Fig and Walnut Frangipane Tart
It had been raining all day, the type of rain that soaks into the earth saturating everything in sight. A very pungent onion caused my eyes to pool with water. I closed them tight and blinked, as I continued talking to mum, my phone resting on the windowsill so that she could see both myself and my little sous-chef beside me. He was busying himself by attempting to cut into a juicy red tomato with a butter knife.
I overheard Ben talking to someone at the front door, it was our neighbour. He had snuck over when there was a break in the weather to drop in some of his legume stew and a bottle of champagne. There was a note attached, "firstly thank you for your kindness and generosity in giving us the fig tart. The fact that it may be the best cake I have ever had is another matter entirely. I just did a batch of my legume stew which I hope you might enjoy."
In a world that has changed dramatically in just a short amount of time, where words like "social distancing" have now become part of our daily lives, could it be that perhaps we have in fact become more social? more connected? A greater sense of community seems to be unfolding. Sharing, kindness and generosity are in abundance to lesser known people in our lives, to our neighbours and also to our family and friends whom we have had to distance ourselves from. Its hard, it's challenging but I also feel that this is making us realise just how special it is to be able to see the people we want to see, whenever we want to see them, to be able to hug them, to share a laugh, to have a long conversation face to face in the comfort of our homes, a cup of tea and a piece of cake by our sides. It is these simple things that we have taken for granted up until now. It's not until something is taken from us that we begin to realise just how much we miss it, how much we crave it. Out of a bad situation good always comes, we just have to wait a little bit longer to realise the fullness, when all of this is a distant memory my hope is that the world and the way we live in it is a better one.
Maybe I'm being naïve, but all I'm trying to do is remain positive in an ever changing landscape. If we remain positive we are halfway there. One thing is certain - food will always be there to share, to comfort, to enjoy and to connect. And however lovely it would be to share a piece of this Fig and walnut frangipane tart with a friend, in real-life, over a cup of tea, my hope is that by sharing this recipe with you that you may add it to your "to bake list" and perhaps leave it on a neighbours doorstep. It's the next best thing.
Fig & Walnut frangipane tart
Makes a 23cm tart
For the pastry
225g spelt (you could use plain flour as well, but I like the flavour the spelt has for this tart)
2 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into smallish chunks
60-70ml iced water
For the filling
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs, at room temperature
250g walnut meal (Blitz whole walnuts in a food processor until fine crumbs, or you could use almond meal)
50g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of fig jam (orange marmalade would also work too)
3-4 figs, depending on their size, sliced
a small handful of raw almonds, chopped coarsely
In medium bowl place the flour, sugar and salt in and give it a whisk to combine. Pop the butter in and then using your fingertips rub it into the flour until it resembles course crumbs. Its ok to have a few larger chunks of butter. Add in the iced water bit by bit until you have a ball of dough. You may need a little more or a little less, just feel it with your hands, if it feels too dry and is crumbly you need more water and if it's too wet and sticky then add a little more flour.
Shape it into a disc and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap up in baking paper and place into the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. You can even rest it overnight. Just take it out of the fridge to bring to room temperature, as it will make the rolling process easier.
While waiting, cream the butter and sugar together, then add in the eggs one by one until they are all combined well. Put the walnut meal, flour, ginger and salt in and beat on low speed until everything is combined. Set aside.
Grease a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin with a little butter and then roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until its slightly bigger than the tin. Roll it up onto the rolling pin and then drape it over and into the tin, pressing the sides in and down until its snug. Trim off any excess and set aside. Pop the tart tin back into the fridge to rest for another 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Next, place some foil in to the pastry base and pour in baking weights or rice, or dried beans. Place the tin onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and put into the oven on the bottom shelf for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and then pop back into the oven on the middle shelf for another 5 minutes or until its just golden and feels slightly dry to the touch. Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees Celsius.
Spread the jam over the base and then spread the frangipane filling evenly over the top. Top with the sliced figs and then scatter over the chopped almonds. Pop it back into the oven for about 50 minutes, or until its golden and set in the middle. Just give it a little shake, if it doesn't wobble then its ready. Take it out and allow to rest in the tin until cool enough to remove.
Slice and serve with a dollop of yoghurt, cream or creme friache and slice the rest up, wrap it up and tie with a pretty string and take pleasure in dropping it off on the doorsteps of your neighbours.
It keeps well in the fridge for at least 5 days if you keep it all for yourself!