1 (7-to-10-ounce) sheet puff pastry, defrosted if frozen but still cold
4 firm pears, identical in size and shape 2¼ cups sugar, divided
1 whole star anise pod
½ teaspoon pink peppercorns
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons almond paste, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour, sifted
- Prepare the crust: Unfold the puff pastry and lightly roll it out until it fits a slab pie pan. (It is likely to be wider than needed, so trim a small piece from each side and stack it along the edge of the dough, forming a tiny raised wall.) Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cook the pears: Peel pears, halve vertically, core, and remove the stem and blossom ends. In a saucepan over high heat, combine 2 cups sugar, star anise, and peppercorns with 4 cups water until boiling. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to low and add pears. Cook over low heat until fork tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pears from syrup with a slotted spoon. Reserve syrup to gloss over pears before baking. (Save the extra to add to seltzer water or sparkling wine.) Cut pears into ½-inch crosswise slices, keeping the slices together.
- Make the frangipane: Preheat oven to 400 degrees; place a baking steel, baking stone, or inverted baking sheet on center rack to heat. In a medium bowl, beat remaining ¼ cup sugar with butter, almond paste, egg, and flour. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, place 2 tablespoons frangipane in eight spots on puff pastry. You may have some leftover.
- Nestle a sliced pear, cored side down, atop each mound of frangipane. Press lightly so the pear slices spread out. With a pastry brush, paint syrup over pears. Bake on top of the stone or baking sheet until pastry is deeply browned and frangipane is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Use kitchen shears to snip pie into eight servings; serve warm with ice cream.
Recipe ByCathy Barrow