Since puff pastry deserves a post unto itself where I can photo-chronicle every step of the long process, those of you who want to attempt this from scratch will have to wait for a future post. I’m not a fan of store-bought anything, so I can feign ignorance to your recipe attempts…. la la la la la…
French Almond Flans and Pithiviers Recipe
And now for my recipes – explained, with historicity. The French Almond Flan is just one of the endless variations of flan and custard desserts around the world. The name “Flan” is begins with a word in old French “flaon”, which comes from Latin “flado” meaning “custard”.
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In our recipe, the flan is baked in a tart shell and the pears are artfully arranged into a rose, although the baking process did flatten out the pears a tad, making my rose not-so-obvious. (see above, and make me feel better by exclaiming: “Why yes, it is TOTALLY a rose!“
Pithiviers originate from Pithivier, France, where cafes will still happily serve you a slice with caramel or vanilla ice cream. These pastries are formed into round, enclosed pies and filled with frangipane and fresh fruit, although savoury pies can also be considered pithiviers. The top of the puff pastry that seals the pie is often scored into with circular or geometric cuts, to allow steam to escape during baking, but also for dramatic effect.
Many people use scalloped-round cutters to acheive an even more dramatic finish to their pithiviers, which are brushed with an apricot (or other fruit) glaze when they cool to leave a delicious and attractive glaze.
Frangipane is a french pastry made with ground almond paste, or marzipan. It’s roots are traced back to a 16th century Italian nobleman Marquis Muzio Frangipani, who designed almond perfume-scented gloves that were extremely popular among the fashionable.
Pastry chefs, noting this trend, sought out to capture the popular scent in dessert, and when the perfume was added to an almond cream dessert, the result was frangipane.
I personally love frangipane…and almonds….and marzipan… I recently bought a 5kg box of marzipan from McCalls, to use to coat Joanna’s Princess Torte and to have on hand, and every time I use the stuff in a recipe, I nibble until I am marzipaned-out. People actually comment: How are you not eating this? I feign indifference. It’s great because then I don’t appear like a glutton, fisting handfuls of my baked goods in my mouth as I’m offering it to guests, which is what I predict would happen had I not nibbled. There is reason to my madness, you see.
Frangipane Recipe is as follows:
- 340 g Almond Paste (66% almonds)/Marzipan
- 270 g Butter
- 140 g White Sugar
- 240 g Whole Eggs
- 100 g Pastry Flour
How to Make Frangipane
Place the marzipan, softened butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl with the paddle attatchment. Mix on low speed until combined and scrape down bowl. Turn mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl again. Turn mixer on low speed and gradually add eggs, mixing until blended.
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Scrape bowl. Back on first speed, add flour in steady stream. Scrape bowl and turn mixer to high speed, for 30 seconds to make sure all ingredients are properly blended. Scrape bowl a final time. You’ve just made frangipane! Set aside. This recipe is enough for both the french almond flan and anywhere from 4-8 pithiviers depending on the size.
The flan requires a sweet pastry crust in the tart pan.
Sweet Crust Pastry Recipe
- 227 g Unsalted Butter
- 115 g Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 115 g All Purpose Flour
- 227 g Pastry Flour
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
How to Make Sweet Crust Pastry Recipe
Cream sugar and butter together with a paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed. Scrape bowl. Turn mixer on medium speed. Meanwhile, sift flours together. Add the flours on the lowest speed, so as to not have a flour explosion in your kitchen, and mix until just blended. Wrap the dough in plastic, and let it rest in the fridge for at least a half hour, preferably 2. The longer it rests, the better the results.
Ingredients French Almond Flans
- Pastry lined tart pan(s)
- Pears (6 halves) – canned or fresh
- Apricot glaze, approximately 200 g
- 2/3 of your almond filling.
To make your French Almond Flans:
Using a pastry bag, fill your tart shells to the top. Thinly slice your pears. Fan the slice around artfully, on top of the almond filling. Note: do not slice your pears TOO thin, and make sure they form layers as you work your fan of pear slices inwards.
Bake in the oven at 400 degrees F for one hour, until the pie is golden brown, although check every so often after the half hour mark because baking times may vary. The pie should be firm, not wobbly, and the filling should be set. Remove the pie from oven and cool. Once cooled, brush with apricot glaze. Then taste the almond-y goodness.
Ingredients Pithiviers Recipe
- 500 g of puff pastry dough
- 4-6 apricot halves
- 1/3 of your almond filling
- Egg Wash
To make the Pithiviers Recipe:
Roll out your puff pastry dough into 7″ circles 1/8″ thick base for the bottom; my recipe indicates that the top should be smaller, but even circles are perfectly acceptable in my opinion, and perhaps more desirable if you like to stuff your little pies with as much frangipane and apricots as it can muster. But be careful! Filling too much will cause your pastry to open, spill out and become a hot mess. Which is what did happen to a few of mine, in my stuffing spree.
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Ahem. Anyway – Fill the centre of your puff dough circles with almond filling, creating slight domes, but making sure to leave 3/4″ clear, from the edges. Place apricots on the almond mound. Wash the edges with egg wash and cover with top puff pastry dough circle, gently pressing together edges to adhere. Score the top of your pastry with a sharp knife, stopping short of the edge again.
Egg wash, making sure to not have excessive dripping. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 200 degrees C for 12 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 190 degrees C and bake for another 30 minutes until it puffs up beautifully (it will puff a LOT), is a beautiful golden colour, and a knife inserted comes out clean. Don’t bother with formalities like plates, utensils or the common courtesy of sharing. Dig in!