Many a Parisian knows of their Bourdaloue pear tart. It’s a classic found in many patisseries at this time of year and has been glazing around the City of Light since the 1900s.
Just after I took these photos in the pear-fect street of Rue Bourdaloue in Paris’s 9th arrondissement, I bit into this tartlet. The filling fell straight out of the soggy base. Frankly for the price, it was disappointing and not the freshest of pastries. It can happen but it’s incentive at times to make homemade.
To get to know the Parisian Bourdaloue Pear Tart better, I reached for Larousse Gastronomique. Translated into English it reads:
Bourdaloue is a tart invented by a pastry chef in Paris’s Rue Bourdaloue during la Belle Epoque – composed of poached Pear Williams, drowned in a vanilla frangipane cream, covered in broken macarons and finally glazed in the oven.
The words, “drowned in a vanilla frangipane cream” has me glazed over myself. But who knew it was covered in broken macarons? All versions I see from this tart in Paris patisseries are covered simply in slivered almonds. I’m not keen on breaking macarons – perhaps for a macaron tiramisu – so let’s top with some shells. Now for the tart!
The frangipane cream filling is often made using a mix of both an almond cream and crème patissière (pastry cream). While this is absolutely delicious, for this recipe I prefer cutting corners: I skip the pastry cream step and make an easy almond cream adding a dash of good, dark Jamaican rum.
I’m sure the pears won’t mind being drowned in that.
What Pears are Best for the Bourdaloue Tart?
As in Larousse, I’ve made this tart using Williams, while Comice or Conference are just as good for poaching pears from scratch (see this recipe for Poached Pears in Coffee and Vanilla for the method). I’ve even tried using fresh pears without poaching: just act quickly and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent them turning brown. Pick pears that are not yet ripe but not brick hard either. Slightly soft yet firm is perfect.
This recipe, however, is based on the one in the Larousse French Book of Desserts, which uses tinned pears in syrup. If Pierre Hermé can do it, I don’t feel too bad at cutting corners here with tinned. It’s so much easier and just as tasty.
The Professional Version of a Parisian Bourdaloue Pear Tart
Let me add that if you’re following a professional pastry course like the CAP Patisserie, then you wouldn’t use tinned pears. After baking the tart, you’d mix an egg yolk with water and brush it on to the pastry sides and bake for a further couple of minutes. Then you’d make a fancy nappage glaze to polish it all off.
For this easier recipe, just brush with about 4 tablespoons of slightly warmed apricot jam after the tart comes out of the oven. I recommend making your own pastry (I use my favourite one from the tart chapter in Teatime in Paris) but if you’re short for time, use ready-made shortcrust pastry (pâte sablée).
Parisian Bourdaloue Pear Tart Recipe
Bourdaloue Pear Tart, named after the Parisian street where it was invented in the 1900s. A shortcrust tart base filled with Williams pears and almond cream, glazed and topped with slivered almonds and macarons.
- 125 g (4.5oz) unsalted butter softened
- 75 g (3oz) icing (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
- 1 organic egg
- 225 g (8oz) plain (all-purpose) flour preference Type 45
- 25 g (1oz) ground almonds/almond flour
- 6 half pears tinned
- 100 g (3.5oz) unsalted butter softened
- 75 g (3oz) sugar
- 2 organic eggs
- 3 drops almond extract
- 100 g (3.5oz) ground almonds/almond flour
- 2 tbsp good quality dark rum
- 20 g (handful) slivered almonds
- 100 g (3.5oz) apricot jam slightly warmed
Using a stand mixer with a paddle beater (otherwise mix by hand but use cold butter), mix the butter, sugar and salt until pale and creamy. Gradually add the egg, flour and ground almonds until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour.
Leave to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes then roll out the pastry to about 3-4mm on a lightly floured surface. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin to transfer to a loose-bottomed tart tin (28cm diameter).
Using your fingers, press the pastry right into the sides of the tin. Roll the rolling pin over the top to even off the pastry, prick with a fork then chill for 30 minutes.
Drain the pear halves from the syrup on kitchen paper. When dry, cut them in slices horizontally (optional).
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, almond extract, ground almonds and rum.
Spread over this mixture evenly over the tart base using a palette knife (or pipe it out in a spiral). For a 28cm tin, this will look quite thin but it will puff up in the oven and keep your tart golden and crispy.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Using a (palette) knife, carefully transfer the pears evenly over the top and sprinkle with the slivered almonds.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the tin and brush over with the apricot jam. Top with macaron shells (recipe in both my books).
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