plum frangipane tartlets

Back in good ole' Jersey, there is a magical highway called Route 17. Do you need to get your oil changed, re-carpet your living room, and buy a puppy in one afternoon? Go to Route 17 - it's got everything you could ever possibly need in life in one, very unsightly, highly congested road.

Besides for the puppy store, my favorite place to frequent on 17 is an overwhelmingly large kitchen store called Chef Central. Sure, it's excessive and overpriced, and at any given time, there's always a clueless suburban housewife buying a $20 bamboo skimmer she could have bought at a Chinese market for $3. But it's also endlessly entertaining to skim the aisles and marvel at those unnecessarily specialized products, like a hard-boiled egg slicer. Back where I come from, they call those knives. 

I was lucky enough to receive a Chef Central gift card a while ago, and spent the better part of a year thinking about perfecting my list of how I was going to spend it (I'm really weird about lists. I blame GoogleDocs). When it was time to put it into action, I was really good and stuck to the plan of buying practical things that I really needed: a pastry scraper, some cheesecloth, a new meat thermometer. But then, I got to the register and the impossible happened - I was under the gift card amount by $4. Unable to live with such a reality, I ran to the aisle of pretty things I had avoided, and grabbed two shiny tartlet molds with removable bottoms that made me swoon. (And yes, they cost more than $4. Paying out of your pocket is better than leaving a minuscule amount on a gift card, am I right?) Since then, I've obviously used these more than anything else I got that day. These plum frangipane tartlets were my first attempt, and I have to say - I did really good, guys. Top-accomplishments-of-2011-good.

First step - the pastry crust, or if you want to sound extra fancy, the pâte brisée. I've made crust a couple of times, but generally I avoid making it for a really silly reason: I just hate seeing in person all the butter that goes in there. Like, this much butter...

But I got over it this time, and I don't think I will ever go back. The difference is really unbelievable (although I will still always have a frozen Trader Joes crust in the freezer for emergencies). The secret, I think, is the coldness of all the ingredients. 

This recipe makes enough dough for a large tart, but since I was only making two mini tartlets, I wrapped half of it tightly in plastic wrap and froze it for another time (which turned out to be only two days later. So long, diet).

After rolling out the dough, I placed it carefully over the mold, and really took care not to stretch it out at any point, especially when pushing it gently against the sides. If you stretch out the dough, the crust will experience shrinkage...and no one likes shrinkage. 

My favorite part was pushing the rolling pin over the top of dough-draped mold, which perforates the edges perfectly against the dainty scalloped edges.

Pre-baking ensures a crisp, flaky crust with structural integrity to counterbalance the moist stickiness of the frangipane filling. Using a fork, I pricked the bottom of the crusts, lined them with parchment paper, and filled them with rice (dried beans will work too).

I fall head over heels for anything involving almonds. This frangipane isn't as custardy as other ones I've tried, but it is amazing in its own right. Dense, sweet, and intensely nutty, it was a perfect bed for the slices of tart plum. 

It's hard to imagine a fruit tart looking any prettier than it does once it comes out of the oven, but taking the extra step to glaze the top does just that. Most recipes call for some warmed up apricot jam, but I didn't have that on hand. What I did have was an extra plum, which I grated in a small saucepan with some water and sugar to make a quick syrup.

I'm not what most people would consider a lady of elegance and grace. But hot damn, did I feel like one when I pulled this one out. Talk about an absolute showstopper - and all thanks to a leftover $4.

plum frangipane tartlets 
makes two  inch tartlets (double the recipe for a full tart)

pâte brisée crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, diced 
2 tablespoons shortening
¼ cup ice water

frangipane filling
½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons butter
8 teaspoons sugar
1 egg


1 plum
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water
(or use apricot jam)

1 medium to large ripe plum

Crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put diced butter and shortening in a separate bowl, and freeze as well. After 30 minutes, put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water slowly through the top of the processor and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out the dough and fit into greased tart pans with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Prick the bottom of the crusts with a fork. Line the tart shells with a piece of parchment paper, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 7 minutes, remove the weights and paper, then bake naked for another 4 minutes.

Frangipane: While the crusts are cooling, combine the almonds, the butter, and sugar in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground. Add the egg, and process until it becomes a paste. 

Halve the plum and remove the pit. Slice into very thin wedges.

Spoon the frangipane evenly between the two tart shells, and arrange plum on top in a spiral shape. Bake at 375F for 30-35, or until the top is golden brown. 

Glaze: If making plum glaze, combine grated plum, water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and let it reduce. Taste and add more sugar if necessary (depending on the sweetness of your plum). If using apricot jam, warm a little in a saucepan or microwave.

When tarts come out of the oven, brush the fruit with the glaze. Let them cool to room temperature, and serve. Of course, some fresh whipped cream would be absolutely lovely, but I simply couldn't wait.