I have been obsessed with the idea of this tart ever since I saw the tour of Paule Caillat's kitchen here.
Paule, the owner and operator of Promenades Gourmandes, offers cooking classes & gourmet walks in Paris. I'd written to Paule during the summer in order to make reservations for my 'Paris Encore' trip in December which, quite sadly, had to postponed indefinitely. When I saw her kitchen & the photos of her fig tart I had to write to her again & ask for the recipe. It looked so beautiful.
Paule wrote back & told me the tart was a simple sweet tart dough with crème d'amandes - which she said was butter blended into equal amounts of almond meal, sugar and 1 egg & I could use any fruit on top. I had to do a little research to find a recipe for crème d'amandes which I had initially thought would be almond pastry cream. But another look at the ingredient list told me it wasn't. And so what she probably meant was Frangipane.
Once again, there were so many recipes for frangipane that it was hard to pick one to work with. So I just went with the first and simplest one that showed up in my google search (found it at About.com) and made the Frangipane before I started working on the tart shell. Here's the recipe I used:
Frangipane (makes enough to fill one 9" tart shell)
barely adapted from About.com
1/2 cup ground almond meal (I ground my own almonds - I think it took about 120g to make 1/2 a cup)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I could have used a little more)
3 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla vanilla extract
Blend the butter with the almond meal and sugar. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing till smooth. Set aside.
Now there's no reason for me to look at recipes for sweet tart dough anywhere when I've had such great success with Dorie Greenspans' Sweet Tart Dough. However, Paule was the inspiration for this experiment and her recipe involves a completely different, very intriguing technique which I've really wanted to try out since I saw it on David Lebovitz's blog.
The recipe requires butter, water and oil to be to be heated in the oven after which flour is thrown into the melted mixture and everything is stirred together till it's smooth. There's no need to chill the dough or to even roll it - all you have to do is simply press it into a pan and bake. You don't even have to add baking weights because all it needs is a few pricks with with tines of a fork. That's all. really.
It is so simple to make and yields such a beautiful, flaky pastry shell. This dough will not let you down. Try it out the next time you decide to make a tart.
Paule Caillat's French Pastry Dough
(by David Lebovitz)
(do head over to his blog to see DL's photo tutorial here)
90g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 slightly rounded cup all purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 410F.
In a medium-sized oven-proof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar and salt.
Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and begins to brown just around the edges.
Carefully remove the bowl from the oven (be very careful here - it really sputters!), throw in the flour and stir it quickly. I used a whisk initially & worked it until I had large clumps of dough - then I switched over to a spatula and gave it a stir or two after which it formed a perfect ball of dough.
I divided the dough into 4 & transferred it to my mini-tart molds, patted it down with the spatula and then worked with my fingers to press it up the sides. I allowed the shells to cool and then pricked them with a fork before par-baking them for 5 minutes. One of the shells had puffed up a little when I took it out, but I simply patted it down with the back of a spoon.
Once the shells were completely cool, I divided the frangipane between them and baked them for 15 minutes (Paule's instructions were to bake the tart for a total of 30 mins, adding the fruit after 10 minutes - but I was using small molds so I increased the amount of time). I then layered the sliced figs on top and baked the tarts for 30 - 35 minutes. I think I over-baked a little, since I wasn't sure how long to bake them. And so my tarts looks nothing like Paule's tart, but I loved creating them.