Like many, I have become more reliant on my store cupboard over the last two months. Pulses, grains, legumes that I previously overlooked in favour of my old faithfuls (rigatoni, jasmine rice, borlotti beans, if I’m feeling fancy) are now the staples of my weeknight suppers. It’s exciting to have to cook more regularly with items that I had bought with optimism and good intentions, but had ended up long-term neglected due to, let’s be honest, laziness – but I do occasionally find myself peering at a tin of something or other thinking ‘what am I going to do with that?’.
That’s certainly what happened when I came upon a small collection of tinned fruit: a fruit cocktail, a tin of pear quarters, some apricot halves. My husband (born in the late 80s) has a certain 70s taste when it comes to puddings: he’d probably be happiest if I just served them as they come, in their syrup, with a splash of evaporated milk from another tin. But I can’t resist turning them into something a little more special: stick them in a frangipane tart.
Frangipane is a pastry cream, made by creaming together butter and sugar like you would for cakes or biscuits; eggs are whisked in, and then, in place of flour, ground almonds are folded into the mix, before baking. Frangipane is a forgiving filling for a tart: it carries none of the risks of a custard filling which needs to walk the tightrope between rubbery or soupy, finding its level in the oven, and smoothing out into a smart, golden crust. Still warm it will be soft and slightly custardy; cooled, it slices cleanly, holding its shape and its fruit filling. To eat, it is sweet and nutty, nubbly and tender, contrasting with the crisp, short pastry case. It’s a brilliant vehicle for tinned fruit, elevating it from a default pud to a showstopper.
Here, I’ve used tinned pears as my filling, a family favourite from the days when I was little and we used to have them with tinned rice pudding. They pair (sorry) particularly well with the almondy filling, but almost any tinned fruit will work – I’m a particular fan of apricots, cherries and rhubarb. Although this recipe is designed for tinned fruit, you can of course use fresh: berries won’t need pre-cooking, nor will chopped rhubarb, but if you’re using apples, pears, or very firm plums, they’ll need a bit of a poach before use. If even tinned fruit is beyond your means at the moment, you can sub it for four tablespoons of any jam you have lying around: spread this across the base of your pastry case before spooning on the frangipane topping, to give a bakewell-tart style. Raspberry is the classic of course, but blackberry, blackcurrant or damson jams are particular delights.
And the whole point of this recipe is to make things easy and adaptable, so please, if it suits you better, do use pre-made sweet shortcrust pastry (this is supposed to be joy-bringing, not an exercise in kitchen resentment).
Frangipane tart with tinned fruit
Makes: 1 8 inch tart (8 servings)
Takes: 30 minutes, plus cooling
Bakes: 1 hour
For the pastry
200g plain flour
100g butter, fridge cold, cubed
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp fine salt
1 egg, separated
For the filling
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
250g fruit, peeled and cored, or 4 tbsp jam
- First, make your pastry. In a large bowl, rub the cubed butter into the plain flour with your fingertips, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir the sugar and salt through the rubbly mixture, and then add the egg yolk. ‘Cut’ the egg yolk (reserve and refrigerate the egg white) into the mix using a kitchen knife until the dough begins to come together; use your hands to bring it together completely. If it remains crumbly, add a couple of drops of cold water to help it along. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Place the refrigerated pastry between two sheets of baking paper lightly dusted with flour, and roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin – it should be a couple of inches wider in diameter than your 8 inch tart tin. Carefully peel one side of the baking paper from the pastry, then lay the pastry across your pastry tin, and carefully pull away the remaining baking paper. Ease the pastry into the curves and angles of the pastry tin until it lies flush. Cut any excess pastry away from the edge with a sharp knife. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and as long as a couple of days).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the clingfilm from the pastry, and prick all over with a fork. Place the tart tin on a baking tray, and cover the pastry with baking paper, oven safe clingfilm, or tin foil, and fill to the brim with baking weights – ceramic beans, dried beans, dried rice, or granulated sugar, and bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the frangipane: cream together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, stirring until completely combined, then fold through the ground almonds.
- Remove the baking weights and the covering from the pastry, and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden. When you remove the tart case from the oven, brush it with a little of the reserved egg white: it will cook in the residual heat, and fill any docking holes left from when you pricked it.
- If you’re using jam, spread it evenly across the base of the tart case. Smooth the frangipane across the tart, levelling with a kitchen knife to achieve an even layer. Try not to let it overlap the edge of the pastry, as this will make it trickier for the pastry to release. If you’re using fruit, drain off any liquid from the tin, and press the pieces of fruit gently into the frangipane: the filling will rise up a little in the oven, partially covering the fruit.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is risen, golden-brown, and taut on top. Leave to cool completely before carefully removing from the tart tin. Dust with icing sugar before serving.