Scorn the stodgy pudding and miss out the mincemeat. Instead, British pears store brilliantly through the winter, so give these a go instead. Now, by today everything should be winding down (or up) a bit in preparation for the big day, so don’t worry about things like making your own pastry – though the instructions are below if you’re a purist. Frangipane isn’t something to be scared of – it’s just cake mix, but with ground almonds instead of flour. If you place this on top of your pastry, with a thin layer of jam in between. With a little effort in slicing your pears into eighths or even sixteenths, you can lay them like mine in a fan-shape, and with the glaze of just a little more jam, you’ve got a stunning pink and shiny finish.
This tart will last a good while without getting any worse. So, if you’re after an alternative Christmas centrepiece this year, make this one a couple of days in advance and store in the fridge to take the stress out of the big day.
First, make your pastry, if you’ve not bought it. Into a large bowl, weigh your flour and your cold butter, chopped into cubes. Rub your flour into your butter using your fingers (or a food processor) until you’ve got a mixture that looks like breadcrumbs.
Add your water, and use a knife to bring your mixture together into clumps, then use your hands to bring it together into a dough. Don’t add any more water – work it a little if need be. Wrap your dough in cling film and place it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 days.
Now, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a large (10-12 inch) loose-bottomed tart tin with plenty of butter.
Unwrap your pastry onto a floured surface, sprinkle with more flour and roll out until it’s the thickness of a £1 coin. Keep it moving and add more flour to stop it sticking. Place this in your tart tin, and tuck it into the corners but don’t trim around the edges – leave at least 1cm hanging over the edge.
Make the frangipane – mix your eggs, caster sugar, soft butter and ground almonds together until smooth. It’s that simple. Spread your pastry with a few tablespoons of jam, then softly spread your frangipane mix on top.
Slice your pears lengthways into 8, removing any pips or hard corey bits. Place these in a spiral around your tart, as prettily as you can manage. Dust your tart with a really good coating of icing sugar, and then place it in the oven.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until your pears are a little shrunken and your frangipane is a golden-brown colour. If in doubt, give it an extra 5 minutes. It should be springy and firm when pressed. Once done, remove your tart from the oven and leave to cool as you prepare your glaze.
Place 2-3 tablespoons of jam in a saucepan with a teaspoon of water, and mix these together over a medium heat. Heat until the jam just starts to bubble. To finish your tart, brush your pears with your jam for a beautiful pink hue.
This is an all-in-one style tart. This means that you don’t have to ‘blind bake’ the pastry first, before adding the filling. However, this style of baking can give you a soggy bottom if you aren’t careful, so bake until you think it’s done and then for a good 5-10 minutes longer.