Right off the bat, I will say that this is one of the best things I have ever baked in my entire life. While I cannot take credit for developing this tart recipe on my own, I can acknowledge those who did – Paule Caillat, renowned French cook and cooking instructor for the tart shell and Anita Chu from Dessert First Girl for the frangipane. I did add my own tweaks to the recipe as well, as you will see. You might be wondering how I came about putting this recipe together. Well, read on and I will tell you the story of how this lovely tart came to be.
This tale starts out with me reading Eat This Book, a cookbook by chef Tyler Florence. Flipping through the pages, I found the recipe for a Warm Pear Tart with Blue Cheese and Honey, which looked absolutely delicious. I made my grocery list and headed to Whole Foods Market to purchase the ingredients I needed. At the produce area, I was greeted by a dizzying array of ripe fruits and fresh vegetables, but what instantly grabbed my attention were the neatly stacked baskets of brown figs off to one side. I decided to replace the pears with figs so grabbed a couple of containers, thinking how the blue cheese and honey would work equally well with this new main ingredient.
Back at home, I re-read the recipe and realized that Tyler’s recipe called for a very simple almond paste for the tart filling. I recalled the Pear and Almond Frangipane Tart that I bookmarked from Dessert First Girl, and thought that the frangipane, a baked almond cream, would enhance the flavor of the tart, so I dropped the blue cheese and honey all together. Once I had decided on the filling, I had another hurdle to overcome. I realized that I neglected to add the puff pastry to my grocery list so I had to make a tart shell from scratch in its place.
Once I made the decision to make the short pastry crust, I felt entitled to a little bit of procrastination. I was “exhausted” from all the decisions I’d already made and I rewarded myself with some light reading. Enter David Lebovitz and his popular blog! I impulsively entered “tart dough” in the search box and the first recipe to pop up was the French Tart Dough Recipe that David got from Paule Caillat herself. The dough recipe was very intriguing and unusual for me since I had never heard of this method of making tart shells. It called for butter, water, and oil to be cooked in the oven until the butter was browned, and after which flour is added into the mixture all at once. I added a some orange zest and a little orange extract to flavor the pastry crust. The method is a bit reminiscent of making pâte à choux, up to the point that the flour is added and stirred together until smooth and the dough pulled away from the pan.
There is no need to chill nor roll out the dough. When it was cool enough to handle, it is simply pressed it into the tart pan. Prick the dough a few times with a fork and into the oven it goes. The result of this minimal effort was a beautiful, flaky pastry shell with a subtle hint of orange flavor.
For the figs, I decided to just brush them with a mixture of simple syrup and Cointreau, orange-flavored liqueur, to tie in the orange flavor in the tart shell. For the pièce de résistance, I made a Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream as a topping. The slight tang from the crème fraiche really works well to balance the sweetness of the figs and frangipane.
That is how my Warm Pear Tart with Blue Cheese and Honey by Tyler Florence has morphed into the Fig, Almond Frangipane, and Orange Tart by Paule Caillat, Anita Chu, and me.
Fig, Almond Frangipane, and Orange Tart
Yields 1 9-inch tart pan
1 batch of tart shell dough (recipe below)
8 – 12 figs, depending on size
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water (2 tablespoons if omitting liqueur)
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or other orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons sliced almonds plus more for garnish
Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream, for garnish (recipe below)
For the tart shell
90 grams (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 grams (5 ounces or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour
For the frangipane
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground almond meal (I bought mine at Trader Joes)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
For the crème fraîche whipped cream
4 ounces (1/2 cup) crème fraîche
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, to taste
Heat the oven to 410 degrees F (210 degrees C).
For the figs. Wash and dry figs. Remove stems and cut in half. Set aside. Combine the sugar, water, orange liqueur, and orange extract in a small sauce pan. Heat until sugar dissolves. Be careful not to brown the sugar. Set aside.
For the tart shell. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, orange zest and extract, oil, water, sugar, and salt. Cook until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges, approximately 15 -20 minutes. When butter has browned, remove the bowl from oven and carefully add all the flour and stir quickly until the dough comes together and forms a ball at the center of the bowl.
Remove dough from heat and place in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Wait a few minutes for the dough to cool and pat the dough into the shell with the heel of your hand and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. If necessary, use a fork to reinforce the dough to the sides.
Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.
For the frangipane. Combine the butter and sugar in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the ground almonds and pulse a few times until combined. Add the flour and cornstarch, and then the egg and egg white. Process the mixture until completely smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts, and pulse just to incorporate. The frangipane may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If the chilled frangipane becomes too firm, let it sit at room temperature to soften before using.
For the crème fraîche whipped cream. In a work bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the crème fraîche with the sugar until smooth. Add the heavy cream and vanilla bean extract or paste and whisk until right before the cream hits the soft peaks stage. The resulting whipped cream should be spoonable. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve; whisk a few times before serving. This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
To assemble the tart. Fill the partially baked tart shell about halfway with the frangipane. Arrange the figs on top and brush each one with the simple syrup mixture.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake the tart for about 20-25 minutes, until the frangipane has become firm and golden on the outside. After 10 minutes, remove tart from the oven and sprinkle two tablespoons of sliced almonds on top of the tart. Place back in the oven and cook until set. Remove from oven and cool for about 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream and more sliced almonds, if desired.
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