Apple & Chestnut frangipane tart
The cross-section of the hard, shiny brown outer shell reveals a soft, delicately sweet flesh that once removed can be the source of many choose-your-own-culinary-adventures, I for one, find it extremely hard not to partake in the "one for me, one for the bowl" when peeling these little gems. The opportunities are endless when it comes to cooking or baking with them and not all of them require standing around an open fire, decked out in puffer jackets, scarves, and beanies all the while swirls of warm breath drift off in the chilled autumn air.
It all began when Chestnuts Australia generously gifted me a bag full of, well, chestnuts. Firstly, I was not aware that chestnuts should be stored in the refrigerator and that when tucked up in an airtight container will happily sit in the chill of the fridge for 2 weeks. Forever learning! Secondly, peeling warm chestnuts is by far an easier task than peeling cold ones.
They make a wonderfully smooth and creamy pumpkin and chestnut soup but are perhaps more widely known for their addition in sweets. This brings me to this rather lovely apple, chestnut frangipane tart.
A celebration of autumn. Of crisp, new season apples paired with the sweetness of chestnut puree folded into frangipane and encased in a short, butter-laden pastry laced with a fine layer of chestnut meal. Once baked, a stream of warmed thyme-infused honey glistens over the top, the aroma alone takes over all control and before you know it, you've taken your first mouthful, standing at the kitchen bench, as the rain outside beats against the window.
Apple & chestnut frangipane tart
500g chestnuts, roasted and peeled to yield 350-360g
Preheat your oven to 180c (fan-forced).
Cut a shallow cross into the flat side of each chestnut shell. Place the chestnuts onto a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the shells split open.
once cooked, wrap the chestnuts in a clean tea towel for 5 minutes. While the chestnuts are still warm, quickly peel off the outer brown shell and papery thin skin underneath.
For the chestnut puree
350-360g prepared chestnuts
1 cup water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, and seeds scraped
Take 50-60g of chestnuts and blitz to a fine crumb in a food processor and then set aside. You will use this in the pastry.
With the remaining 300g of chestnuts, place into a small saucepan with the water, sugar, vanilla bean, and seeds and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, strain, and reserve the syrup. Place the nuts into a food processor along with 3 tablespoons of syrup and blend until smooth. You may find that you need to add some extra syrup, or some warm water to get it to the right consistency. Store in a sealed jar in the fridge. This recipe will make more than what you need, but it is delicious made into a chocolate and chestnut ice cream or dolloped into warm bowls of porridge.
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
50-60g chestnut meal
200g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl, except for the egg yolk. Rub the butter into the floured mix using your thumbs and fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and bring together to form a dough. Gently knead into a round disc, wrap in baking paper, and pop into the fridge for 1 hour to rest.
For the apples
peel 3 apples, I use pink ladies. Slice these thinly, keeping them whole and slicing them into round discs. Toss with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and set to one side.
For the Frangipane
50g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g chestnut puree
50g plain flour
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, and chestnut puree and continue to beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if need be. Fold through the flour until smooth.
Lightly dust your bench with a shower of flour and roll out the pastry into a large round, it doesn't matter if it is not perfectly round, the more rustic the better I say! You want to roughly get to about a 30-35cm round-ish shape. Lay a sheet of baking paper over the top of a large round pizza tray, or alternatively a large flat baking tray, and carefully roll the pastry back onto the rolling pin before unrolling and draping over the tray.
spread the frangipane evenly over the top of the pastry, leaving a 5cm border around the edge. Drain the apples from any excess lemon juice and lay them over the frangipane, I like to start from the outside, overlapping them as I go, working my way into the center.
Now, bring the edges of the pastry in and over the apples, pleating where it naturally wants to fold. Dot over a little extra butter and pop into the preheated oven to bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden.
Meanwhile, warm about 2 tbsp of honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat together with the stripped leaves from a tall sprig of thyme, until runny. Once the tart has baked to perfection, drizzle over the warmed thyme-infused honey. You can either enjoy it right away or allow it to cool to room temperature. Either way, you are in for one very welcoming late-autumn treat.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container, in the fridge, but bring it back to room temperature (if you can be bothered) before serving.