Almond Amaretto Tarts
While pastry crusts can sometimes be super-frustrating to create, this one comes together pretty easily. For this sweeter tart, I am making a sugar-butter based crust– pateê sucrée, technically.
Although I am positive that all of you have been studying your french pastry flashcards this year, let’s have a quick review about the various types of french pastry crusts. The three common crust types are: Patê Brisée, Patê Sucrée and Patê Sablée.
Patê Brisée is a savory crust, utilizing unsweet ingredients. This is what you would pick for a nice quiché-like pastry. Throw some leftover zucchini and cheese in it from when you made our Crispy Zucchini Parmesan Fries last night and voila! Beautiful savory tart.
Finally, we have Patê Sablée. This literally means sand paste. The sand reference comes from the larger addition of sugar. Sablée dough would be best utilized in shortbread cookies or another more crumbly recipe.
Preparing the dough is fairly easy in this case. We just mix our dry ingredients (Best weighed out to be precise! Proper pastry is a science!) and combine thoroughly, cream in the (very cold) butter and then add in some cream and an egg. Who said french pastry dough had to be so difficult?! Pfft. Once the dough is forming clumps, we push it into a nice disk and chill it. It is critical to keep the butter very cold during this entire process. Those little chunks of buttery lovin’ are what make the crust flaky and delicious when you bake it!
I prefer to work my dough on a marble slab just to be sure that it doesn’t warm too much. If this isn’t an option, just keep it cool and work in refrigerated batches if you need to.
Now that the dough is marbled with butter and ready, roll it out and punch out your shapes. I prefer my crusts to be fairly thin for tarts/tartlets (baby tarts… d’awww), about 1/4″ max.
There are a few ways to shape the tarts/tartlets. You can use a traditional fluted-top large mold, smaller individual size tart molds, or even the standard muffin pan! I went with the muffin pan method this time, wanting to make sure that I had a deeper well since I was layering the filling with a caramel-nut topping.
BLOGGER FAIL: I originally used the bottom of the pan to drape the pastry dough over and bake the shells. They baked perfectly, leaving flaky fillable molds for the tarts. I then proceeded to take photos of the filled shells… That was when the world came to a sudden stop. My backdrop came crashing down on the beautiful little innocent tarts, destroying every. single. one. of them in its path. After picking up the pieces of the tarts (and obviously my heart and tears that went with it), I started all over again.
This time I switched things up a bit and made the shells inside the muffin pan. Not sure why, really. I just though that I would. In order to fit the pastry circles into the molds, I had to cut out a tiny triangle. Bring the ends together and be sure the dough it pressed into the seam of the pan well. Poke vent holes to prevent any puffing, fill and bake. This time I attached the backdrop for the photos to the table. With superglue. And screws. And a metal arc welder.
Now for the filling! That sweet, buttery dessert tart crust (Come on! I know you know what it is called. You studied those flashcards, right? Patê sucreée. Two points tarts for you!) seems to go so unbelievably well with the deep caramel taste of almonds.
Frangipane is an almond based cream filling that includes sugar, flour, butter and generally eggs. We will toss an egg into our mixture for this filling to give it some volume to fill the shells. The recipe calls for almond flour/meal, which is easily made my throwing some almond (any type, skin or not) into a food processor with the sugar and a bit of flour and letting it go to town until very fine.
You can also find this at most grocery/natural stores. My favorite by far is Trader Joe’s almond meal. Cheaper than most, and very high quality. Don’t forget to do this with the sugar and flour, or you will end up with a (still very tasty) almond paste. This will cause issues with the filling base. Save the paste for another day.
If frangipane sounds a bit familiar, it is probably because you have more likely heard of it’s evil step-sister, marzipan. Marzipan is an almond candy, made with powdered sugar and corn syrup/glucose.
The BOOZE! Goodness. How could I have almost forgotten to mention the booze?! The caramel that we will drown the nuts in for the top of these tarts is infused with none other than one of my favorite sweetened liquors, Amaretto (I prefer Disaronno). This liquor has a distinct almond (almost cherry-like) note that will pair perfectly with the creamy, smooth homemade caramel. If making caramel (which certainly takes some practice to learn when is caramel and when is completely burned) isn’t your thing, melt down some of those sweet little cubes and stir in the Amaretto. I won’t judge you, and nobody has to know.
The combination of the buttery, flaky crust, the almond cream baked filling and the salty, booze-boosted caramel nut topping is really just perfect. Serve it with a great cup of coffee. PERFECT start (or finish) to any day!
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