Evil Nut Sister

Since January I have not been on good terms with frangipane.  Early this year we attempted to make puff pastry.  Not only did the pastry forget to “puff” but our hazelnut frangipane filled galette was arid. Gobi des(s)ert arid.  My guess is the puff pastry, much like the Tetraodontidae, only inflates as a defense mechanism.  Conclusion:  the hazelnut frangipane was not worth protecting.

Luckily, the ever amazing pasta making “G” and his nicest-girlfriend-in-the-world served up some delicious homemade linguine in a red sauce so our dinner party dessert bomb was eclipsed.  Thank god.

About a month later, with hazelnuts still in the pantry and blueberries on sale at Kroger, I decided to give frangipane another try.  It seemed our traditional flank steak and “Closer” Valentines Day tribute would be nicely augmented with a blueberry frangipane tart.  Wrong.  Guess what?  The frangipane was dry.  I might as well have made it with dirt.  Or maybe pebbles.

After the Valentines Day belly-flop, frangipane was back burnered.  I didn’t have time for its persnickety moisture issues.  That is until I needed to use up some ground almonds.  So finally, I gave almond frangipane a go.  If only I had know almonds would solve my frangi-pain the delicious filling wouldn’t have received two months of Cinderella treatment.  It was all Hazelnuts fault.  Blame it on the nutella.

Almond Frangipane

James Peterson’s Baking

Okay.  To make almond frangipane we need to combine 1 part pastry cream with 2 parts almond cream.  So we’ll start by making both components.

Pastry Cream:

2 C milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ C plus 1 Tbsp sugar

1 egg

3 egg yolks

¼ C cornstarch

Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan and add the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg, egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth.  Take ½ of the simmering milk and stir it into the egg mixture.  Try not to knock the entire mixture on the floor.  It makes a big sticky mess.  Return the remaining milk to medium heat.  Pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk and stir mixture until it comes to a boil and thickens.  Transfer it to a bowl and the pastry cream cool.  While it cools make the almond cream.

Almond Cream:

1 ½ C almond flour or almonds

½ C butter

½ C plus 2 Tbsp sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

If, like me, you tend to have shelled almonds on hand.  To remove the seedcoat you need to blanch the almonds.  This is fairly easy.  Bring water to a boil and throw in your almonds.  Leave the almonds in the hot water for no longer than 1 minute, strain, and rinse in cold water.

The seedcoat will now be easy to remove.  Find a comfortable spot, I don’t know—on the porch with a beer?—and slip the white center (embryo) out of the seedcoat.

Toast the blanched almonds in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, and grind for 2 minutes in a food processor.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth.  Then, one by one beat in the egg and egg yolks.  Finally, mix in the almond flour or ground almonds.  Done.

Combine 1 part pastry cream with 2 parts almond cream and almond frangipane will appear before your eyes.

Strawberry Frangipane Tartlets

Adapted from James Peterson’s Baking

1 recipe basic pie and tart dough (see 8 mile pretty woman)

2 Cups Frangipane

½ pint of berries

1 Tbsp butter

The great thing about a berry frangipane tart(let) is any berry can be used, and this can be made into one large tart, or several small tartlets.  Anything goes.  I’m going strawberry frangipane tartlet style.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush your tartlet pans with melted butter.  Roll your dough into a cylinder, lop off a piece about an inch thick, roll it out, and line the tartlet pan with dough.  Do the same for as many tartlets as you’d like to make.  I always keep pie dough in the freezer so I can roll out a few whenever I have a tartlet hanker.

Take 2-4 tablespoons (depending on the size of your tartlet) of frangipane and line the bottom of the tartlet.

Press a handful of berries into the frangipane, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

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