There is a huge container of Nutella sitting in my pantry. It’s bigger than the biggest one in the store. In fact, it is this. Can you believe it? Is that enough Nutella? Well, I don’t want to be the person to say “Of course that is enough Nutella” because that’d bite me in the butt someday. I actually just found a giant 11 kilo (almost 25 pound) jar of Nutella online, so the huge amount in the pantry has been one-upped. But it’s still a lot.
I’m talking about Nutella because I think it’s the most common way that a lot of us have eaten hazelnuts. I can’t even think of a time I’ve eaten something that’s just hazelnut, not chocolate and hazelnut. Maybe hazelnuts aren’t a southern thing? Pecans definitely are a southern baker’s go-to nut, but they’re also sort of everyone’s go-to baking nut. Maybe I should try to help change this, though, because hazelnuts are awesome.
Because I know that hazelnuts are awesome, I didn’t have any hesitations when I made this lovely pear and hazelnut frangipane tart. It has a creamy filling that contrasts beautifully with the crisp baked pears, and the crust is rich yet light and flaky. In fact, it seems like the perfect dessert for your Easter dinner. It’ll be the highlight of the meal, and the breakout star will be the hazelnut frangipane.
For those who do not know, frangipane is basically a sweet almond or nut cream made with sugar, eggs and extracts in addition to the nuts. It is traditionally made with almonds. This recipe does contain some almond extract, which imparts a subtle almond flavor, but the toasted hazelnuts really make the tart delicious. I’m not sure how to describe the flavor other than tasty and hazelnuty, so I’m going to leave it at that.
Notes: You can easily make the tart shell by hand– just use a large bowl, cut the butter in with a pastry blender and stir the water in with a spoon.
You can make the filling (frangipane) completely in a food processor. (Minus the pears, obviously.) After pulsing together the hazelnuts, ¼ cup sugar and flour, transfer them to a bowl. Then pulse together add the butter and sugar, then eggs and extracts in the same order listed, and finally add the nut mixture back.
Only 2 ½ pears fit in my pan. You can squeeze in the last half; it’s really whatever you want to do.
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening (Crisco)
3 tablespoons ice water
1. In a the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Blend in the butter and shortening all at once, mixing on 2 or 3 (in the stand mixer) or pulsing (in the processor) until it resembles small, roughly pea-sized clumps.
2. Drizzle the water over the mixture, and then mix or pulse until it is incorporated. A small pinch should stick together. If it doesn’t hold, add another tablespoon of ice water.
3. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently push into a ball. Divide it into six pieces, and with the heel of your hand, smear one piece at a time forward once or twice so the crumbs come together. Gather all of the pieces together and press into a 6-inch disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
4. Roll out the dough into a 13-inch round over a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin (it’s usually easiest to sprinkle a little flour over the dough disk). Slip the dough into the tart pan and trim excess, leaving ½ inch overhang. Press the dough into the pan, and fold the excess overhang into the sides of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 375F. Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the oven until the edges of the pastry begin to turn golden, 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights from the pan, and continue to cook the tart shell until lightly golden all over, about 10 more minutes. Cool in pan on a rack.
1 cup hazelnuts
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 firm but relatively ripe pears
1. Spread the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and toast them in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times, until browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
2. Pulse the hazelnuts and ¼ cup sugar in the bowl of a food processor or mini-processor until finely ground. Add the flour, and pulse until combined.
3. With the mixer on 3, cream together the remaining ¼ cup sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the extracts. Reduce the speed to low (2) and mix in the hazelnut mixture until just combined.
4. Spread the frangipane into the cooled tart shell.
5. Peel, halve and core the pears. Thinly slice them lengthwise, holding the slices together while cutting. Fan each half over the filling and gently press them into the frangipane. Bake the tart at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is puffed and golden brown. Place on a rack.
6. Heat the a heaping spoonful of apple jelly in the microwave on 15 second increments until it is melted. Brush the pears with the melted jelly, and allow the tart to cool completely on the rack. Once cool, remove the sides of the pan and serve.