pear + raspberry frangipane tart

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

1/2 lemon

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

tomato + ricotta tart

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

– Rumi

I’m feeling it all right now: nervousness, excitement, anticipation. In two days, what has long been nothing more than a vision will become my reality. In two days, I will be donning my chef whites and stepping into the kitchens of culinary school.

It’s a huge step, and a decision that I (nor Henry) made lightly. As much as I’d like to portray a romantic image of me leaving my job without hesitation and blindly pursuing my passion, it wouldn’t be honest. It took a lot of self-reflection and contemplation. It took long nights of conversation, of financial planning, and preparation. We made sacrifices, and will continue to make sacrifices for a while to come. But, in the end, it’s all worth it.  

We made this decision, together. Henry believes in me – believes in my passion and what I am capable of. But, more importantly, I believe in myself. I’m proud to say that I am acting on the sentiment I so often share here: I’m casting aside my fear and hesitations and letting my ambition and passion take the driver’s seat. I have a choice, and I’m choosing to be brave.

It’s a new path, and one that I’m sure will have its fair share of bumps and unexpected turns. I’m really not even sure where the path will end up. All I know is that it points in the right direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride.


tomato + ricotta tart

A crisp, buttery crust, a melt-in-your-mouth rich filling, and bursting, sweet summer tomatoes — does it get any better than that? This tart would be delicious served with eggs for brunch, with lightly dressed greens for dinner, or even packed up for a picnic lunch.

 

ingredients

prepared pastry dough

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg, separated

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces [I used cherry tomatoes, but any tomato would do well here]

splash of milk

 

First, prepare the pastry dough

and place in the refrigerator to chill.

After the dough has chilled for at least an hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch x 15-inch rectangle (approximately). Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a baker’s quarter sheet pan (9-inch x 13-inch) so that the dough is falling over the edges on all sides. If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan, you can use a half sheet and use a folded up piece of aluminum foil to create a false side in the middle of the long edge so that the pan measures 9-inches x 13-inches. Trim the overhanging excess dough, so that the crust reaches just to the top of the edges of the pan [see note below for a fun use for the excess dough]. Cover the pan lightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

While the dough chills, prepare the ricotta mixture: in a medium bowl add the ricotta, egg white [reserve the yolk for the egg wash later on], oregano, thyme, garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine.

Remove the chilled prepared dough from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the middle of the tart and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the bottom. Arrange the tomato slices over top of the ricotta and garnish the tart with more oregano leaves and flaked or coarse salt.

In a ramekin or small bowl, beat together the reserved egg yolk and splash of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the exposed parts of the crust.

Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. [The tart is delicious served either warm or at room temperature, garnished with more fresh oregano and thyme leaves].

 

for the pastry dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

pinch of salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter, and using your hands, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal [the butter pieces should be about the size of large peas]. Add the water and mix until the dough just comes together. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.

 

*Note: Don’t throw away your pastry dough scraps! Collect and reform them into a disc, and roll out on your floured work surface until about 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into pieces [triangles, squares, circles, whatever!] and place about 1 – 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the pieces with cinnamon and sugar and transfer to a preheated 400 degree F oven [you can bake them at the same time as the tomato tart]! Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, and cool on wire racks before serving. These are delicious eaten as cookies, or served as a garnish to a bowl of ice cream.

plum + almond tart


plum + almond tart

Sweet, tart plums and toasted almonds are enveloped in a rich, buttery crust in this take on a summer classic. I can see this as the perfect end to a grill night or summer picnic. This recipe makes a smaller tart (serves 2 – 4), so make sure to make multiple if you are hosting a party.

for the pastry crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

 

for the filling:

6 small plums (I used a mixture of mirabelles and santa rosas)

1/2 cup slivered almonds

4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 of a vanilla bean

confectioner’s sugar, for serving

First, prepare the pastry crust: in a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter pieces, and using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles very coarse meal (there should be larger and smaller of pieces of butter incorporated throughout). Add the ice water and mix until the mixture just begins to form a dough, being careful not to over mix). Form the dough into a thin disc and wrap in a piece of plastic wrap, again being careful not to overwork the dough. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least an hour. 

Once dough has chilled, transfer to a work surface that is lightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a circle that is about 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Drape rolled dough into a 6″ pie pan, with a removable bottom, and 1 1/2 – 2 inch deep sides. Without stretching the dough, press it into the pan so that it completely covers the bottom and sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to trim the scraps (the dough should just come to the top of the walls of the pan). Cover pan and dough with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer to chill as you prepare the filling. 

While dough is chilling in the freezer, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare the filling: halve the plums by cutting in a circular motion around their pits (like you would an avocado) and twist. Remove pits and discard. Set halved and pitted plums aside.

Split the 1/2 vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and using your hands, work the seeds into the sugar until completely incorporated. Meanwhile, add slivered almonds to a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Toast, shaking pan occasionally, until almonds are fragrant and lightly brown. Remove 1 tablespoon of the almonds and set aside for garnish. Add the remaining almonds and vanilla sugar mixture to a mortar and pestle and grind into a coarse meal (you can also use a food processor for this step, but I like the rustic consistency that a mortar and pestle provides). 

Remove the chilled dough from the freezer (it should be super cold and firm at this point, if not allow it chill a bit longer). Sprinkle the almond and sugar mixture over the bottom and arrange the plum halves over top of the sugar, cut sides down. Sprinkle with reserved 1 tablespoon of toasted almonds and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Place tart on top of a small baking pan (with raised sides) to catch any juices that may leak while baking, and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden and tops of plums are lightly browned, 40-45 minutes. 

Remove tart from oven and allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes (this step is important, as the tart would be a watery mess if cut into before having a chance to cool). After the tart has cooled, carefully remove the sides of the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges to serve.  

serves 2 – 4