French tarts – easier than you might think

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I’ve just had a week in France with friends, indulging in lots of wine, cheese and …frangipane tarts.
I’ve been testing a recipe for my first cookery book Sesame and Spice, which is out in February (hurrah!) and though I’m not sharing the exact recipe that’s in the book, here’s a delicious prune and Armagnac version that’s equally as good and easy, to boot.
It makes a fantastic dinner party dessert, and you can adapt it with whatever fruit and alcohol you fancy.
Try apricot quarters and Amaretto or apple slices and Calvados, for instance.
Always serve with a large dollop of creme fraiche, ideally a glass of French dessert wine and good friends.

You will need

a 26cm tart tin

350g sweet, shortcrust pastry (shop bought is fine)
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Armagnac or any liqueur of your choice – Cointreau works well
20 prunes – get the semi soft ones, not the hard ones
1 tablespoon of those crunchy white sugar crystals, optional

Roll out the pastry into a circle about 3mm thick and use it to line the pastry tin. Gently push it into the corners and leave any overhang.
Chill, covered with cling film, for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 4.
Scrumple up a piece of baking parchment and put it over the pastry. Part-fill the pastry case with baking beans – or you can used dried beans or lentils. You’re just trying to keep the pastry from puffing up while you pre-bake it, which stops soggy bottom issues.
Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until the pastry looks pale and sandy, with no dry patches.
Leave to cool.
Turn the oven down by 20 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the frangipane filling. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the almonds, mix together again, and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the Armagnac or other alcohol and mix in well.
Using a serrated knife, trim the excess pastry from the rim of the case.
Spoon the mixture into the cooled pastry case and level off. Arrange the prunes in the frangipane and sprinkle with sugar crystals, if using.
Bake for 40 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with creme fraiche and a glass of Monbazillac dessert wine.

French tarts - easier than you might think

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