My Thanksgiving Brown Butter Pear Tart

Brown Butter Pear Tart

There’s nary a cocoa bean in sight but my Thanksgiving Brown Butter Pear Tart might remind you of a brownie. If that brownie were studded with pears and spiked with spice that is. That’s because this tart is dense and sticky on the inside with a flaky top layer that cracks when you cut into it.

Let me state that more clearly. This tart is rich. It’s laced with enough brown butter to have a definite toffee-ish flavor. There’s also a lot of sugar so I suppose that is why it’s both gooey and delectably brittle. This Brown Butter Pear Tart has the sort of culinary alchemy I can’t really understand – let alone describe.

Brown Butter Pear Tart

It’s adapted from Nancy Silverton, who (back in the day) often featured a berry version at the La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant here in Los Angeles. Alas, Campanile is no more and La Brea Bakery is merely a grocery store brand of decent bread. Fortunately, this simple recipe lives on and I’ve seen several versions online usually featuring berries, but sometimes stone fruit.

However, it’s autumn and we are heading into the holidays. Stone fruit (and even berries) are either unavailable, unedible, or unaffordable – so I’ve adapted this recipe into a pear tart that’s perfect for this time of year.

Not only is this Brown Butter Pear Tart seasonal, but it’s also especially well-suited for the holidays. It’s a good make-ahead dessert that’s best when stored at room temperature. Two talking points that win favor when discussing holiday desserts. And I hate to be the one to tell you, but it’s not too early to be discussing holiday desserts. 

In fact, it’s time to take a deep culinary breath and hold it for a count of ten. Just around the corner lurks the frenzy of holiday cooking. In my estimation, we have 3 days tops before the lid flies off the saucepan and starts its annual 6‑week whirl around the cook. GREG

pasta frollo

Brown Butter and Spice Pear Tart with Pasta Frolla

Brown Butter and Spice Pear Tart with Pasta Frolla 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6–8Source Adapted from Nancy SilvertonPublished

Pasta frolla is a rich and buttery sweet Italian pastry dough enhanced with a little lemon and orange zest. See recipe here: https://​www​.sippitysup​.com/​r​e​c​i​p​e​/​p​a​s​t​a​-​f​r​o​l​l​a​-​i​t​a​l​i​a​n​-​s​w​e​e​t​-​p​a​s​t​r​y​-​d​o​u​gh/

Brown Butter and Spice Pear Tart with Pasta Frolla


  • pasta frolla (divided into 2 discs, see note)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large pear (peeled, cored and cut into 3/4‑inch dice)
  • vanilla-scented whipped cream (as needed for serving)


Prepare the tart shell: Place a 9 or 10 x 1‑inch tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet. 

On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll one of the pasta frolla discs into a 12 or 13-inch round a generous 1/8‑inch thick. Save the other disc for another purpose. Carefully fold the dough in half, and slide it onto a rolling pin. Transfer to the tart pan. Unfold the dough, easing it gently into the pan; do not stretch the dough. Press the dough into place, then run your roller over the edges of the pan, trimming it flush with the top all the way around. Chill in the freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Make the filling: In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour, cinnamon, five-spice powder (if using), and salt until well-combined, lump-free, but not yet stiff. Set aside. 

In a small saucepan, heat the butter until foamy. Continue heating, swirling the pan often, until bubbles subside, the butter is brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 5 or 6 minutes, then stir in vanilla. 

Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle the warm (not hot) brown butter vanilla mixture into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream until the batter is well-combined. Set aside to cool completely.

Bake the tart: Spread the peeled and diced pears evenly across the bottom of the pastry-lined tart pan. There should be some space between the pears. Pour just enough of the brown butter batter over the pears to just cover. It’s fine if the edges of the pears peek out of the batter. Fill the tart almost to the top edge, buto not overfill the tart as it rises during baking. If you don’t use all the batter, you may bake it separately in a small ramekin. 

Carefully move the tart on its baking sheet to the heated oven and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

To serve: Allow the tart to cool somewhat before attempting to get the tart out of the shell. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Store, covered, at room temperature.

Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield one 9‑inch to 11-inch with latticeSource Domenica Marchetti via NPRPublished

If you make a 9‑inch crostata, you will have some leftover dough, which you can rewrap and freeze for future use, or roll out, cut into shapes and make cookies. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)


  • 3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for the work surface)
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into ½‑inch cubes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large eggs yolks


Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon and orange zests in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into 2 discs (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with.