Frangipane… no, not the exotic bloom (fran-juh-pah-nee), but the almond based pastry cream (fran-juh-pain). I must admit, I was totally unaware of its existence until I heard it referred to in a recent Masterchef programme. But I was immediately intrigued.
It’s origins are unclear, but apparently a similar version of it existed in France many hundreds of years ago, perhaps as far back as the early Middle Ages. It’s also associated with Christmas traditions, so I thought it was fitting to give it a try as we head into the coming month’s festivities.
Frangipane is most often used in sweet tarts beneath a layer of fruit. The fruit acts as a fresh, tart counterpart to the sweet frangipane and short-crust pastry. As such, sour fruits like green apples and berries make particularly good partners.
And, it’s green apples that are used in this recipe for Apple Frangipane Tarts from Glad.com.au. I adapted the recipe by making my crust from scratch using spelt flour, though you can use standard flour if you prefer. I also had slight issues with quantities. The recipe made only enough frangipane to make six small tarts and even then, there wasn’t much of it. Next time around, I’d double the amount of frangipane as I’d like to amply fill the tart cases I have. I’ve left the recipe as is though, as it all depends on how many tarts you choose to make, and how big your tart cases are. I do recommend you ensure you have enough time to do fiddly things like layering the apple – I was rushed for time and my layering was… um… rustic.
That aside, this was a really lovely dessert. It was easy enough to make and with its crisp pastry, sweet almond filling and tart apple slices glazed with apricot jam, it’ll be a sure crowd pleaser.
APPLE FRANGIPANE TARTS
For the sweet short crust pastry:
- 7.9 oz plain flour (I used spelt flour)
- Pinch of salt
- 2.6 oz icing sugar
- Vanilla pod (seeds only)
- 4 oz butter, cold & diced
- 1 egg yolk
- Up to a tablespoon of ice cold water (or as needed)
For the filling:
- 1.7 oz caster sugar
- 1.7 oz butter (at room temperature)
- 1 egg (at room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla (or almond extract)
- 1/2 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
- 1 tbsp plain flour (I used spelt flour)
- 3 large granny smith apples (I only needed 2)
- 2 extra tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
For the pastry:
- In a food processor pulse the flour, salt, sugar & vanilla seeds (if using) to combine. Then add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (this should only take a few seconds).
- Add the egg yolk and pulse until combined. Check the mixture – if it’s starting to clump a little and holds together when you pinch it, it’s good to go. However, if it’s still too dry, add a few drops of ice cold water and pulse again for a few seconds, adding tiny increments of water until the mixture starts to hold together.
- Dump the mixture onto your kitchen bench and lightly bring it together into a ball – don’t knead it though. Flatten the ball slightly so it forms a disc, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F).
- Once chilled, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm thickness. Use to line 6-8 mini tart tins. If you have time, rest the lined tart rings in the fridge for at least 20 minutes (this helps reduce shrinkage).
- Line the tart rings with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans to keep the base’s shape, and bake blind for 10 minutes.
- Remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and return to the oven for 5 minutes to ensure the base is cooked. Remove from the oven, leaving the pastry cases in the tins.
For the frangipane:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla (or almond) extract and beat again. Add the ground almonds (almond meal) and flour and beat to a smooth paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the apples.
- Peel the apples, remove the core and slice very thinly.
- Once the pastry cases have cooled, divide the frangipane between the tart cases and spread it using a small offset spatula or back of a teaspoon (be aware that the frangipane will rise somewhat as it bakes).
- Arrange the apples decoratively over the frangipane. Sprinkle evenly with the extra caster sugar.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the apples are browning and the pastry is golden around the edge.
- Warm the apricot jam in the microwave and brush over the apples with a pastry brush.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
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