Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Tart You Can Take Home to Meet Mum


My pre-parenting career required a LOT of abstract problem solving. I had to formalise problems and then devise algorithms to solve them. Invariably, the simple, elegant solutions were the best.

In the kitchen I have a particular fondness for this elegant formula:

Pastry Cases + Filling + Frangipane = Yum

What is frangipane? Is it an almond paste? A filling? A topping? A pastry? A cake? A custard?  I don't rightly know, so we'll just say "yes" to all of those questions because it shares some properties of each.  

What is yum?  I'm not exactly sure but it tastes good and has the added benefit of hardening your arteries.

We will be using the frangipane as a rustic topping on the tart, but it can also be used as the filling if you alter it slightly (see the frangipane section below). If you use the frangipane as the filling, the fruit filling can be used as a topping by pressing pieces of the fruit into the frangipane.  If you take care with the presentation you can make some very elegant, food-porn quality tarts.

These tarts are dead simple and can be knocked up in no time at all (get your mind out of the gutter, I am talking about tarts as food here). There is also a lot of room for creativity with fillings and frangipane flavours.  This recipe should make six tarts that are 10cm (4in) in diameter.

For a guide to my recipe notation, see this blog entry.

To get started, preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F).


Pastry Cases
Shortcrust pastry will shrink, dammit, so use a bit more than
you need and bend it over the top slightly (yes, you
could refrigerate the cases before cooking instead).

Cut some
shortcrust pastry
into rounds and jam them into muffin tin cups or tart pans, cook in the oven (using pie weights if you aren't lazy) until they are firm (10 minutes?) Rice or dry beans can be used if you don't have pie weights.

Or buy some prefabricated cases.

Filling

I have a mixed fresh berry patch in my freezer. 
The filling can be anything you like...within reason.  The photos here show 
frozen mixed berries 
You can use sliced fresh strawberries, raspberries, stewed pears or plums, banana, you are limited only by your imagination and common decency.

Frangipane

Frangipane is made using approximately equal parts sugar, almond meal and butter, plus an egg and flavours. We'll be using orange zest and vanilla extract, but you can use almond essence or some kind of liqueur essence.

In a mixing bowl, using beaters, mix
1/2 C (100g / 3.5oz) slightly softened butter (still firm)
1/2 C (90g / 3oz) caster sugar
vanilla extract
until it is light and fluffy. If you were to use the frangipane as a filling rather than a topping, use pure icing sugar instead of caster sugar.  Now incorporate
1 egg + 1 egg white
and fold in
grated zest of 1 orange
1 C (100g / 3.5oz) almond meal

Yum (putting it together)

Carelessly plonk the frangipane
on top.
Spoon the filling into the pastry cases. If the filling is quite tart, like four-cheek-sucking raspberries, sprinkle some sugar to take the edge off.

Top with a generous blob of frangipane, try to cover most of the filling but leave some poking through for rustic presentation. The filling will probably bubble and ooze out seductively.

Cook in the oven for 16-18 minutes. Be careful not to overcook as the frangipane will burn rapidly, stay alert!

Depending on the flavours in your filling, you can serve with double-cream or creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese or ice cream.

Beware of any albino confectionery nymphs that may swipe your tarts.

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