Last year for Christmas I offered to bake something for Ant’s family for afternoon tea. One of his aunties has an intolerance to gluten so my challenge was to bake something that was GLUTEN-FREE so everyone could enjoy it. I am fortunate enough to not have an intolerance to gluten but I’m sure that doesn’t stop those that are from having something sweet. Gluten-free does not have to equate to taste-free. I must admit, I didn’t go all out and purchase tapioca starch, rice flour, amaranth flour, xanthan gum… (I wouldn’t know where to start looking!) but instead, I substituted flour with gluten-free flour. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ve been searching for a perfect dough recipe that isn’t too fiddly and this one seems promising.. I stumbled upon this recipe from Anita of Dessert First and found it to be pretty easy.
Oh and did I mention that I had to make this tart thrice?! The tarts turned out fine the first two times but the third time wasn’t so great; I used a different shape tart tin and had to rush off to somewhere, so I left it to my sister to look after.. Big mistake. It wasn’t fully cooked in the middle so when I served it the day after, the centre turned into a sloppy mess (it still tasted nice regardless)! Luckily I don’t have photographic evidence for this misfortune. Lesson learnt; don’t leave it to your siblings to do things for you OR teach them how to bake properly..
Makes a 36x13cm tart
3 ripe medium pears
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons gluten-free flour
2 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
For the pears:
- Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, peel the pears, cut them in half and then remove the seed core and fibrous cores.
- Add the pear halves to the simmering syrup and reduce heat to low. Cover, and let pears poach for about 10 minutes. The pears will become slightly translucent, very tender, and easily pierced with a knife or skewer.
- Let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature before using. Or, you can store them in their liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Also, leftover syrup can be used again.
For the tart shell:
- Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
- Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to turn from dry to clumpy. [Do not let the dough form one giant ball or it will be be overworked - just keep checking after every pulse and when the dough pieces look like they will stick when you press them together, stop].
- Butter a tart tin with removable bottom. Tip the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. [You probably will not need all the dough - save the extra for patching the shell after you bake it. Do not press the dough too hard - just enough for it to form to the tin].
- Freeze the tart shell for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F).
- Partially bake the tart shell with pie weights (or rice) and bake for 20 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. [If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. Let cool on a rack until room temperature].
For the frangipane:
- Combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth.
- Add the ground almonds and flour and blend together. Then add the eggs, proceeding until the mixture is combined.
- Add in the vanilla and almond extracts just to blend. The frangipane can be used immediately or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If it becomes too firm in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for a while to soften before using.
To finish the tart:
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- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Spread the frangipane evenly into the cooled tart shell.
- Take the poached pears out of their liquid and drain them on paper towels.
- Cut each pear half crosswise into 5mm-thick slices. Do not separate the pear half yet.
- Slide a spatula or other flat utensil underneath the pear so you can transfer the entire half onto the tart.
- Lightly press on the pear to fan the slices. Slide the pear half onto the frangipane carefully.
- Repeat with other pear halves, spacing them evenly beside one another.
- Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed, golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool the tart on a wire rack.