Monday, July 09, 2012

Frangipane Tarts.

A frangipane tart is a tart filled with fragrant, creamy, almond-flavoured filling, isn’t it?. Well, that’s one definition anyway. The origin of the name is a bit obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the name is that of the inventor, but does not elucidate. Other sources assume that this person - not necessarily the inventor, but the person with the same name – was an eleventh century Roman nobleman. The family name comes from frangere il pane, or ‘break the bread – and there are several explanations of how it was acquired by the family. It is difficult to explain how ‘breaking the bread’  became part of the heritage of the fragrant, creamy tart. Perhaps it was via the work of a member of the Frangipane family who became a perfumer to Louis XIII of France, his name somehow becoming associated with certain varieties of fragrant flowering tropical trees. This connection then only leaves us to find an explanation of how the fragrance of this plant became the name of a tart.

There are other random factoids which may or may not be relevant. Another explanation of the plant name is that it is actually from franchipane, meaning coagulated milk (does it?) – which references the milky sap from the frangipani tree. By 1844, one dictionary (Hoblyn) gave the definition ‘Frangipan, an extract of milk, for preparing artificial milk, made by evaporating skimmed milk to dryness, mixed with almonds and sugar.’

Clearly, there is at least a tome or two in the history of frangipane tart. I give you the first recipe I have found, after a not-very exhaustive search. It is from La Varenne’s The French Cook (1653), and is most intriguing as it seems that the multiple layers of cobweb-fine pastry are the defining thing – the filling is barely mentioned, and certainly no particular flavour is specified.

Tourte of franchipanne.
Take the fairest flower you can get, and allay it with the whites of eggs; presently take the twelfth part of your paste, and spread it until you may see through ti; butter your plate, or tourte panne, spread this first sheet, dresse it up, butter at the top, and doe the same to the number of six, then put what creame you will, and make the top as the bottome to the number of six sheets; bake your tourte leasurely; after it is baked, besprinkle it with water of flours, sugar it well and serve.
You must have a care to worke up your paste as soone as it is made, and because it drieth up sooner then you are aware, and when it is unusefull, because your sheets must be as thinne as cobwebs, therefore you must choose a moist place.

By the nineteenth century, if not earlier, the frangipane tart had become more recogniseable to modern eyes and taste buds, as the recipe below shows. Now all we need is some recipes from the intervening couple of hundred years.

Frangipané Tartlets.
One quarter pint of cream, four yolks of eggs, two ounces of flour, three macaroons, four tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar, the peel of a grated lemon, and a little citron cut very fine, a little brandy and orange-flower water. Put all the ingredients, except the eggs, in a saucepan - of course you will mix the flour smooth in the
cream first--let them come to a boil slowly, stirring to prevent lumps; when the flour smells cooked, take it off the fire for a minute, then stir the beaten yolks of eggs into it. Stand the saucepan in another of boiling water and return to the stove, stirring till the eggs seem done--about five minutes, if the water boils all the time. Line patty
pans with puff paste, and fill with frangipané and bake. Ornament with chopped almonds and meringue, or not, as you please.
Culture and Cooking: or, Art in the Kitchen, (New York, 1881) by Catherine Owen

Quotation for the Day.

Almond blossom, sent to teach us
That the spring days soon will reach us.
            Sir Edwin Arnold, Almond Blossoms

1 comment:

Lapinbizarre said...

I love frangipane tarts. Thank you for this.