Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
Frangipane, or frangipani, is one of my husband’s favourite pie fillings. The man abhors all things chocolatey, custardy, creamy or cheesy in his bakes, but would happily devour every last lardy crumb of this yummy tart.
The tart shell was baked blind to a crisp. I mean the colour was GOLDEN even before the filling was added. When it came out the oven and cooled down enough for us to sink our teeth in, the crust, sides AND bottom, was crisp and short. Bollocks to those Internet recipes that tell you to bake the shell until “partially cooked” or “firm with hardly any colour”. If there’s anything I learnt after four fattening modules at bakery school, it’s this fact – if the shell ain’t crispy at the point of adding the filling, it’s never going to crisp up no matter how long you bake it.
Another key ingredient is the ground almond. I used to use ground almonds straight from the pack, but after we made this in class, I learnt a crucial tip. The almonds should be toasted and cooled before being folded into the filling. This simple step transform a frangipane tart from one that’s just blah to one that will really be the talk of the town.
I brushed some strained raspberry preserves on the bottom of the shell, spread on the franjipane filling and topped with tinned pears, husband’s favourite fruit. Then the tart was baked to set the filling, about 30 minutes in a moderate oven. I had one very happy man tonight. The usually finicky man had nothing bad to say about the tart.
The name derives from frangere il pane, which means to “break the bread”. Interestingly enough, bakeries sometimes use dry white cake crumbs as a cheap substitute for the expensive almonds in this filling.
Does it have anything to do with that sweet-smelling flowering tree we often find growing along the roads here in sunny Singapore? A 16th-century Italian nobleman, Marquis Muzio Frangipani, first introduced almond perfume-scented gloves that became quite a fashionable accessory. Pastry chefs purportedly tried to capture this popular scent in desserts; hence the birth of frangipane in pastry. The flower was named after the same guy, who made a perfume that smelled like said bloom.