Pear frangipane tart

Pear frangipane tart
Pear frangipane tart

With the weather heating up again, this is one of the last opportunities l have to make a pastry dough.

I was also hosting a dinner party, so wanted to make a dessert that I could prepare in advance but also look impressive when served.

I love frangipane tarts and I think the inclusion of the pear is not only tasty but kicks it up a notch in terms of presentation.

I’ve made this before using stone fruit like cherries, peaches and nectarines, which I honestly think work better.

The pear didn’t quite soften up as much as I would have liked, and I have seen recipes where the pear is poached first. I think in retrospect this would have been better or perhaps my pears weren’t ripe enough.

Another cheat version is to use tinned fruit which is already full of flavour and will soften much quicker in the oven.

Overall, this was delicious and the pear definitely created some texture. But if you want to make your own version, I’d poach the pears in syrup beforehand or choose very ripe fruit.

Pear frangipane tart

1 portion pâte sucrée
1 portion frangipane
2 ripe, Beurre Bosc pears
¼ cup apricot jam, warmed and sieved

Prepare the pastry dough and leave to rest for two hours before rolling out into a 28cm fluted tart tin. Refrigerate for a further 30 minutes.

Blind bake at 200C for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beads and bake for a further 8 minutes or until the pastry has dried and is starting to turn a golden colour. Leave to cool.

Prepare the frangipane and then pour into the cooled pastry shell.

Peel, halve and core the pears, then slice them thinly while trying to keep their structural shape.

Place them on top of the frangipane, using a knife under the fruit to hold its shape. Fan out slightly, and press down into the frangipane filling.

Bake at 180C for 40 minutes or until the frangipane is set and the fruit has softened.

Brush the fruit (not the frangipane) with apricot jam for a nice sheen.


Olive and rosemary breadsticks

Olive and rosemary breadsticks
Olive and rosemary breadsticks

My poor husband is recovering from getting four wisdom teeth removed, and is on a diet of yoghurt, custard and jelly.

I knew I couldn’t torture him by making a loaf that he wanted to eat, so decided to include olives which he hates.

I also wanted to have a crack at breadsticks, which seem to be made using two main methods – one is using a basic loaf recipe, and one uses a pizza-based dough which generally has olive oil in the dough.

I did a regular dough recipe but added some wholemeal flour for extra flavour as well as olives and chopped, fresh rosemary.

The only real difference in making bread sticks is the shaping and baking time which is only 20 minutes.

These are quick and easy to make, and I’m looking forward to serving them with dips at dinner tonight!

Olive and rosemary bread sticks

400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
10g salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
375ml tepid water
2 tbsps olives, halved
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large bowl, rub together the flours, yeast and salt. Make sure you keep the yeast and the salt at separate ends of the bowl so they don’t directly touch (remember, the salt will kill the yeast).

Add the water, then mix together until you have a wet dough. Cover and leave for 20 minutes.

Once rested, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until you have a soft, stretchy dough.

Cover and rest for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.

Once rested for the second time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and mix in the olives and rosemary.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces and then roll out into long sticks. Cover and prove for a further 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C and then bake the sticks for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Paris-Brest with coffee and walnut praline


Paris-Brest was first invented in 1910 by a pastry chef honouring the Paris to Brest cycling race. Apparently the calorific dessert became very popular with the cyclists because it gave them a much needed energy boost.

The traditional Paris-Best is a ring (wheel) of choux pastry, filled with praline cream and topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

The big challenge is always going to be getting the choux pastry perfect, but fortunately the assembly of this cake is pretty forgiving because you can patch it up as you go.

To help with the piping, draw a circle about 25cm wide on some baking paper and use this for your first ring. Do another ring outside it, and the third needs to be piped on top of the two in the crevice where they join.

As with all choux, make sure you let the steam out of the cooked pastry by piercing small holes in a number of places.

I used John Whaite’s recipe which is based on the principles of a Paris-Brest but has replaced praline filling with coffee and walnut flavoured cream.

I found it really useful that he provided the egg quantity in grams because this can sometimes be where the mixture falls down – it ends up being too wet or too thick.

I also really liked including chunks of walnut praline because it gave a delicious texture.

John warns that you may want to use decaf coffee if this is for the whole family because you could keep the kids wide awake for hours!

Coffee and walnut praline choux ring (based on recipe from John Whaite Bakes)

1 quantity choux pastry (John uses ratios of 220ml water, 80g butter, 125g plain flour and 220g beaten egg)
400ml double cream
6 tbsp icing sugar (I only used 5)
2 tbsp freeze-dried coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water (I used 1 shot of espresso)
250g mascarpone cream
150g caster sugar and 1 tbsp water
100g walnut pieces
For the icing – 125g icing sugar and ½ tbsp water

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Make the choux paste according to the recipe, and pipe a ring of pastry onto a baking sheet. Pipe another ring directly next to it, and a third ring on top of the first two using the line where they meet as a guide.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until dark golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Make the cream by whipping together the cream with the mascarpone, sugar and coffee.

Make the praline by mixing together the caster sugar and water in a saucepan. Place it over a high heat and allow to boil until it turns a light golden colour.

Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts, then tip onto a lined baking sheet and leave to cool.

Once the choux ring is cooled, slice it in half horizontally with a bread knife. Use a star piping nozzle and pipe the cream onto the bottom half of the choux ring.

Chop up the praline into small chunks, then sprinkle ¾ of the praline on top of the cream. Place the top half of the choux ring on the cream.

Make the icing by mixing the sugar and water together, then drizzle over the top of the ring. Sprinkle across the remaining praline.