In its most sophisticated version, this is a Tarte Bourdalue which combines frangipani and crème pâtissière. My version is honestly closer to a Bakewell tart but no less tasty for all that Without being too rich, the French ton-pour-ton almond paste could not be easier to make, and is a perfect complement to the pears.
We have terrible problems with pears in the restaurant They need to be at a precise stage of ripeness to hold their shape and texture when poached. Since the pears in this recipe are going to be baked, I can see no reason not to use canned pears. Once you have crossed that bridgehead, try making it with canned apricots or peaches. I could name you a Michelin three-star restaurant that does the same thing so no need to feel guilty.
This is another tart which uses the processor-produced frozen Pâte Sucrèe Pastry Shell described. If you have already made one of these and have it to hand in the fridge or freezer you can whip up a brilliant dessert in minutes. Using this basic, sweet tart shell and the almond cream, you can ring all kinds of changes. For example, try draining frozen raspberry pieces, covering the bottom of the tart with them and then smothering them in a layer of almond cream.
First make the almond cream paste: whizz the butter, sugar and almonds in a food processor, then add the egg and rum and whizz again to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pastry case, spreading it out in a fairly even layer. It should not come more than half-way up the side of the pan.
Strain the pear halves through a sieve to get rid of the syrup in which they have been canned. Arrange them on top of the tart in a radial pattern, pushing them gently into the paste. Trim a final pear half and position it in the centre. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes • Towards the end of this time, preheat a baking sheet in the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas5.
Bake for 25 minutes on the baking sheet in the middle of the oven until the pastry begins to shrink away from the edge of the pan and go brown. The almond cream will have risen almost to engulf the pears.
Scatter over some slivered almonds and dust with icing sugar, turn down the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas2 and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
Serve warm with whipped cream, clotted cream or crème fraîche.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.