There is nothing that screams ‘French’ to me more than French pâtisserie. Whether it is the smell of it, the taste of it, or simply walking into a store and daydreaming about tasting all the beautiful petits gâteaux, French pâtisserie will forever remain for me the emblem for the graceful and artistic country France is.
During my first trip to Paris I remember stumbling upon the adorable and utterly tantalising Ladurée Pâtisserie. I was instantly transported into sweet heaven. Never had I seen so many glistening pastries, decorated with bright and zingy berries, coated with sleek and smooth ganache and packaged in the most exquisite boxes (so exquisite that I started collecting them). So, with an abundance of fresh figs from grandmother’s tree and not enough mouths to eat them fresh, it didn’t take me long before I opened Ladurée Sucre and got inspired to make this luscious Fig and Frangipane Tart.
As much as the phrase ‘melts in your mouth’ is over-used, there is seriously no other way to describe the pastry for this tart. The butter lends it a crisp short texture, which paired with the soft scent of almonds, makes you just want to eat the pastry on its own. But, the frangipane filling itself is too sublime to go unnoticed. It is both fluffy and moist, and the nuttiness provided by the almonds marries so elegantly with the figs.
The pastry recipe is enough for two tarts, and although it may seem a little bit hedonistic to make two at the one time, I urge you to wipe away any fear of being labelled a gourmand and double the Frangipane filling dose, because there is no time for guilt when French Pâtisserie is at hand.
Pâte Sucrée aux Almonds (Ladurée’s Almond Pastry):
120 grams butter, very cold
70 grams icing sugar
25 grams almond meal
1 pinch of fleur de sel
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
200 grams cake flour
Sift the icing sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Work the butter to homogenize and then add the following ingredients, one by one, making sure to fully incorporate each into the mixture before the next addition: sifted icing sugar, almond meal, fleur de sel, vanilla, egg and flour. Combine ingredients until the dough comes together; do not overwork the dough. This will give the pastry its desired crumbly texture.
Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours before using. If possible, it is better to prepare the dough one day ahead; it will be easier to roll out. This pastry will keep (unrolled) in the fridge for a maximum of 5 days.
Grease a regular tart tin with butter. Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide into two. Lightly flour a sheet of greaseproof parchment paper. Place one of the dough halves on the paper and begin to roll out into the shape of the tart tin. Roll out the pastry to a size that it is big enough to cover the base of the tin and reach up the sides. Gently flip the pastry onto the tart tin. This is where the greaseproof paper comes in handy as it allows you to flip the pastry onto the tin without hurting the pastry. Press the pastry into the sides of the tin. Using the handle of a wooden spoon press the edges of the pastry into the grooves of the tin. Place in the fridge until ready to use/fill.
100 grams butter, softened
100 grams caster sugar
100 grams almond meal
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon amaretto
5 figs, ends trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons honey (or your favourite jam), warmed
Mascarpone to serve
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the almond meal and flour and beat until just incorporated. Add the egg and amaretto and beat until combined.
Spread mixture gently into the tart shell. Top with figs, skin-side facing upwards. Bake in the oven, on one of the lower racks for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and golden. Allow the tart to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before taking it out of the tin. Gaze the tart with warmed jam or honey using a pastry brush. Serve with mascarpone and enjoy!
By Anthea Tsaousis.