Pear Frangipane Tart

Makes one 10-inch tart

One unbaked 10-inch pate brisee tart shell, chilled (recipe follows)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds (I used natural almond meal this time)
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 white wine poached pears (recipe follows) in 1/2 cup poaching liquid, cooled

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To make the frangipane filling, cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, ground almonds, rum, almond extract, and flour, and beat until smooth. Spread the thick mixture evenly in the chilled tart shell and refrigerate it while you prepare the pears.

Remove the cooled pears from the poaching liquid and cut each in half lengthwise; remove core and stem.  Place each half, cut side down, on a cutting board and cut crosswise into thin slices.  Arrange the sliced pear halves on the frangipane around the edge of the tart, leaving space between each half, and place one half in the center of the tart.  When arranging the pears, try to fan the slices toward the center of the tart, which will elongate the pears somewhat.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the tart shell is golden brown and the frangipane has puffed and browned.

While the tart is baking, bring the reserved poaching liquid to a boil and reduce by half.  Brush this glaze lightly over the pears immediately upon removing the tart from the oven.  Serve at room temperature.

Pate Brisee
Makes two 8- to 10-inch tarts or single-crust pies, one 8- to 10-inch double-crust pie, or twelve 2-1/2- to 3-inch tartlets

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  All ingredients should be cold.  Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  (To mix by hand, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender or two table knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.)

Add ice water, drop by drop, through the feed tube with the food processor running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds.  Test the dough by squeezing a small amount together.  If it is crumbly, add a little more water.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form dough into a round disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place the pastry in the tart pan or pie plate, and press it into the bottom edges and along the sides without stretching the dough.  After placing in tart pan, roll over the top of the pan with a rolling pin to cut off overhang of dough.  If placing in pie pan, trim overhang with scissor or sharp knife, leaving about an inch to fold up and crimp around the edge of the pie plate.  Chill the pastry-lined pan until ready to use.

White Wine Poached Pears
1 bottle of Champagne, sparkling white wine, or dry white wine
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
5 firm but ripe Bartlett pears, with stems left on, peeled

Combine all ingredients, except pears, in a large saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the pears, lower the heat, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes.  If necessary, turn the pears over gently by rotating the stems with your fingertips so that they cook evenly.  Remove the pears to a bowl, bring the poaching liquid to a rapid boil, and reduce by half.  Pour the syrup over the pears and refrigerate, covered, for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Source:  Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts, copyright 1985