A cycle that repeats. Healthy, healthy, healthy all week long then BAM the most indulgent of treats to celebrate the weekend! Like these pear frangipane tarts topped with salted caramel sauce & earl grey ice cream I made two weekends ago.
Speaking of two weekends ago, that was when I got called a Hypocrite by my dear husband. Well he didn't say it forthright but the message wasn't well disguised either. After Jiujitsu lesson, we took the girls to a restaurant that served pretty fantastic Northern Chinese food (think spring onion pancakes, potstickers, dumplings, spicy beef brisket noodles and such delights). On our way home, I lamented about eating such an unhealthy lunch since it consisted primarily of refined white dough, restaurant meat (ain't no naturally-raised meats at Chinese restaurants!) and only one vegetable which was a plate of sauteed pea shoots leaves, slick with oil. To that, he promptly retorted "and what of the butter and sugar and flour in all your weekend baking, like those tarts you're in the middle of making right now?". To which I said,
Nada. I deserved that. The end. Fin.
Onto this recipe! Supple pear slices atop a moist and nutty frangipane filling baked inside a crunchy tart. That's an impressive dessert right there. But why stop there? For an off-the-Richter impressive dessert, top it with salted caramel-y love and homemade Earl Grey ice cream because what pie or tart didn't get 1000x better with the a-la-mode treatment? None, that's what.
As usual, I've dialed down the sugar for each component - the tart shells, the frangipane and the ice cream. Layered on top of each other like this, each element exists in synergistic harmony for your taste buds yet does not blow you away with tooth-aching sweetness. Sure it involves making three things - ice cream, caramel and tart. It's a lie to say I would whip this up on a whim but I certainly would serve it for a dinner party or a special weekend treat. If you want to make it less onerous (and I'm all about that), stagger the steps over several days, or even weeks, based on these guidelines:
- Ice cream - prep and freeze over 2 days; keeps in the freezer for 2-4 weeks.
- Salted caramel - keeps for a month or two in the fridge, no problem. Plus nobody ever complained about having caramel sauce to drizzle over all the things like pancakes, french toast, lattes and ice cream.
- Frangipane tart filling - can be frozen for up to two weeks.
- Tart shells can be blind-baked a day in advance.
THERE, no excuses. Now go forth and make it!
Pear Frangipane Tarts + Earl Grey Ice Cream + Salted Caramel
- 1 x 9.5" round tart, 1 x 13 3/4" x 4 1/4" rectangular tart, 6 x 4" individual tarts, 12 x 2" tartlets OR in my case 4 x 4.5" slightly larger individual tarts plus a wee bit leftover which I baked in two tiny ramekins.
- About 1 quart ice cream
- About 1 C salted caramel
For the Earl Grey ice cream:
2 1/4 C heavy cream
3/4 C whole milk
2/3 C (120g) granulated sugar, separated
6 tbsp (30g) loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks
For the salted caramel sauce:
1/4 C water
1C (184g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 C heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the tart dough:
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp very cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 C (178g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 C (46g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick or 112g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" cubes
For the frangipane filling:
2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 C (150g) raw unblanched whole almonds, finely ground (or almond flour)
1/2 C (90g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 large Bartlet or Bosc pears, peeled, cored and quartered
Make the Earl Grey ice cream:
1. Pour the cream and milk into a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk in 1/3 cup (60 g) of the sugar, the tea, and the salt and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Warm the mixture until you see steam rising from the top. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture into a bowl, pressing on the tea leaves to extract as much infused liquid as possible. Discard the tea leaves and return the infused dairy mixture to the double boiler.
2. In a medium bowl, with a kitchen towel underneath it to prevent slipping, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup (60 g) sugar until uniform. While whisking, add a splash of the hot dairy mixture to the yolks. Continue to add the dairy mixture, whisking it in bit by bit, until you've added about half. Add the yolk mixture to the remaining dairy mixture in the double boiler. Set the heat under the double boiler to medium and cook the custard, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon and reducing the heat to medium-low as necessary, until steam begins to rise from the surface and the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Hold the spoon horizontally and run your finger through the custard. If the trail left by your finger stays separated, the custard is ready to be cooled.
3. Strain the custard again and allow it to cool. Transfer the custard to a quart-size container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
4. Pour the chilled custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to the chilled storage container and freeze until hardened to your desired consistency. The ice cream will keep, frozen, for 2 weeks.
Make the Salted Caramel Sauce:
5. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. If you like, add an empty vanilla pod, too. Stir with a fork until syrup comes to a boil, about 4 minutes, then simmer without stirring until syrup is a deep amber, about 10 minutes. Use your eyes to judge, do not burn it and conversely do not under cook the sugar mixture else your caramel sauce will be a pale unsightly shade of beige (from experience). Immediately add cream and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for a few minutes more. Transfer to a heat-resistant container, stir in vanilla extract (if using), and cool to room temperature. Caramel will be runny while warm, but thicken as it cools, turning just a little chewy when cold. Refrigerate up to 1 month in an airtight container.
Make the Tart Dough:
6. In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.
7. Measure out the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix well. Add the butter pieces and pulse in short spurts repeatedly until the texture of the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture into the food processor and pulse only a few times, just until the dough pulls together. Dump the dough out onto a floured surface.
8. Pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. If the dough is very sticky (which mine was), pat on a bit of flour at a time to make it easier to handle. Dough can be used immediately but if you have time to let it rest (preferable), wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
9. To roll out the dough, on a lightly floured board, flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick. Use a small, sharp knife to cut out a round or rounds 2 inches greater in diameter than your tart or larger tartlet pans. Use a small, sharp knife or a cookie cutter to cut out rounds 1/2 to 1 inch greater in diameter than your miniature tartlet pans. If using a rectangular tart pan, cut out a rectangle 2 inches larger on all sides than the pan. Transfer the dough into the pan(s), without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, extending slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking. Trim off any excess.
10. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell(s) until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.
11. Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Leave the oven temperature at 375°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Make the Frangipane filling:
12. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to the touch. In a bowl, stir together the ground almonds, sugar, eggs, almond and vanilla extracts, salt, lemon zest and melted butter. Spread evenly in the tart shell.
Assemble and bake:
13. Slice each pear quarter crosswise into slices 1/8 inch thick, keeping each one together. Arrange to your liking, fanning each quarter slightly and pressing the slices a wee bit into the filling.
14. Bake the tart(s) until the filling is firm to the touch in the center and slightly golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To serve: If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, let the sides fall away, then slide the tart onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with warm salted caramel and a scoop of Earl Grey ice cream.