Frangipane in this case refers not to the delicate flower, but a delightful French confection that is a combination of ground almonds, sugar and eggs. It is a fairly traditional old recipe and all the better for it. The frangipane mixture can be baked alone in pastry tart shell (pie crust), but I much prefer to add poached fruit to the recipe. The frangipane mixture rises as it bakes to envelop the pears, leaving just a tantalizing glimpse of the fruit as it exudes an intoxicatingly heady almond aroma.
Just about any fruit can be used instead of pears, but remember to pre-cook any hard fruits, apples and such, as the tart is not in the oven for very long. A method for poaching fruit can be found here. If you want a shortcut, you could use tinned pears, but if you can muster up the time and energy, try and cook your own. It really is worth it.
You can either use the sweet shortcrust pastry recipe below, or to save even more time, buy a good quality precooked pastry shell. Use either 1 large (28 cm / 10 inch) or several small (10 cm / 3 inch) tart shells. I really like ice cream with this tart. You can buy a good quality vanilla ice cream or if you want to get really hands on, try either of my recipes found here or here.
250 gm (8 oz) plain flour
150 gm (5 oz) chilled unsalted butter
1 free range egg
Cut the butter into dice and place into a food processor with the flour. Quickly pulse together until the mix has a sandy texture. Pulse in the egg and if the pastry has not formed a ball add small amounts of iced water with the motor running until it comes together. This can be done without a food processor, just rub the butter into the flour with your hands until well combined, then place on your kitchen bench. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and kneed together, adding water if necessary. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
120 gm (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
150 gm (5 oz) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
200 gm (7 oz) almond meal (ground almonds)
2 tbs brandy, rum or Frangelico (optional)
3 poached pears, (alternatively use tinned pears or other fruit)
Place the butter and sugar in a Mixmaster and beat until creamy and pale. Alternatively, you can do this by hand. Just keep beating for 5 minutes after your arm first starts to hurt. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time and stir in the almond meal. Add the alcohol if using.
For the benefit of melknia, frangipane is pronounced in exactly the same fashion as the flower, That is Fran - Gee - Pan - Ee
Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (360° F). If using home made pastry, roll out on a floured workbench, trying to keep it evenly thin. Line a 28 cm (10 inch) fluted tart ring, preferably with a removable base, with the pastry and trim off any excess. Use this excess pastry to gently press the tart shell into place. Put back in the fridge for another half an hour. All this resting will (hopefully) reduce the pastry shrinking when you bake it.
Take the tart shell from the fridge and cover with tin foil. Pour pastry weights on top (you can use raw rice or dried beans) to stop the pastry from puffing up. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, then take out and remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven for a further 10 -15 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked through.
Slice the pear into quarters and remove the seeds. Spread out in an attractive pattern on the base of the pastry. Spoon the frangipane around the pears and smooth out a little with a spoon. It does not have to be perfect as the mix spreads and puffs up anyway. Place back in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the frangipane has puffed up and is golden brown. Test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, it is cooked, but if it is still a little moist, return to the oven for another 10 minutes.