This recipe took a couple of go’s to get right, the first time I made them, the tarts were delicious but the frangipane sort of exploded and spread everywhere, they tasted good but looked a mess. I was determined to get them right and not be defeated by a tart; so I tried again with a few tweaks and they turned out beautifully!
They consist of a buttery brioche base topped with jam, cardamom spiked frangipane and delicately spiced poached pears. I glazed them with warm apricot jam when they came out of the oven which gives them a beautiful sheen. The tarts are sweet, but not overly so, so they are perfect for a mid-morning snack with tea or coffee.
The recipe may look long and complicated but all the steps are quite simple and straightforward and it is split over two days so isn’t that labour intensive. On the first day you poach the pears and make the brioche dough and the next you roll out the dough and leave it to prove, make the frangipane, assemble the tarts and bake. Once you break it down in to individual steps it doesn’t seem so hard.
The reason I poached the pears initially is because I had a few of those stubborn ones that never seem to ripen, but actually the flavour that the pears have from being poached with spices is delicious. You could, by all means, use ripe pears and forgo the poaching but you will miss out on the warm, spiced flavour which makes these tarts so perfect for Autumn.
I absolutely love the flavour of cardamom, but if you aren’t keen, or are unable to get it, I would replace it with a pinch of ground cinnamon or ginger, which is always a good accompaniment to pears. One other thing, the poaching syrup will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for a couple of weeks and is re-usable, so if you have any more pears you wish to poach there is no need to make a fresh batch of syrup.
Spiced Poached Pear and Frangipane Brioche Tarts
For the Pears:
- 2 small, firm pears
- 500ml (2 cups) water
- 135g (2/3 cup) sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 3 cloves
- 3 allspice berries
For the Brioche:
- 135g (1 cup + 2tbsp) plain flour
- 4g (1tsp) fast action yeast
- 10g (1 tbsp) caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 35ml (1/8 cup + 1tsp) milk
- 50g (scant 1/4 cup) soft butter
For the Frangipane:
- 30g (2tbsp) soft butter
- 30g (2tbsp + 1tsp) caster sugar
- 30g (1/4 cup) ground almonds
- 1 tsp plain flour
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1/8th tsp almond extract
- 1 egg (half for frangipane, half for egg wash)
- approx. 4 tsp jam of your choice (I used raspberry)
- 1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
Start the day before you want to bake by poaching the pears and making the brioche dough. To poach the pears, peel, halve and core the pears. Place the water, sugar and spices in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and cover with a round of greaseproof paper that sits on the surface of the liquid and has a hole cut in the centre. Bring up to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, the pears should fall off a fork if you stab one, this should take 15-20 minutes. Once tender, remove from the heat and leave to cool; place the pears in their poaching liquid in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
To make the brioche dough: place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, eggs and milk in a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, mix until it all comes together then knead for five minutes or so until smooth and slightly elastic. The dough is quite sticky so if you are kneading by hand be prepared to get messy!
Add the butter in lumps and work it into the dough, again, this is more easily done with a stand mixer but is perfectly possible by hand; just get stuck in there and scrape, squeeze and knead the dough energetically until the butter is all evenly incorporated and the dough is smooth, soft and elastic (it will still be quite sticky though).
Place the dough in a bowl with enough room for it to grow, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 equal pieces, about 65g each. Shape each piece into a ball then roll out on a lightly floured surface into an approx. 5 inch round. Place the discs on a baking tray lined with parchment or a silicone liner, cover loosely with cling film and set aside to rise for 1.5 – 2 hours until puffy and the dough springs back when gently pressed with a finger. They will still be quite thin.
While the dough is rising make the frangipane. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, in a small bowl beat the egg and add just over half of it to the butter mixture, reserving the rest for the egg wash; add the flour, ground almonds and almond extract to the butter mixture. Crack open the cardamom pods and grind the seeds inside in a pestle and mortar and add to the mix. Beat everything together until smooth.
Drain the pears and pat dry with kitchen roll, cut each pear half into thin slices leaving them attached at the top. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
When the discs have risen, press down the centre of each one with your fingers, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Spread a scant teaspoon of jam into the depression of each one.
Spread about a heaped tablespoon of the frangipane on top of the jam on each tart.
Spread the sliced pear halves out into fan shapes and place one on each tart.
Brush the exposed dough with the remaining beaten egg then place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes (check after 10) until a deep golden brown, puffed up and cooked through. Gently warm the apricot jam with a splash of water until runny, transfer the tarts to a wire rack and brush all over with the apricot jam to glaze.