Skip navigation
While making tarts students check each step of the process with their instructor who takes time to go over the details After a long morning of class the finished tarts will become dessert for the big lunch where students reconvene
While making tarts, students check each step of the process with their instructor, who takes time to go over the details. After a long morning of class, the finished tarts will become dessert for the big lunch where students reconvene.

Chef Demo: Art of the Tart

Chef John Difilippo teaches the technique behind a perfect Pistachio Frangipane and Poached Pear Tart.

It's 7 a.m. at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Chef John Difilippo is in front of his baking and pastry class, explaining the difference between a pie and a tart.

“This is not a pie, it’s a tart,” he tells the students, who are surprisingly alert and maybe even a little hyper for so early in the morning. They lean forward in their seats.

“A tart is more refined than a pie, while a pie is more rustic,” he tells them.

RECIPE: Pear Tart with Pistachio Frangipane

Baking is essentially a sweet science. The class  engages in a lively question and answer period about the temperature of fondant (hint, it’s around 175 to 180°F).

“What matters to me is that the product is perfect,” DiFilippo says, referring to the formula and method of tart making. No pressure.

They discuss flavor combinations. What could offset the bitterness of dark chocolate? Someone mentions ice cream, and Difilippo says, “Maybe we could make some ice cream today…” and the class releases its collective inner-kid-in-a-candy-store with exclamations of “Can we make ice cream? Ice cream! Yeah!”

The ice cream never does get made, as the class works so hard on the tarts. They split into teams and create many tarts striving for perfection: fruit custard, Swedish hazelnut, lemon curd, caramel walnut, chocolate fudge and of course, the pear tart. Read on to see step by step photos of the process.

Chef Demo
Step 1: The prepared dough gets chilled and rolled out.
Step 2: The dough is then fitted into a tart pan with a removable bottom (to help remove the finished tart). Using a rolling pin to smooth the dough into the pan’s edges can help achieve a perfect fit.

Chef Demo
Step 3: Pistachios, sugar, flour, salt, butter and eggs have been combined in a food processor for the frangipane. It’s then spread in an even layer in the tarts.
Chef Demo
Step 4: Pears that have been poached in wine, water, vanilla and lemon peel are sliced into fans. Chef DiFilippo demonstrates how to create a perfect rosette from a pear slice.

Step 5: Pears are placed in a pleasing pattern on top of the tart.
Step 6: The tarts go into the oven to cook (25 to 30 minutes) until they almost look overdone. Don’t worry, they’re perfect.


Step 7: The tarts are sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Step 8: The pears on top are painted with a glaze, to make sure they stand out.

Step 9: The finished product—tart as art.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.