I always used to think that if a recipe were written in a book, it knew better than I do. I haven’t thought that for a while and not always to my advantage. I am famous for getting on my soapbox on the 3rd word out of somebody’s mouth instead of listening until the rest of it is said. Sometimes the rest of it has an awful lot of valuable information that needs to be heard. It is not for no reason I am not a great listener–I am a little miracle worker at knowing what somebody is about to say–but not always. Sometimes, I am dead wrong. Same with cooking. I have been cooking for a while now, and so me and my ego look at a recipe thinking things like, “um, you forgot to sear here.” I did that the first time I saw the directions for pot-a-feu, written on a page. If they knew that at the customs counter in France, I would be denied entry. They wouldn’t even look up at me. They would point the finger to get back on the plane where I came from.
However. Sometimes, I am so right. There is a Pear and Almond Tart that is made with a frangipane and pears that sit like fat blobs cobblestones in the batter. The truth is, if you make the tart whole, and your pears are singing they are so ripe, then there is no need to change the recipe. BUT. If you are making individual little frangipane, the tarts are not going to cook for as long, and the pears will be underdone. Or, if your pears are fragrant, but not silky soft, even if you make a whole tart, your frangipane is going to be done, and your pears are not. One way is to slice the pears thinly, so that they take less time to cook. What if you want the lovely whole fruit wrapped with the almond blanket? Poach the peeled pear halves first, in a syrup of sugar, water, a scraped vanilla bean, and a lemon peel with the pith removed, until just tender.
They love me in France. Because I don’t say much. I don’t know how to speak French.
For the tart: 1 1/2 cup of sifted flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup sugar, 7 Tablespoons of cold butter cut into small pieces, and 1 1/2 egg yolks. Rub the butter into the flour and salt, and then mix the yolks with a fork before incorporating into the batter with your hand, just until mixed. Freeze for 30 minutes and then let sit out for 5. Roll out and blind bake in an 8 in pan, at 375 degrees (or in individual timbales.) (Be sure to line with parchment circles) You want a little color on the crust.
For the filling: 1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter, 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons blanched almonds, 1 1/2 eggs
Blend the almonds with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Beat the rest of the sugar with the butter until thick and light. Add eggs and almonds.
Poach peeled pears in vanilla bean syrup until just tender. Remove from syrup and add to the crust. They shouldn’t be crowded. Pour the filling over and bake until the filling is just set.