisserie Bourdaloue named after the street in which it stands, who in 1909 baked the first Tarte Bourdaloue aux Poires. Whatever its origins, however, the numerous recipes for this classic french pear and almond tart all agree with us: it is delicious!
The original version of this recipe Tarte aux Poires comes from the French recipe website Meilleur du chef which is also available translated into English where it is called Cuisine French. The recipe translation is not perfect – for example it suggests the dish is finished with ‘blond coating’ (nappage blond). This appears to be a product commercially available containing sugar, water and a little apricot flavouring, which gives a slightly sticky finish to the tart. I substituted a sugar and water glaze, which as far as I can see gives a similar result but is not absolutely necessary. On many occasions have forgotten to add it or have simply run out of time.
Tarte aux Poires Bourdaloue (Pear Frangipane Tart/Pear Pie Bourdaloue)
Shortcrust Pastry – enough to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
100g ground almonds
40g whipping cream – single if whipping not available
1 or 2 tins pears (enough to give six halves of roughly equal size)
Gently poach three whole sweet pears and cut into six halves, removing the cores.
Split almonds to decorate
Granulated sugar dissolved in a little water to make a light syrup (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.
2. Line the flan tin with shortcrust pastry, prick with a fork, fill with dried beans and bake blind for about 10 minutes until the pastry starts to set and colour. Remove beans and set to one side.
3. Reduce the oven heat to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2
4. To make the almond cream filling cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and thick.
5. Stir in the ground almonds. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat well.
6. Mix in the cream and flour and then beat well to fully combine.
7. Spoon this almond cream mixture into the blind baked shell, making sure it is level as possible.
8. Taking each pear half, carefully cut splits lengthways down each piece leaving each slice joined at the top. Gently ease each half into a fan shape.
9. Arrange each piece of pear evenly around the dish, carefully easing out the fan shapes. Some dishes would allow the six pieces in a circle with the points towards the centre. If the pears are fat and round in shape there may only be space for five pears in the circle in which case the sixth piece can go in the centre. Gently fan out the pear pieces before you place them on top of the almond cream mixture taking care not to separate them at the point.
10. If not using the sweet coating: Scatter a small handful of split almonds over the tart. The quantity is up to you – I like to be reasonably generous. If you intend to add the sugar coating the split almonds are added at the end just before serving and should have been carefully toasted in the oven or under a hot grill. They burn very quickly and need to be watched as they toast. Once toasted remove from the tin onto a cold plate to cool.
11. Bake the tart in a warm oven for 40 to 50 minutes and remove when the top of the tart is golden. The split almonds should be starting to colour but not burn. The low heat will allow the tart to colour slowly whilst the shortcrust pastry bakes thoroughly. The almond cream will rise a little and gradually brown.
12. Allow the tart to cool.
13. Optional coating: Dissolve about 2tsp sugar in a very little boiling water. Alternatively this can be done in a microwave oven. Brush over the surface of the finished pie for a slightly sticky finish.
14. Finish the tart by sprinkling over the roasted split almonds.
15. Serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraîche – or alternatively just as it is. It makes a delicious dessert, cooled but not long from the oven and can also be served at tea time. A really good dessert when entertaining, especially as it can be made a little in advance.
Can be made as individual tarts containing one pear fan each.
Other fruits are often substituted for the pears: especially apricot, apple, plums and blueberries – near Christmas I often make Mincemeat & Almond Delight which is similar but with a sweet mincemeat based filling
Other ground nuts can be substituted for the almonds. Pistachio is particularly delicious and pale green in colour even when baked.