So last year I went to Leith’s School of Food and Wine to take on a Pastry Workshop. I would highly recommend both the course and Leith’s for anyone interested in furthering their knowledge or learning a new skill. I always knew that pastry is a tough mistress, but within the first 20 minutes it became pretty clear that we were going to have a day of mixed fortunes! The chef who provided an initial demo of the items we were going to make was very honest that pastry is something that takes plenty of practice, cold hands and the right atmospheric conditions to get right! We learned to make three types of pastry:
- Choux Pastry in the form of Profiteroles
- Rich Shortcrust in the form of a Salmon & Dill Quiche
- Pâte Sucrée (sweet shortcrust) in the form of Apple and Frangipane Tarts
Full details on the 2013 course are here but my highlight was the Apple and Frangipane Tarts. Whilst they require some effort to make, they just look so irresistible and have always garnered lots of ‘oohs’ of approval, so here’s the recipe:
APPLE AND FRANGIPANE TARTS
For the Pâte Sucrée (I reckon you can get 6-8 small tarts out of this)
- 170g plain flour
- A pinch of salt
- 85g unsalted butter, softened
- 3 egg yolks
- 85g sugar
- 2 drops of vanilla essence (I would use extract here)
For the Frangipane
- 200g butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp Calvados or kirsch (optional allegedly, but I wholeheartedly approve)
- 200g ground almonds
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 3-4 ripe dessert apples
For the apricot glaze
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- ½ tbsp water
- Juice of half a small lemon
Make the pastry:
I’m using the method that was taught during the course. Our instructor did say there’s a food processor version, but honestly, the pleasure in making these tarts for me is the ‘hands on’ approach!
Sift the flour with the salt on to a board. With your fist make a large circle in the centre (about the size of a dinner plate) so you are left with a ring of flour. Place the sugar and butter in the centre.
Using the fingertips of one hand, mix the butter and sugar together in a ‘pecking’ motion. Once mixed, add the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla essence and ‘peck’ into a paste. After that, flick the flour over the paste using a palette knife. Using the ‘sharp’ side of the palette knife ‘chop’ the pastry until all the flour is combined. When combined, frasier the pastry into 6-8 sections (as many sections as you want tarts). This involves shaving 3 slivers off the ball of dough with a pallet knife at a time, and then pressing all the slivers together to form your finished clump of pastry).
If the pastry seems too soft to roll out, wrap it in clingfilm and chill in the fridge. Then, roll it out to fit your tart cases and line them. Good luck with this – the shorter the pastry, the better it’ll taste, but the more frustration it’ll add to your life when you’re trying to line those tins…! Chill in the fridge (regardless of whether you’ve chilled the dough up to this point or not).
Make the Frangipane:
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and put in a baking sheet to heat
Cream the butter in a bowl gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft.
Gradually add the eggs and egg yolks, beating well after each addition.
Add the Calvados or Kirsch if using (I judge you if you don’t), and then stir in the ground almonds and the flour. Spread the frangipane into the chilled pastry cases.
Peel the apples (unless they’re red or pink, in which case leave them as they are), halve them and scoop out the cores. Cut the apples crosswise into very thin slices and arrange them on the frangipane keeping the slices of each apple together. Press them down gently until they touch the pastry base.
Bake the tarts on the preheated baking sheet near the top of the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the pastry dough is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven temperature to 170C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 -35 minutes or until apples are tender and the frangipane is set.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Remove from the tart cases whilst the tarts are still warm as it’s easier.
Make the apricot glaze:
Whilst the tarts are cooling, make the apricot glaze. Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring gently until syrupy. Strain.
Brush the tarts with the apricot glaze quickly (as the glaze can set pretty quickly and become unspreadable) and serve at room temperature. These tarts are best eaten the day they’re cooked, but they can also be frozen.
Et voila… Bask in the glory of the inevitable praise that will follow!