Dodging the showers while maintaining social distancing is not easy, but I managed to turn out a desert for my guests, a pear frangipane tart.
- For the pastry: 115g plain flour, 60g butter, an egg yolk, a dessertspoonful of muscovado sugar, lemon juice.
- For the pears: 3 or four good sized pears, any variety and ready to eat but not too soft. A little maple syrup. Lemon juice. 50-100g flaked, chopped or whole blanched almonds.
- For the frangipane: (The classic recipe calls for equal quantities of butter, sugar and ground almonds, but I cannot eat something that sweet, so I have cut things down a bit.) Approximately 115g butter, 85g sugar, 2-3 eggs depending on size, 115g ground almonds, 30g plain flour, a few drops of vanilla essence if you have it, otherwise brandy.
- First make the pastry, which is a rustic paté sucrée: cut the butter into small cubes and rub these into the flour thoroughly, using your fingertips, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk and after mixing it in, the juice of half a lemon. Bring the pastry together in a ball. If it is too dry add tiny quantities of cold water until you can. Chill it in the freezer. After 20 minutes or so, roll it out on a smooth, floured surface and use to line a 30cm tart dish. Chill for another few minutes.
- For the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one by one with a little flour after each, then fold in the ground almonds and the remaining plain flour. A dropping consistency is good – use the last of the flour to make adjustments here.
- For the pears: peel, core and halve the pears. Set aside the four or five best halves and cover with lemon juice. Slice up the remaining pears, including any off cuts and bake in the oven for 10 minutes to dry out a little.
- Arrange the baked slices of pear over the pastry. Nobody is going to see them except you so just aim for even coverage. Then spoon the frangipane into the case, covering up the slices completely. Now take each pear half in turn, make several even slices into but not through it, brush it with lemon juice and maple syrup and place it on the frangipane. Arrange four or five halves in a neat pattern. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes at 180°C or until golden and puffy looking. Half way through scatter on almonds – either flaked or sliced whole ones. If it is getting too dark around the edges, cover these with a ring of foil and maybe turn the oven down a bit. When it comes out, you might want to brush over a glaze made from apricot jam but I haven’t done this here.
Serve slender portions with ice cream or single cream. And thank the heroes.