I had a pretty big childhood hatred of marzipan. I always thought it looked so pretty; those colourful little marzipan fruits were alluring until I bit into them. I became suspicious of sweets and baked goods that might be hiding marzipan, it was always hiding inside innocent looking croissants or cakes. This marzipan phobia became a generalized fear of almondy things.
It took me a long time to warm up to almondy things, and to distinguish between marzipan and the rest of the almond world. I think crispy little amaretti cookies were one of the first almond flavoured things that really started to turn me. I liked their slight bitterness and how hollow and airy they are. A while later, my tentative new fondness for almondy things was crystallized by galette des rois. For a few weeks when I lived in Paris galette des rois where everywhere. They are eaten during Epiphany and they are very popular. And they made me nervous at first- I suspected marzipan. But galette des rois is filled with almond paste, not marzipan, and it was wonderful: subtly almond scented, less sweet, pleasantly almond-grainy.
Now I love almondy sweets. I love to make amaretti, I love bitter almond extracted flavoured things (I think almond buttercream might be my favourite) and I love almond paste or frangipane. It is an excellent tart filling and it pairs really well with lots of different fruit. I like it with cherries, pears, and raspberries especially.
A note on this pastry: I have had a rocky relationship with pie crust. I have made a lot of really terrible pie crusts and some ok pie crusts and never felt certain why they were so bad sometimes. I followed instructions closely and I tried using cold butter, lard, shortening in various combinations, chilled my tools, added vodka...I never had consistent results. Then my sister told me about this excellent, easy recipe from Chez Pim. It works so well, and it is all butter. It has a short, uncomplicated ingredient list and every batch I have made has been flaky and tasty. If you have a pie crust phobia like I did, I urge you to try this one. It works!
A long rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom.
Pie weights (use dried beans if you don't have any pie weights)
250g all purpose flour
225g cold salted butter
1/4 cup water
Slice the butter into thin slices. Working directly on a counter or a pastry board, dump out all the flour and put butter slices on top of the flour, making sure to coat both sides of butter slices with flour. Firmly press the butter slices into flour with the heel of your hand. Scrape up flour and butter into a pile and continue pressing butter into thin flakes with your hand. Repeat until the butter has all been pressed into thin flaky pieces and the majority of the flour is incorporated into the butter and not loose. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter. Pour the water into the well and quickly incorporate into dough. Scrape dough together and fold over several times until the dough is holding together. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
On a well floured surface roll out chilled dough in a long rectangle. Fold the outer thirds on top of each other (Chez Pim has some excellent images of this stage) Repeat this process two more times, rolling into a long rectangle and folding. Roll out again into a not quite so elongated rectangle and cut into two squares. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This tart only needs one of these blocks of pastry, so I typically put one in the freezer at this stage, very well wrapped in cling wrap.
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup raspberry jam
juice from 1/2 lemon
Purée all ingredients together in a food processor.
adapted from BBC Good Food
100g granulated sugar
100g almond flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract or one vanilla bean's innards
1 tsp high quality almond extract
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, and then add all remaining ingredients, mixing at a lower speed until just combined.
Spread the frangipane onto a sheet of parchment paper to the rough size of the tart pan and place another piece of parchment on top of that. Freeze until solid.
Roll out pie dough into a rectangle a little larger than the tart pan. Lay rolled dough in pan, pressing into the corners of the pan. Try to hook the dough over the top edge of the pan a little to anchor it so it will not shrink during blind baking. Prick the dough with a fork all over, line it with tinfoil and fill with pie weights. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until the edge of the pie crust is light golden brown. Remove pie weights and foil.
Spread the raspberry filling in the bottom of the tart shell and then place the frozen frangipane on top. If the frangipane is too large, you can trim it with a sharp knife and tuck the extra pieces around the edges if there is an empty spot or underneath the main frangipane sheet. It will all melt together during baking.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the frangipane is just set in the center. If the edges of the tart shell are browning too quickly, cover the edges with tinfoil.
Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.