I feel slightly silly about putting up a blog post documenting the progress of my herb garden but honestly, I am just so excited! Last week, I moved the herb planter outside onto the patio - these babies are happy in the full sun & I've been watering them daily - they seem to be thriving. It's definitely a therapeutic process for me, particularly after a long stressful hours, I get to look at these beauties - & doing so reminds me to take a moment to just reflect & revel in their complex yet seemingly quiet existence. & of course, I coo when I notice leaf development, excitedly showing my fiancé, haha If you are interested in growing your own herbs, I highly encourage the endeavour - especially if you have access to sunlight! Believe me, I honestly thought that I had an innate knack for killing plants - I am attesting that this is not so! (: I am greatly looking forward to harvesting these! Anybody else growing anything as we advance towards summertime?
My most favourite way to utilise almond meal/flour is to make macarons – however, I decided that I should experiment. I recently bought a pair of delightful fluted tartlet tins from Sur La Table & was scheming to create something delicious with them.. Naturally, it would have to involve a frangipane tart of sorts!
It’s relatively simple to make frangipane – the most crucial ingredient is of course almond meal. Almond ‘meal’ or ‘flour’ is interchangeable. It’s essentially raw blanched almonds that are finely ground. You can find it in the bulk flour section at your co-op, local natural foods grocery or Whole Foods Market &/or Bob’s Red Mill, for instance, sells it packaged in the baking section of most grocery stores. You will find that almond meal is pricey! But worth it.
My recipe for frangipane does contain a dash of almond essence – which I must point out is not necessary. It’s a matter of availability & personal preference (i.e. I really enjoy the pronounced taste of almonds!) One of my baking mentors said that when in France, almond extract is not used in a true frangipane since some people think that it overpowers the natural pungency of the almond flour. Another thing to note is that my recipe uses turbinado sugar (raw cane sugar), which can be easily substituted with regular granulated sugar. I just happen to really enjoy the subtle flavour of this type of sugar; not to mention, I love the crunch of this sugar when it’s topping scones or muffins.
I decided to do a pear-frangipane tart (the stonefruits that I love aren’t in season yet & I opted for a pretty organic Bartlett over apples). & besides, apples make me think it’s autumn – it’s mid-May afterall! But substitute as you’d like (: I myself cannot wait till plums & peaches are in season..
2 oz (¼ C) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz (¼ C) turbinado sugar
1 whole egg
5 oz (¾ C) almond meal
1 T all-purpose flour
a dash of salt, vanilla extract &/or almond essence
While creaming the room temperature butter & turbinado sugar until fluffy, set aside a bowl of the almond meal, all-purpose flour tablespoon & salt. No need to panic if the turbinado sugar granules do not dissolve completely; it’s frangipane! It will be fine. Incorporate the egg + essences into the sugar + butter mixture until well-combined. Fold in the dry ingredients until the mixture is well-combined & smooth. This yields about a cup & a half of frangipane – if you have excess, it can keep in the fridge for about a week. You can even freeze it & keep it for longer!
I figure that if you don’t have a tart dough recipe that you enjoy using, here’s one that I use. It’s from Smitten Kitchen! I first used it when I made some pumpkin chiffon pie on the fly at my parents’ last Thanksgiving – I was happy to try something new out & the results were fantastic. Making tart dough is less daunting than one would presume; it can be made via a stand-mixer, pastry blender, steel dough scraper or even a fork! My only advice about utilizing the stand mixer for this is that you must not walk away from it while it’s paddling away in action.. Elsewise your dough will be overmixed & that would be really unfortunate!
from Smitten Kitchen, more or less.
2 ½ C all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 t sea salt
1 C (8 oz) unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes
Cut the butter into the dry (in this case, the tablespoon of sugar is considered part of the dry) until well incorporated, to the consistency of coarse damp crumbly sand (how else to describe this?) A few pea-sized bits of butter is deemed fine! Drizzle some ice-cold water (about half a cup) while combining (use a wooden spoon or spatula for this, then knead with your hands last, as you don’t want the warmth of your hands to warm the dough much). When the mixture holds together but is still craggy, I would say that the dough is ready! Form into flat disks (depending on the size of your tart or pie shell) & plastic wrap them. Put in the refrigerator to chill for about 45 minutes (or if you are in a pinch for time, in the freezer, for about 20 minutes, depending on thickness). If you have an excess of tart dough; just double plastic wrap it & put it in the freezer. It will keep for a couple of months (surely you’ll make use of it before too long, eh?)
ASSEMBLING THE FRANGIPANE TART
Roll out your tart dough to an even quarter-inch thickness & press it into your tart tin. Dock along the bottom & along the sides. If you have your frangipane ready, fill the shells about 3 tablepoons or so each; spread the filling evenly. At this point, thinly slice your fruit of choice into your desired sections. Typically, one would either fan the slices or just slightly overlap them atop of the frangipane. Whichever way you’d like, honestly. Egg wash the tops of the fruit & the exposed tart crust edges; sprinkle with sugar & chill the assembled tarts in the fridge for about 15 minutes while your oven is pre-heating to 375ºF. Once your oven is ready; take your tarts & place them on a sheetpan & bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Happy May. I am putting up this post amidst a very hectic time of long work days, time spent on my bicycle traversing some neat trails, decompressing on the beach & sporadic outings. Life is good & very busy!
I am trying not to fall away from posting but I will admit that it has been a while (okay, maybe four to five weeks ago?!) since I posted last – it is about a week into May afterall! Speaking of May, it’s funny how a lot of the locals here bemoan ‘spring’ & complain that it’s more like “April flowers & May showers”. Despite of a random passing of the Santa Ana winds last week (amounting to ~90º) – it’s been overcast, a bit windy & even raining – if you know me; you know that I am loving it!
Thanks to an Earth Day community event that I chanced upon, I had the opportunity to sow an herb garden! This is something that I’ve always wanted to do but had always lacked the space & accessibility to sunlight.
In Seattle, I had always managed to kill plants.. But I am finding that constant care & attention (water+sunlight) are key to their survival (this is common sensical I know but really!). I love growing them; it’s so amazing to see them come from such tiny seeds & flourishing. I look forward to being able to harvest them. I’ve also sown radishes – it’s all very exciting to me! Something about the little seedlings sprouting.
I’ve also got rosemary & lavender coming along; though they aren’t are lively as these three at the moment! Any advice about patio planting? Please share as I am clearly a novice. What’s everyone else planting? (: