Recipe: Pear Tart with Walnut Crust
Fall is tart time for me, and I brought a few of my favorite autumn flavors to this dessert offering. It’s made with a rich walnutty tart crust, filled with creamy golden frangipane and topped with tender slices of spiced poached pears.
And it holds a little gift for those of us baking for a diverse group: it just happens to be gluten-free. Don’t you love desserts that do it all?
This tart has an element that may be unfamiliar: frangipane. What is it? Traditional frangipane is similar to pastry cream, except that in place of half-and-half, it contains butter and almond flour. Here, I’ve used ground walnuts in place of the almond flour, to echo the flavor of the the walnut crust.
Frangipane may appear fancy and perhaps even a little medieval (don’t you love the sound of the word?) but it’s actually so easy to make. If you read the recipe below you’ll see that it’s made in just one quick step.
How This Tart Comes Together
I gave careful consideration to the individual elements of this tart in order to create three distinctive layers that are each great on their own and also form a cohesive, delicious dessert.
The tart crust is unsweetened, since frangipane and poached pears contain plenty of sugar. This also helps to keep it from over-browning as the frangipane rises and bakes in the center.
A layer of poached, spiced pears finishes the dessert. Gently layered on top of the frangipane just before baking, they become nestled in a golden-brown pillow as the frangipane rises around them.
A Make-Ahead Dessert That Travels Well
The tart will keep well for a day or two and travels very well. Its individual elements can each be created separately, affording you lots of flexibility when making the recipe. If you can only find an hour here or a half hour there, just make the frangipane, crust, and poached pears at your convenience, then assemble them just before baking.
Serve up slices with a spritz of whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, and you’ll have a beautiful and sophisticated dessert on your hands, perfect for any fall or winter celebration.
For the crust:
- 1 cup
(120 grams) all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (See Recipe Note)
- 3/4 cup
(90 grams) walnut pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1 stick
(4 ounces) unsalted butter, frozen and coarsely grated
- 3 tablespoons
For the poached pears:
- 2 cups
- 2/3 cup
- 1 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
ground vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste
whole D’Anjou or Bartlett pears, slightly underripe
For the frangipane:
- 1/2 cup
(100 grams) granulated cane sugar
- 1/2 cup
(60 grams) walnut pieces
- 4 tablespoons
(2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
large eggs, warmed to room temperature
- 1 1/2 tablespoons
all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
14- x 4.5-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom (See Recipe Note)
To make the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, walnuts, and salt. Process until the walnuts are thoroughly ground into the flour, about 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Return the flour mixture to the food processor and add the grated butter. Process until butter is incorporated but little flecks remain throughout, about 5 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse briefly, just until the water is distributed evenly and the dough begins to come together into large pieces.
Turn the dough out into a 14- x 4.5-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Use your fingers press it into the pan evenly, making sure to get it firmly into the corners. Do this quickly to avoid warming the dough.
Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the crust, then pour in a single layer of pie weights or uncooked beans. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
While the crust chills, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake until the butter in the crust has begun to steam and bubble a bit around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove pie weights and parchment, and allow the crust to cool to room temperature.
To make the poached pears: Peel the pears, then cut them into quarters and remove the cores. In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, heat the water, sugar, spices and vanilla over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely.
When the sugar has dissolved, add the quartered pears. Bring up to a rapid simmer, then turn down to low and simmer, covered, until the pears are cooked through but still firm, about 10 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to a wire rack. Let them cool until you can handle them comfortably. Slice each pear quarter into 1/4-inch thick wedges.
To make the frangipane: In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process into a thick, smooth batter.
To assemble the tart: When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the crust in its tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil. Pour the frangipane batter into the cooled crust. If you made the frangipane in advance and kept it chilled, it will have thickened slightly — use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Gently layer overlapping slices of pear down the middle of the tart. Don’t worry if the pears sink into the batter a bit — the batter will rise and puff up around them as it bakes.
Bake the tart until the frangipane is golden brown and puffy, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
To unmold the tart, push the base of the pan up from the bottom and put aside the frame. Leave the base of the pan underneath the tart and carefully slide it onto a serving plate. Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.
My preferred gluten-free flour is Cup4Cup, a blend developed by Thomas Keller and available at Williams-Sonoma. It's a bit pricey at $19.95 for three pounds, but I've found the results to be incredibly consistent when subbed into any recipe calling for traditional all-purpose flour.
A rectangular tart pan makes for a dramatic presentation and gives your dessert a professional bakery look that will stand out on any dessert table. You can find them at Sur La Table for $18.00.