On the first day of culinary school our Chef gave us his first bit of advice: I want you all to forget everything you’ve ever learned about cooking. It sounded so strange at the time. Why would he want us to forget what we already know? Wouldn’t knowing something about cooking be beneficial to us? Wouldn’t familiarity in a kitchen help us in navigating culinary school?
Before school, I considered myself a good cook. I would prepare a meal without thinking, host dinner parties confidently. I even felt assured enough to write down my recipes and share them here. If I’ve done anything in the last month, I have proven myself wrong. It is humbling to go to school for something you thought you were good at, to convince yourself that you are not what you identified with most. Our chef’s comment reverberates in my mind, forget what you’ve learned, and it makes so much sense now. It’s easy to learn something new, to learn something that you’ve never been exposed to before. What’s hard is to learn something familiar — to unlearn what you already know. That takes perseverance.
Tarts were always my thing. I’ve made countless tarts in my life — I could make a pâte brisée in my sleep. On Friday, in school, we made tarts. I’ve never felt so unsure of myself. As I felt my confidence fade, I reminded myself: The things that are hardest to learn are those that you know the most about. It’s an important lesson to remember: when you think you know all there is to know, you don’t. You can always learn more.
I’m here today with a tart I’ve been meaning to share for a week — a tart I’m still confident to share even after making a purely classic pear frangipane tart in class on Friday. The frangipane isn’t made with pastry cream, but it’s simple. The pears aren’t peeled or arranged in a traditional crossed pattern, but they look beautiful. And, unlike a classic pear frangipane tart, raspberries dot the surface of mine — for what I feel to be a much needed pop of color. It may not be perfect, but I’m learning. It may not be classic, but it’s delicious.
pear + raspberry frangipane tart
Pears and almonds are one of my favorite combinations, especially in a sweet tart. Because raspberries are in season, I added them for a nice pop of color and tartness, which works really nicely in contrast to the sweet filling. To soften them, the pears are poached before arranging. Once baked, they sink into the sweet frangipane, making for a deliciously soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
for the tart dough
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, cold and lightly beaten
for the frangipane [adapted from Martha Stewart]:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
1 tablespoon almond paste
for the fruit:
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds pears [I used brown Asian or Kosui pears, which I think are especially delicious], cores and stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch slices or segments
1/3 cup raspberries
for the garnish:
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
2 teaspoons sugar
First, prepare the tart dough: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the chilled, cubed butter and using your hands, work it into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Drizzle in the beaten egg and mix until dough just comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until chilled: at least 2 hours.
Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes [it will crack when rolled out if it is too chilled]. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter [if it cracks, don’t worry too much about it — you can easily repair it in the tart pan by pressing additional pieces into any gaps]. Roll it around your rolling pin and unroll over a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to trim to the dough and use the extra pieces to fill in any gaps if the dough has cracked. Cover the pan and place back in the refrigerator.
Next, prepare the frangipane: in a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, ground almonds, and almond paste and beat until smooth. Remove the prepared tart pan from the refrigerator and fill the dough with the frangipane, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Transfer to the refrigerator while you prepare the pears.
To prepare the pears: in a stock pot or large sauce pan, add the water and sugar and stir to combine. Squeeze the juice from a half lemon into the sugar water and drop the rest of it into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and add the sliced pears. Simmer until pears are crisp-tender, about 15 minutes, and drain.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the frangipane-filled tart from the refrigerator. Press the poached pear slices in two circles over the top of the frangipane, starting around the edge and ending in the middle. The pears should slightly overlap as they go around the circle. Sprinkle the raspberries over the top.
Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake until golden all over, about 40 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Once ready to serve, whip the heavy cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Cut the tart into slices and serve topped with spoonfuls of whipped cream.
makes one 10-inch tart