This recipe is all about minimum effort expended for maximum effect. Complicated instructions are all well and good when you have the time or the inclination to use every utensil in the kitchen, but why bother when you can impress with something that is actually dead easy? As a supremely lazy cook (I prefer the term ‘efficient’), frangipane in all its guises has become my fail safe pudding. Anyone I’ve ever cooked for is likely bored to death of these tarts, but they’re so goddamn easy and delicious I can’t stop making them. Here’s how.
Making pastry is not a massive faff. I used to do it by hand until, like some incredulous ‘50’s housewife, I realised that the food processor can do an infinitely better job in a fraction of the time. Unless you’re some kind of sado-masochist/artisan there is no point in getting pastry dough under your fingernails when you don’t have to. Since my pastry epiphany, every single time I use the food processor to make it I can’t help but go a little bit high pitched and say, ‘It’s so smooth! It’s so much BETTER!’ Ahh, (not so) modern technology.
I always end up googling ‘Gregg Wallace peach tart’ to find the pastry recipe I like to use, so much so that a part of my brain is now reserved for remembering that ‘Gregg Wallace’ is spelled with a double ‘g’. This irritates me but also takes me directly to a great dessert pastry recipe, so swings and roundabouts.
Credit for this pastry recipe goes to Gregg Wallace. How many times do you think I can say ‘Gregg Wallace’ in this article?
You will need:
175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter, cubed (and cold)
One tablespoon caster sugar
Two tablespoons water
Two egg yolks
Tip the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until fine of crumb. Add the caster sugar and whizz again. Add one tablespoon water and one egg yolk, whizz once more. Add another tablespoon water and another egg yolk. Whizz for the final time and wait for the dough to come together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.
This makes around double the amount you will need for a 22 cm tart tin. Once out of the fridge, ball half of it up in a double layer of cling film and store in the freezer until you fancy another frangipane tart, which will inevitably be sooner than you think. It keeps for up to three months.
Next, roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is waffer thin. It’s easier to handle and less likely to fall apart if it’s cold. Carefully position it in the tin, gently pressing into the grooves before trimming the excess. Prick the base all over with a fork and leave to chill in the fridge.
Preheat the oven, with baking tray already inside, to 180°C (fan). A preheated baking tray helps to cook the base of the pastry. Next, line the pastry case with baking paper, fill with baking beans (or rice) and blind bake for ten minutes. Then remove the beans- carefully, they will be hotter than the sun- and bake for a further three minutes.
If you remember to leave the butter to soften, making frangipane takes mere minutes. It is almost laughably easy. Although I’m sure cheffy types would argue with me, to my knowledge a basic frangipane is made up of equal parts butter, sugar and ground almonds, bound together with egg, a little plain flour and any extra flavouring you like. Once you’ve got the basics down you can play fast and loose with the added extras.
To make a raspberry frangipane (tart tin size 22 cm, serves 6) you will need:
100g unsalted butter
100g sugar (caster or golden caster)
100g ground almonds
Two medium eggs
One heaped tablespoon plain flour
Half teaspoon almond extract (optional)
While the pastry is blind baking, cream together the butter and sugar. As this recipe is all about being as lazy as humanly possible, I advise using an electric whisk rather than mixing by hand. Add in the eggs. It may look like it’s curdling but plough on and the mixture will come together. Next, mix in the flour, ground almonds and almond extract. Finally, gently fold in the raspberries. Pour this mixture into the awaiting pastry case, smooth the top and place in the oven for around 25 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Cover with tinfoil if the top is browning too quickly.
Using the basic recipe of 100g butter, sugar and ground almonds, you can add pretty much any flavouring or fruit you like. Fold in blueberries, add vanilla extract or arrange tinned peach, pear or apricot slices on the top, first dabbing off excess liquid with kitchen paper before gently pushing them into the frangipane mixture. You could also add fragrance with a tablespoon of liqueur, just remember to add only one egg and perhaps another heaped tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture becoming too runny. Kirsch works well with cherries, amaretto with pears and Cointreau with raspberries.
Cooking time depends on the size of the tart and the consistency of the frangipane but for a 22 cm tin around half an hour usually does it. Check the middle is cooked by inserting a skewer- if it comes out clean the tart is done. Then dust with icing sugar and serve with Chantilly cream or an unhealthy portion of vanilla ice cream.
If you keep a packet of ground almonds and a tin of fruit in the house somewhere at all times, you can whip up a pudding that looks much more difficult than it really is at a moment’s notice. It’s like a Primark copy of a Prada handbag, except it tastes just as delicious. Confused metaphors aside, this really is the ideal cheat’s dessert. You could cheat yet further by buying a bag of pastry mix or even pre-rolled dessert pastry. To go the whole hog simply ignore the above recipe, buy a tart from the nearest shop and surreptitiously dispose of the packaging.
[Feature Image: Amasou Umasou]