Warm squares of buttery pastry, rich pears, and the nutty sweetness of almonds. Frangipane, an almond custard, sounds fancy, doesn’t it? It’s surprisingly easy. The base for this classic filling is almond paste, found in the baking section of the grocery store. Usually layered into fruit tarts, frangipane works here as a pillow for spiced pears set atop store-bought puff pastry. The simplicity of the recipe relies on some pre-planning: Practice by placing the pears on a piece of parchment before putting them on the puff pastry. Depending on their size, they may have to be head to tail, or they may snuggle in with the chubby bottoms in the center and the slim tips facing the edge of the pan. I prefer Bosc pears, but Bartletts run a close second. Pink peppercorns are sweet and tingly but they can be omitted if you can’t find them.
Make Ahead: Simmer the pears up to a week ahead and store them in the refrigerator, covered in the syrup. Make the frangipane no more than a few hours ahead.
- 1 sheet puff pastry (7 to 10 ounces, 200 to 285 g), defrosted if frozen, but still cold
- 4 firm pears, identical in size and shape
- 4 cups (960 ml) water
- 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
- 1 whole star anise pod
- 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns, optional
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons (50 g) almond paste, at room temperature
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
Unfold the puff pastry and lightly roll it out until it fits in the slab pie pan, more or less. It is likely to be wider than needed, so trim a small piece from each side and stack it along the edge of the puff, forming a tiny raised wall. Refrigerate.
Peel the pears, halve vertically, core (use a melon baller for a pretty presentation), and remove both the stem and blossom end. Heat the water, sugar, star anise, and peppercorns (if using) in a saucepan until boiling. Boil for 10 minutes, reduce the heat, and add pears. Cook them over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until fork-tender. Let the pears cool and steep in the syrup for 1 hour or more.
Remove the pears from the syrup with a slotted spoon. (Save the syrup to gloss over the pears before baking, but also to add to a glass of seltzer water or champagne.) Place the pears on a cutting board with the cored side down and, using a sharp knife, cut into 1/2-inch slices crosswise across the pear, keeping the slices together.
Heat the oven to 400°F; if you have one, place a baking stone, Baking Steel, or inverted baking sheet on the center rack to heat. Beat the sugar, butter, almond paste, egg, and flour together to make the frangipane. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, place 2 tablespoons frangipane in 8 spots on the pastry. You may have some left over. Nestle a sliced pear, head to tail and cored side down, atop each mound of frangipane. Press lightly so the pear slices spread out. With a pastry brush, paint a swath of syrup over the pears. Slide the pan into the oven (on top of the steel, stone, or baking sheet if using) and bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is deeply browned and the frangipane is bubbling.
Use kitchen shears to snip the pie into 8 servings. Serve warm. This pie screams for ice cream.
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For those of you who aren't up on your Pinterest food trends, slab pie is just like regular pie-only better (and bigger)! Instead of crimping and meticulously rolling out a round crust, slab pies are an unfussy twist that are perfect for a potluck or dinner party or just a family dinner. Baked on sheet pans, slab pies can easily serve a crowd of people dinner or dessert. Pie Squared includes seventy-five foolproof recipes, along with inventive decoration tips that will appeal to baking nerds and occasional bakers alike. And this fresh, uncomplicated take on pie will surely pique the interest of those who have previously been reluctant to take out their rolling pin.
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