Frangipani - (Italian) 'to break bread'
Frangipane (aside from being the flowering tree Plumeria that I spent much of my childhood trying to grow from cuttings), is a French almond pastry cream traditionally made with butter, sugar, eggs and ground almonds. Its history can be traced to 16th century Italian nobleman, Marquis Muzio Frangipani, who whilst living in Paris invented bitter-almond scented gloves – a popular accessory at the time. It is said that patissiers, eager to capitalise on the popularity of said gloves, tried to capture the scent in desserts: thus creating the almond flavoured pastry cream.
Making pastry at home rewards a little patience and tenderness with a beautiful, buttery tart shell - and I usually have what's needed to assemble it at a moment's notice. Of course you can opt to buy this ready-made, but I can honestly say that since I learned to make it myself, I haven't. With a little planning; such as making the pastry (and perhaps lining the tin or even baking the shell), the night before you assemble the tart, and making the frangipane in advance (it will happily hold in the fridge for several hours); this is the perfect dessert to serve dinner guests. And you can easily make double the pastry and freeze half for another day.
This is a really lovely, very classic tart that is perfect with late-summer apricots but it works equally well with figs, plums, roasted quinces or rhubarb, and poached pears when apricots are out of season.
APRICOT FRANGIPANE TART
Serves 8 -10
For the shortcrust pastry -
250 g '00' flour
100 g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
125 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, very slightly softened
zest of half an unwaxed lemon
2 organic egg yolks, or one large organic egg, beaten with a fork
For the frangipane -
200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 g caster sugar
2 organic eggs, at room temperature
1 organic egg yolk, at room temperature - egg white reserved
2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) almond essence, or vanilla extract
200 g blanched almond meal
40 g plain flour
For the topping -
700 g (approx. 14 small) apricots, cut into halves (quarters if large)
1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)
50 g apricot jam
1 tablespoon lemon juice
To make the pastry -
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cubed butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers until just combined. Add the yolks and a little water if the dough feels too dry, or some extra flour if it is too wet. Turn everything onto a lightly floured bench and being careful not to overwork the dough (I use a method called fraisage that is worth looking up), bring it together until uniform. Gently pat the dough into a flat, round disc, wrap it in plastic, and allow it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
Heat oven to 180C/170C fan and lightly flour a 28 cm tart tin with a removable base.
If the pastry has been in the fridge overnight, remove it about an hour before rolling. Gently roll the pastry to a 30 - 32 cm circle on a well-floured surface and line the prepared tin, carefully trimming the excess and reserving any scraps. Time permitting, the pastry shell will benefit from another rest in the fridge (say half an hour or so). Line with aluminium foil, fill with pastry weights, and blind bake until the pastry is lightly golden (about 15 - 20 minutes). Remove the pastry weights, brush the base with the reserved egg white, and bake for a further five minutes.
Allow the shell to cool a little while you make the filling. Beat butter and sugar together until very light and creamy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, along with the almond essence. Fold through almond meal, flour and a pinch of sea salt.
Using a palette knife, spread the frangipane over the tart shell allowing room for the apricots, and for the filling to rise as it cooks. Top with the apricots cut-side up and scatter with flaked almonds.
Bake in the top part of the oven for about 45 - 50 minutes, until the apricots are beginning to brown and the frangipane is golden and just cooked.
Warm the jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan, and brush over the top of the warm tart to glaze. Allow the tart to cool a little in the tin before serving.