I’m officially declaring it pie and tart season here in my kitchen. We’ve got Thanksgiving right around the corner (how did that happen so fast?), and while I always serve a good old pumpkin pie with boatloads of whipped cream, this year we have enough people coming over to justify at least two desserts. So I’ve been experimenting with my favorite fall flavors in the hopes of creating something for our holiday table. And, wonder of wonders, it worked! This pear and hazelnut frangipane tart is elegant, simple, and full of the subtle fall flavors of roasted hazelnuts and pears. Consider it pumpkin pie’s classy cousin just waiting for it’s moment to shine.
The crust on this tart is crispy and buttery, as all pie and tart crusts should be, and provides a great contrast to the creamy hazelnut frangipane. I started with a trusty sweet tart crust recipe from Mark Bittman’s How To Bake Everything, then added fresh ginger to it to give it a kick that complements the sweet pears. I always use my food processor for crusts, because while I can spend hours trying to decorate a cake, I will take the extra five minutes the food processor gives me. If you don’t have one or don’t feel like using one, you can use a pastry cutter and some elbow grease. Pulse the flour, powdered sugar, and salt, then add the very cold pieces of butter and pulse about ten times, until the largest pieces are the size of large peas. Add in a tablespoon of ice water and the fresh ginger and pulse until the largest pieces are like tiny peas (I know, so technical). It won’t be one mass yet; don’t worry. Turn the dough out onto the counter and use your hands to bring it all together into a ball. Use your fingers to press it as evenly as you can into a buttered tart pan, making sure to press it up the sides. Freeze the crust for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate it for at least 30.
Butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil, and press the buttered side down over the pie crust. Fill it with pie weights or dried beans, then bake the crust for 12 minutes in a 425°F oven. Remove the foil and weights, and bake it for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown. Set the crust aside to cool as you prepare the filling.
For the filling, I decided to make a twist on frangipane, the creamy almond filling that I’d never heard of before watching the Great British Baking Show. I used this recipe over at Food 52 as a starting point, but swapped in hazelnuts for the almonds because I love their flavor and thought it would be a rich complement to the pears. To get the best flavor in the frangipane, toast the hazelnuts for a few minutes. Add them to your (cleaned out) food processor and pulse them to a coarse powder. Transfer them to a bowl, then add the butter and sugar and pulse until creamy. Add the hazelnuts back in and pulse to combine, then add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour the frangipane into the tart crust and smooth with a spatula.
For the pear topping, I wanted to keep it simple and elegant. Peel the pear, halve it, and core it, then slice it thinly. I fanned out one half of the pear on one half of the tart, letting the slices overlap. Repeat with the other half of the pear on the other half of the tart. Or do your own pattern and make it your own! Bake the tart until the frangipane is set and golden, about 45 minutes.
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), very cold and cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon water, ice cold
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- ¾ cup hazelnuts
- ½ cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white
- Pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 pear
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10-15 times, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the ginger and 1 tablespoon of ice water and pulse until it starts to clump into a ball, adding another tablespoon of ice water if necessary.
- Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured counter and knead just until it comes together into a ball, then press into a generously buttered tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze for at least 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Prick the crust all over with a fork, then butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil and place it, butter side down, over the crust. Scatter pie weights or dried beans into the pan, and bake for 12 minutes.
- Remove the pie weights or beans and the foil, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- To make the filling, first toast the hazelnuts for a few minutes in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the nuts to a food processor and pulse to a coarse powder. Place them in a bowl and set aside. Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and pulse until creamy. Add the hazelnuts back in and pulse to combine. Add the flour, cornstarch, egg and egg white and vanilla, and pulse until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
- Peel the pear, cut it in half lengthwise, and remove the core with a spoon or melon baller. Slice each half into ¼” slices.
- Pour the hazelnut frangipane into the tart crust and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Fan out the pear slices onto the tart. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is golden and set.