I loved setting the table for Easter breakfast when I was a kid. I got to use a bright tablecloth, yellow napkins and fresh flowers. I got to search the dining room cupboard for candles shaped like eggs and baby chickens and I got to put wine glasses on the table. For us!
Easter has always felt like a special kind of holiday to me. When I was little, it was because we had breakfast in the dining room rather than at the kitchen table and we got to drink orange juice from wine glasses. It was because there were signs of spring and an abundance of light - the promise of playing outside and finding chocolate eggs everywhere. One time, Easter coincided with my little brother's birthday and it felt extra special. Another time, that same little brother got dressed up as a giant bell and put on a little show - a moment I remember only from a photograph, but that makes me smile every time I think about it.
In a way, it's those same things that make Easter feel special today. While it's easy to get lost in the hustle of Christmas and New Year's - the parties, the receptions, the Christmas shopping and the numerous family reunions - Easter is simply a more modest affair. In my family, at least, Easter celebrations revolved around little more than this one morning. There was no driving around the country, no extended family, no elaborate meal. Just one giant search of the garden, followed by breakfast with my brothers and my parents and a whole day of playing around.
Even though there was probably nothing calm about our frantic search for chocolate eggs, it's the simplicity and calm of Easter celebrations that make me appreciate this holiday more than any other. The promise of light, chocolate and moments spent around the table together. Mostly, the promise of having breakfast together - something we rarely do as a family anymore. Even if it doesn't work out every single year, it's a tradition I'd like to maintain. Just my parents, my brothers and I, and our partners; just croissants, eggs, chocolate, a salad and maybe a little pastry. These Pear Frangipane Slices would fit that spread perfectly.
• This recipe makes enough for two rectangular tarts, which you can then cut up into even slices. I measured my baking sheet to decide what size my tarts should be. By making them about 35 long by 10 cm wide, I could fit both onto one baking sheet. Alternatively, you could measure your sheet of puff pastry and start from there. See how you can best divide it into two rectangles, making sure to leave about 4 cm extra for the borders.
• Try to keep the layer of frangipane relatively thin. If it's too thick and touches the borders, it will push away the strips of puff pastry as it puffs up.
• I finished the tarts with apricot jellfix because I was lazy and that's what I had on hand, but you could also finish them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, or with a homemade syrup. In fact, you can make a syrup from the peels and cores of your pears, as Deb from Smitten Kitchen did with this apple tart. Combine the peels and cores with ca. 80 gr granulated sugar and cover with water. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 25 mins. until reduced to a thick syrup, strain through a fine-mesh sieve and brush onto the tarts.
Pear Frangipane Slices
adapted from baking class (syntra west)
makes 10-12 slices
1 large, rectangular sheet of puff pastry (store-bought or homemade)
50 gr granulated sugar
50 gr almond powder
1 large egg
50 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
15 gr all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 large pears, ripe
1 large egg (for the egg wash)
apricot jellfix, homemade syrup or powdered sugar (see notes)
slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1. Prepare a baking sheet by moistening the surface with water. Preheat oven to 200˚C.
2. If necessary, roll puff pastry to a thickness of 2-3 mm. Divide the rectangular sheet into two rectangles of 35 x 10 cm (or otherwise, depending on the size of your baking sheet or puff pastry), and 4 strips of 35 x 1 cm.
3. Place two large rectangles onto the moistened baking sheet and use a fork to punch holes throughout. Brush a little water along the long edges of both rectangles and place the thin strips of puff pastry on top, pushing down a little to secure them. Set aside in a cool place.
4. For the frangipane, combine sugar and almond powder in a food processor and pulse once to combine. Start the food processor on low and, while it's running, add the egg, followed by the soft butter. Stop the food processor when mixture is smooth and fully combined. Use a spatula to fold in flour and salt, until just combined.
5. Using a spatula or a piping bag with a medium round nozzle, spread the frangipane onto the puff pastry in a thin layer, making sure to stay clear from the edges.
6. Peel, quarter and core the pears, then cut each piece into thin slices, about 1 mm. Arrange the pears onto the frangipane, layered one on top of the other. Using a pastry brush, brush the puff pastry borders with a little egg wash.
7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the puff pastry is risen and golden brown. Use an offset spatula to check if the bottom is baked. It should be golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.
8. Immediately brush with jellfix or syrup, or sprinkle with powdered sugar (it will melt). Let cool completely, then finish with slivered almonds and some extra powdered sugar (optional). Use a serrated knife to divide each rectangle into smaller slices.