almond frangipane filling

One of my husband's sisters lives in Belize. She claims she lives in a swamp but it sounds more like a tropical paradise to me. Because she grew up here in Canada, she sometimes grows tired of fresh mango and pineapple and yearns for more temperate fruits. During a phone conversation back in March when I was still working at the bakery, I happened to mention the frangipane tarts we made there. A moment later I was promising to make these for her as soon as humanly possible, and no I didn't think they would stand up well in the mail. Joni visited us last month and amidst lakes, gelato and outdoor Shakespeare, these happened. Because they had to, and also because they are very good. (She admitted that she was hoping some would arrive by post.)

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almond frangipane filling adapted from Flo Braker's The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. Makes enough to feed 3 frangipane fiends for 3 days.

2 cups almond meal (aka almond flour - you can make your own by grinding blanched almonds) 1 cup (/8 oz) butter (room temperature) 1 cup granulated sugar (I used organic evaporated cane sugar juice, large crystals with a slight honeyed tone) 4 eggs (room temperature) 1/2 tsp almond extract zest of 1 organic orange (optional)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next. Add extract and zest and mix well, until frangipane is smooth and homogenous. The filling may be used immediately or refrigerated for up to a week. Frangipane can also be frozen if you don't think you'll get to it right away.

To use: Prepare your favorite tart dough, and be sure to have some pretty fruit on hand. Fresh or canned pears, nectarines and peaches can be sliced into fans, and/or fresh or frozen raspberries, cranberries, blackberries or blueberries or fresh or canned cherries all work to arrange into pretty designs to top the tarts. Alternatively, you could decorate with whole almonds or chocolate chunks. Roll the tart dough out and line your choice of tart pans or rings (shells can be set aside in the fridge for later use if you wish to make ahead up to this point). The number or shells you make will depend on the sizes of your pans. To bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Scoop frangipane into shell to fill it halfway (frangipane will rise in somewhat in the oven) and press flat. If using filling from fridge you will have to press slightly harder; the filling is quite soft when freshly made. Arrange fruit on top and slide into the oven. Bake until shells are golden brown and tops feel slightly springy when lightly pressed (or at least don't feel mushy). The amount of time will depend on the size of your pans, however it usually takes about 35-40 minutes for me. Optional: while tarts are still warm from the oven, you can heat up a glob (a few spoonfuls to half a cup) of apricot jam with a small splash of water, and when it boils bush it onto the tarts as a glaze. You can also garnish with toasted sliced almonds if you wish (to toast, spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake in a 350° oven for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and keeping a close eye on them until evenly golden).

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