Frangipane Pear Crostata
Our good friend Joe gives me old copies of his favorite magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal. If you ask him about it he won’t admit how much he loves it, but you can trust me that he really does.
I noticed that the November issue’s cover announced a “Thanksgiving Special, America’s Best Pies.” Since I’m still not sure what I’m going to make for my Thanksgiving dessert (last year I made this double-layer pumpkin cheesecake), I thought I would give one of the recipes a try.
I should start by saying that I’m a sucker for almond flavor, so I’ve wanted to make a Frangipane anything for a while now. All of the pie recipes looked good, but the recipe for the Pear Frangipane Crostata was calling to me. Even though I’m not the biggest pear fan, I thought I could get over that for this crostata. I found these amazingly beautiful Nellis pears at the Farmers’ Market on Sunday, and they’re crisp when ripe, so I thought they’d be perfect to bake with.
Neither the recipe for the crust nor the tart were vegan, so I had to make some adjustments. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing while it was still warm! I’ll admit that I was pretty skeptical about the dough working out because I was afraid I’d added too much liquid. It ended up so crispy and flaky that I’ll be using this as my go-to pie crust from now on.
Not that I already had a favorite pie crust recipe – I do love pie, but I rarely make it because the crust part has always seemed like such a hassle. I usually just stick with graham cracker crusts. I can honestly say that this wasn’t difficult to make, and I’ll definitely be making it again. Plus the recipe makes two discs of dough, but you only need one for the crostata, which means I have a nice little disc of pie dough waiting for me in the freezer.
Onto the recipes, starting with the crust…
Perfect Vegan Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
10 Tablespoons (5 ounces) cold non-dairy margarine, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cold shortening, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 cup very cold water
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and shortening, and pulse until you have coarse crumbs and some of the butter is pea-sized. (You can also do this in a bowl with a fork or pastry cutter.)
In a measuring cup, combine vinegar with cold water. While the processor is on low (or while pulsing), drizzle in just enough water to form dough. Halve the dough, shape it into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. [Since I'm OCD I had to weigh it to get the pieces exactly equal.] Chill for 1 hour. You can also freeze this for up to 2 months.
Notes: The original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to a 1/2 cup of water. Because margarine has more water than butter, I found I only needed about a 1/4 cup of the mixture, so I changed the recipe accordingly.
Once I’d cut the margarine and shortening, I placed them in a metal bowl in the freezer along with the measuring cup of water for about 5 minutes, just to make sure they were really cold.
Also, rather than a crumbly mixture that I had to press together, my dough came together and was a bit soft. (That’s why I was doubting that it would work out.) If that happens with your dough, don’t worry – it should be okay. Just be aware that it’ll be a bit more delicate since you’re not using real butter.
Frangipane Pear Crostada
4 ounces almond paste (make sure it’s vegan)
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 Tablespoons warm water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 ounce Tofutti (or other non-dairy) cream cheese
1 single crust of Perfect Vegan Pie Crust
2-3 pears, cored and sliced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
About 1 1/2 teaspoons non-dairy milk or creamer
1-2 Tablespoons apricot preserves
2 Tablespoons toasted almonds
Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
In a food processor, blend the almond paste with the Ener-G mixture, cornstarch and cream cheese until smooth. Set aside.
Roll your crust out on a flour-dusted work surface into a 12- to 13- inch circle. [Mine tore a bit around the edges, so I just pressed to reseal.] Gently fold the circle into fourths to transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet. Unroll the crust and spread almond mixture in a circle in the center of the crust, leaving about a 2-inch border around the edge.
Toss the pears in the lemon juice, and arrange them on top of the almond mixture in a fan pattern. Gently fold the crust over the edges of the pears, pleating it as you go and repairing any tears. Brush the edge lightly with the soy milk.
Bake until the crust is golden and the pears are soft, about 40 minutes or so. If your crust starts to brown too much before the pears are cooked, drape some foil loosely over the top.
Heat the apricot preserves, and brush over the pears. Sprinkle with almonds. You can serve this warm, or make it ahead of time and warm it up in the oven before serving.