Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Frangipane Tart

Don't you love the look of a fresh fruit tart? Whenever I browse a display of cakes and pastries, the first thing I'd notice would be the pretty fruit tarts. Berries, apricots, figs, cherries ... perched elegantly like gems, with that irresistible glossy sheen. There's just something about bright, shiny objects and their appeal. I instantly get drawn to them like a girl to diamonds ... OH YES, I love my bling. But I digress.

What really gets me are those with strawberries. To me, strawberries are the most photogenic of all fruits. They are every dessert's best accessory - classic and forever in vogue. When in doubt, throw in a few strawberries ... they just work, like a Little Black Dress.

Well, I realised that it has been a long while since I made tarts. The last time I did, it was *gasp* February of 2011, and back then, I made Strawberry Tarts (with crème pâtissière) and Pierre Hermé's Warm Chocolate & Raspberry Tarts. I should seriously make more tarts!

This time, for a change - my filling of choice is always crème pâtissière - I decided to make frangipane (almond cream/paste). While crème pâtissière is all velvety and vanilla, frangipane is a lot firmer and full-bodied. The first bite sure packed an nutty punch, and I loved it! Well, I am extremely partial to almonds so, no surprises there.

And I've got to tell you, making this strawberry-studded tart was easy ... cutting it up was hard! First, the reluctance to destroy a picture perfect tart. Then, when the desire to eat overrides everything else, the challenge of keeping the strawberries in place when the knife slices through. After numerous "uh-ohs" and "arghhhhhs", it all worked out - the strawberries stayed in place with some careful nudging, and the tart ended up in our tums, where they were meant to be.

And for a few minutes after that, I could hear OM resonating in my ears. :)

(adapted from Joy of Baking)

For the Sweet Pastry Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (200g) all purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten

(See video here)

1. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm (can place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.)

2. Lightly butter and flour, or spray with a non-stick vegetable/flour cooking spray, an 8 to 9 inch (20 to 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Once the pastry has chilled sufficiently, evenly pat onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan*. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
* Pay special attention to the bottom rims where dough tends to gather. Use your thumb and press the dough in, to thin it out.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°C (about 400°F) and place rack in center of oven. While the oven is heating up and the pastry dough is chilling, make the frangipane.

For the Frangipane

- 1/2 cup (50g) almond meal
- 1 tbsp (12g) all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated white sugar
- 3 tbsp (40g) unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt

4. In a big bowl, whisk* almonds, sugar, and flour to combine. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
* You can whisk by hand.

5. Bring out the tart dough that has been chilling in the freezer. Lightly prick the bottom with the tines of a fork. Pour the frangipane filling into the unbaked tart shell, spreading evenly. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C (350°F) and bake for another 15 minutes more. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. If the frangipane begins to turn too brown, cover the tart loosely with a piece of foil.

6. Cool for 15 minutes, then chill 15 minutes.

This is what you should get:

Assembling the tart

- 1 punnet fresh strawberries, washed, with their tops sliced off
- 2 tbsps jam (apricot, strawberry, or marmalade)

7. Brush the surface with a thin layer of jam, and then carefully arrange the strawberries, starting from the middle. Press each one firmly into the frangipane.

8. Once complete, gently brush each strawberry with jam. This will give that gorgeous megawatt finish. At this point, you can chill the tart until it is time to serve, or simply slice and eat right there and then.

Would you like some tart?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Marmalade & Almond Tea Cakes

Uh. It's June? Good grief, I just realised I only blogged ONE grand post last month. Tsk tsk! That said, I do have valid reasons for being absent (again). My previous helper went home not long ago, and a new one's here to take her place. There's been a lot of training and orientation going on these days, especially in my kitchen.

One of the first dishes I taught her was fried kway teow (fried rice noodles), which I posted on Twitter. The girl had never seen kway teow in her life, or for that matter, a person who takes photos of food. I honestly don't know which intrigued her more - the kway teow or me. And no, I wasn't even using my bulky DSLR.

Betcha when she finally sees me styling and shooting food with that camera, she's gonna be convinced she's working for a fruitcake. Who on earth takes photos of food?! Oh yeah, I forgot. A whole lot of people. :) But hey, this is a young, simple girl who has never tasted peanut butter ("Delicious!") or seen a slab of salmon ("It's fish?!?!?!") or tried curry ("Everything we eat is fried!"), so I'll completely understand.

But I am hopeful that after learning how to prepare a few more dishes and desserts, she'll become better acquainted with my strange, strange world. :)

So I made these Marmalade & Almond Tea Cakes some weeks ago. It's funny how I detested marmalade - among other things - when I was young but love it with a vengeance now that I am old(er).

This recipe is adapted from Tarlette's Poached Kumquats and Almond Tea Cakes, originally from Hidemi Sugino's The Dessert Book. Obviously I used marmalade in place of poached kumquats. Below are my adaptations of the original recipe. Do not use too much marmalade because it could make the cake too wet and too sweet. I also reduced the amount of sugar quite drastically because my (Marks & Spencer's Blood Orange) marmalade was already very, very sweet. Please note that different brands of marmalade will yield different results, so it's best to err on the side of less if you are in doubt.

How did I find it? Hmmm ... didn't go wild. I guess I like something more cakey and less nutty. I think I'd probably stick to Almond Butter Cake and add orange zest for a similar effect. As for the remaining jar of marmalade, I will slowly savour it on warm toast with butter!

(adapted from Tartlette)
- 75g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 113g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 80g powdered sugar, unsifted
- 4 medium eggs
- 100g ground almonds
- 80g marmalade (about 1/3 cup)

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.

2. Butter and flour the insides of cake tins* (your preference) and place on a baking sheet. Reserve. Heat the oven to 170°C (350°F).
* Use something shallow, like egg tart tins. If you are using muffin tins, fill to the halfway or two-third mark (at most).

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and ground almonds and mix another 30 seconds.

4. Fold in the marmalade with a spatula. Divide the batter in between your prepared tins and bake for 10-15 mins until golden brown (the larger the tins, the more baking time will be needed, so please keep a close eye). Skewer should come out clean.

5. Dust with icing sugar if desired.