Traditional frangipane is a rich filling associated with the creaming process of almond meal and sugar with fat. It is this creaming that separates it from its harder, more festive cousin marzipan or almond paste- that claylike, intensely sugary candy, which if made with cashews tastes like the egg version of the Indian mithai, kaju katli. This frangipane cream is used as a filling for famous English pastries like the Bakewell tart, and it yields a soft, light sponge-like filling because it is often made in much the same way. Eggs are incorporated one at a time, flour is folded in precariously by hand and the mixture is scraped into a pre-prepared tart shell and baked.
What makes frangipane so irresistible is that when warm, it’s incredibly comforting and goes splendidly with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. I’m happy to have more than a slice waiting for me after a night out with friends, so I can steal bites between episodes of the Crown.
For this frangipane tart, I decided to swap out almonds for walnuts because I feel the walnuts’ slightly bitter notes really complement fruity sweet seasonal cherries. The walnuts yield a dark brown frangipane and I’ve gone a step further and replaced caster sugar with brown sugar for my sweet pie crust. If you have a pie crust recipe that’s foolproof for you, you don’t need to follow my recipe at all.
But obviously, the cherries will sink into the frangipane filling as it expands so you’re not going to be left with the most beautiful tart your eyes ever did see, but screw that. Make this. It’s absolutely delicious and you’re going to make it again for friends or a dinner party, or for yourself to eat on a rainy day to keep you snug.
Cherry and Walnut Frangipane Tart With A Brown Sugar Crust
Yield 1 large sized tart and 1 tartlet
Have a slice of this tart warm with a dollop of ice cream on the side. Once you've got the frangipane down, you can decorate the top with cherries, plums, pear or peaches. It goes well with almost everything. The fruit will sink as it cooks and become one with the moist frangipane filling.
For The Brown Sugar Shortcrust Pastry:
Brown sugar 1 tbsp
Butter 100g, chilled and cut into cubes
Egg 1, beaten
For The Walnut Frangipane
Walnuts 100g, good quality
Butter 200g, soft
Caster sugar 200g
Egg Yolk 1
Cherries 250-300g or an equal amount of peaches, or other fruit, stone removed
In a food processor, whiz the flour, sugar and butter for a few seconds. Add in half the beaten egg and whiz again. Open the jar and check to see if the mixture has come together and is moist to touch. If it’s not moist, add a bit more of the egg and whiz again. Take a piece of cling film and wrap this dough in it. Leave it in the refrigerator for an hour at least before handling it.
When ready to make the shortcrust tart shell, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius first. Take a sheet of cling film and place the refrigerated dough on top. Then, take another sheet of cling and sandwich the dough between the two. This tip from Rachel Allen, really changed my life. It is now easy to handle the tart shell. Roll out the tart shell till big enough to come up slightly around the sides of your tart shell. My tart shell is about 22cm in diameter.
Line the tart shell with the shortcrust pastry and use either your knuckles or your fingers to press the pastry in evenly along the sides of the shell. A tart shell is very forgiving and you can do a patch up job with any extra dough to cover up any gaps in the pastry. If you’re as bad at craft as I am, it might even be a bit uneven, but it’s okay. You’re making this for yourself. When you’re done prick the base of the pastry a few times.
Take a baking sheet and add to it either beans, rice or dried peas. Place this package carefully inside the tart shell and proceed to blind bake this in the oven for 10 minutes. When ten minutes are up, carefully take the baking sheet parcel out and let the base of the tart shell bake for an additional 4-5 minutes till the base is sand-like, but not very coloured. Take the shell out of the oven and let it cool, but don’t turn the oven off.
Make the frangipane filling by whizzing the walnuts and flour together in the food processor till it resembles breadcrumbs. Then, using an electric hand-mixer and a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for a good 5-6 minutes till the mixture is quite fluffy.
Add in the eggs one by one incorporating it between additions using the mixer. Next, add the yolk and mix well. Tip in the flour and walnut mixture and fold the mixture in using a spatula. Spread this frangipane cream inside the tart shell and arrange over the fruit of your choice- cherries here and transfer to the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes. The fruit will sink as it cooks and a skin will form on top of the tart.
To tell that the tart is done, you must do the wobble test, where you must shake the tart a bit and there should be no wobble in the centre of the tart. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, remove from the shell and serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
The tart is quite versatile and can accommodate a number of fruits.