I first learned about Farmer Al and Frog Hollow Farm while working on my book Food Heroes. I was told by a legendary explorer of good taste that hands down the best fruit in the country came from there. My friend had in fact done years of research on this and went on to introduce me to Farmer Al so I could see for myself. I drove 75 miles outside of San Francisco to Brentwood, California where today Farmer Al and his staff tend to 3,500 fruit trees on 133 acres. Farmer Al and I drove around together on a motorized cart and tasted the peaches, the pears, the pluots, the nectarines, the apricots and more. Not only was the fruit beautiful, but it had the highest brix (a measure of sugar concentration) of any fruit I had tasted. And the best part? It was 100% organic.
(This is Farmer Al at my San Francisco book launch party last year. He donated beautiful peaches and heirloom tomatoes)
As a teacher in Hawaii earlier in life, Farmer Al had begun to explore growing different varieties of fruits and vegetables. When he finally moved back to the Bay Area, he decided to become an organic farmer when everyone else said organic couldn’t be done with any commercial success.
He did it anyway, with unwavering attention to detail, hoeing the soil by hand, testing the soil with scholarly interest, and best of all, not picking the fruit until it is ripe, juicy, and ready to eat — something that is unheard of among most commercial famers. In the end, it is for him, above all about taste, just the way it should be.
Today I’m excited to offer you a taste of the best pear I’ve ever sunk my teeth into…
It is called the Warren pear and is silky and sweet, with a hint of pear brandy flavor to it.
It is too difficult to grow for most farmers to consider and has never caught on commercially, which means it is hard to come by. But of course Farmer Al has never shied away from a challenge in the name of good taste.
They’re available today in my Open Sky shop for just a short time. You will love these. And here is my recipe for Pear Frangipane Tart to make as soon as your box arrives…
This tart filling is a combination of 2 creams in a pastry shell. I have the ingredients you’ll need for a homemade tart crust below, and since I’ve done a step-by-step of that before, I’ll let you refer here for the visual guidance.
For the Almond Cream, you will need almond flour, raw (or regular) sugar, butter, and 2 eggs. Pretty simple!
Just cream the butter with a wooden spoon by hand or in a mixer…
Add the sugar and continue to whip…
Until well combined and… well, “creamed.”
Then add the eggs one at a time.
You will have a lovely looking custard like this which you can set aside.
For the Pastry Cream you’ll need: milk (or almond milk if you want to be fun about it!), raw or regular sugar, vanilla, 1 egg yolk, cornstarch, and flour.
Begin by warming the milk and vanilla in a saucepan.
While that is happening, combine the egg and sugar and whip it together until it is pale yellow and fluffy.
Sift in the flour and cornstarch…
Give it a nice mix.
Then comes the slightly tricky part: temper the egg mixture.
This simply means, add some of the hot milk to the whisked eggs and sugar, but not all of it. Just about 1/3 – 1/2 a little at a time to get the eggs used to the warmth. If you were to add them to the pot of hot milk, they would most likely cook.
But once they’ve been tempered you can pour the mixture into the pot where the rest of the milk is waiting.
Over very low heat, stir the mixture constantly so that it doesn’t cook, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom well.
You should be able to run tracks through it when it’s ready, like shown. Then you’ll set it aside in a bowl and let it cool, covered in plastic so a skin doesn’t form.
Once cooled, add the almond cream and combine them.
Pour the mixture into a prepared pastry shell, about 1/2 way full.
Then take out your beautiful juicy pears.
Sometimes I leave a bit of skin on to be subversive.
Cut them in half and cut the core out with a paring knife, by making a diagonal incision from both sides.
Then, cut each half into fairly thin slices. You can decide how thin, depending on your mood.
Lay them gently on the tart filling in a flower pattern. You could use more pear halves if you’d like or really get as creative as you can manage.
When it comes out of the oven it will be golden brown and puffy and custardy.
This really is a wonderful holiday dessert, so keep it in mind as the holidays draw near!
And check out these Warren Pears, they’ll change your life.