An irresistible combination of fruit and nuts encased in mouthwatering pastry.
350 g (12 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
small pinch salt
150 g (5½ oz) unsalted butter
100 g (3½ oz) icing (confectioners') sugar
2 eggs, beaten
50 g (1¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
1 vanilla pod
3 pears (ripe but still firm), peeled, halved and cored
150 g (5½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
150 g (5½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
few drops natural vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
140 g (5 oz) ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
25 g (1 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt onto a work surface and make a well in the centre. put the butter into the well and, using a pecking action with your fingertips and thumb, work it until it is very soft. Add the icing sugar to the butter and mix. Add the eggs to the butter and mix well.
2. gradually incorporate the flour, flicking it onto the mixture and then chopping through it until you have a rough dough. Bring together with your hands and then knead a few times to make a smooth dough. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
3. To make the almond filling, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs gradually and then fold in the almonds, lemon zest and flour.
4. preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas 5). Roll out the pastry to line a 23 × 2.5 cm (9 × 1 in) round loose-based fluted tart tin. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
5. put the sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan. Add the pears and pour in just enough water to cover them, then remove the pears. Bring the water to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pears, cover and poach for 5–10 minutes until tender. drain and leave to cool.
6. Line the pastry shell with a crumpled piece of greaseproof paper and baking beads (use dried beans or rice if you don't have beads). Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes, remove the paper and beads and bake for a further 3–5 minutes, or until the pastry is just cooked but still very pale. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/gas 4).
7. Spread three-quarters of the filling in the pastry shell and put the pear halves on top, cut-side-down and stalk ends in the middle. Fill the gaps with the remaining filling. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until the filling is golden and firm. Melt the jam with 1 teaspoon water, sieve out any lumps and brush over the pears to make them shine.