I have a total love affair with ground almonds. They can be added to cakes to give moisture and density, they can replace flour to create the most sumptuous of crumbs. They can be creamed to form frangipane to fill tarts and galettes with glorious richness. And then there is marzipan, a much maligned and hated almond creation, but with a little patience and the right exposure, therein also lies delight. On their own in pastry, with fruit or with chocolate, there can be no end to their praise.
This recipe is for a frangipane tart, ground almonds creamed with butter, sugar and eggs to fill a sweet shortcrust shell and topped with apples. Golden, sweet, light and crisp, this makes a perfect dessert, coffee cake or breakfast treat with yoghurt. There are two ways to make it and both yield delicious results. I have chosen to bake the pastry blind, then fill the shell and return it to the oven to bake the filling. This gives a slightly crispier base. It is also completely fine to miss out this step, fill the raw pastry shell and bake all at once. Baking it all together, allows the apples to cook more thoroughly. But, if you want really soft apples and are going for either method, poach the apples for a few minutes before adding them to the filling. You can be as decorative or rustic in your apple design as you fancy, I felt like chunky apples with lots of frangipane rising up in between. For a little more flair, use thinly sliced apple arranged in the french tart tradition.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe
(makes about 500g)
150g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
1 whole organic egg and 1 yolk
In a food processor blitz flour, butter, sugar and salt until the mix resembles sand. If working by hand, rub butter into dry ingredients with your fingertips until there are no large lumps. Lightly beat egg and yolk with a fork. Tip mix from processor into a bowl. Create a well in the centre, add egg and begin to work the flour mix in from the sides. When ingredients have just come together, knead quickly into a soft dough. Don't overwork. Form a ball, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Use as needed.
300g sweet shortcrust pastry
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges (poach if desired)
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
2 organic eggs
Preheat oven to 190C or 170C fan.
Remove dough from the fridge and allow to stand for 30 minutes before rolling, this prevents it from stretching. Roll out pastry about 3-5mm thick. Line a 20cm flan/tart tin. Trim edges. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 15 minutes until pale gold, remove beans and bake for a further 10-12 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
In the meantime, to make the frangipane, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating on high to incorporate without splitting. If the mixture is still splitting, you can add a tablespoon of flour. Add almonds and mix until smooth and creamy. This can be made ahead of the time and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Once cooled, spread frangipane evenly over the base of the pastry case. Arrange apples in circles over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Return to the oven and bake for 30-50 minutes until filling is set, puffy and golden.
If baking all at once, line the tin as above without freezing. Fill with frangipane and apples. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour until pastry is golden and the filling is cooked.