Raspberry Frangipane Tarts

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It has been an absolutely crazy holiday season so far; not only was my family in NYC for five days, where we proceeded to stuff our faces with as much NYC deliciousness as possible (or maybe that was just me and my lack of self-control), but we’ve also attended three parties within the first five days of our return to San Jose. And we have another one tomorrow. Talk about holiday weight gain…

But no regrets! Life is about savoring all the memorable moments, and I assure you that this is a recipe that is truly memorable. I made some of these raspberry frangipane tarts for a New Year’s Eve party and my family stole a few while they were still warm, and I gotta say this is one of the best things I have eaten this entire year; the fragrance of the almonds and vanilla plus the floral sweetness and slight tartness of the raspberries are a match made in pastry heaven. This may even edge out tiramisu as my favorite dessert. Shocker, right?

It’s really a labor of love; you have to make a pâte sablée, a crème pâtissière, and a crème aux amandes. But if you break up the process through two or three days (the pâte sablée must sit in the fridge overnight anyways) it won’t feel like that much work. And please, do yourself a favor, forget about your new year’s resolutions to “eat healthy” and “lose weight,” and make these. I’m not joking when I say that these things are a revelation.

Crust, pastry cream, and almond cream recipes adapted from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Ingredients:

Pâte Sablée

  • 88g (3oz) European-style butter, 82% fat
  • 1g sea salt
  • 145g all-purpose flour
  • 17g almond flour
  • 55g confectioners’ sugar
  • 1g vanilla extract
  • 40g egg yolks

Classic Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)

  • 187.5g whole milk
  • 19g European-style butter, 82% fat
  • 24g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 7.5g cornstarch
  • 7.5g cake flour
  • 24g granulated sugar
  • 45g egg yolks

Almond Cream

  • 75g almond flour
  • 75g confectioners’ sugar
  • 2g cornstarch
  • 2g cake flour
  • 75g European-style butter, 82% fat
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1g vanilla extract
  • 45g whole eggs
  • 15g dark rum

Raspberries, sliced almonds, and confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Instructions:

Day 1: Make the Pâte Sablée

  1. Place butter, sea salt, and all-purpose flour in a medium or large mixing bowl. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is sandy and crumbly; avoid over-mixing.
  2. Once your mixture resembles coarse sand, add the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar and mix until everything is just combined. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and mix until the dough just comes together.
  3. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a flat surface and press into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2 (or 3): Make the Crème Pâtissière

  1. Line a sheet pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. In a saucepan combine all but 3 tablespoons of the milk. Add butter, 24g sugar, and the vanilla bean seeds and pod. Stir and place over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, add the cornstarch and flour with another 24g sugar. Add the reserved 3 tablespoons of milk and the egg yolks and mix together.
  4. When the milk mixture on the stove comes to a boil, turn off the heat and remove the vanilla bean pod. Set it on a paper towel to dry for another use (I like to put them in my sugar containers, but they can also be used to flavor tea). Pour half of the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Then strain the egg yolk+milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture to remove any solids.
  5. Turn the heat back on to medium and whisk the mixture very thoroughly, making sure to scrape all nooks and crannies of the pan so the cream doesn’t scorch. The second you feel the mixture start to thicken slightly on the bottom, remove the pan from the heat and mix for about 30 seconds until the mixture is slightly thick and uniform. Return the pot to medium heat and bring back to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, cook for an additional minute before removing from heat.
  6. Transfer your cream to the plastic-lined sheet pan and spread it into a flat even layer. Cover the cream with another layer of plastic and then place the sheet pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes (this will stop the growth of bacteria).
  7. Remove from the freezer and place the cream in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk until it has a creamy texture, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready for use.

Day 2 (or 3): Make the Almond Cream

  1. Sift together the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and cake flour.
  2. Add the room-temperature butter, sea salt, and vanilla mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed for about a minute.
  3. Add the nut mixture to the bowl and mix for another minute. Then gradually add the egg and mix until it is incorporated. Finally add the rum and mix.

Day 2 (or 3): Assemble and bake the tarts

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan (or several mini tart molds). Be careful not to use too much butter, as doing so may cause the dough to slide off while baking. Press the dough into the pan or molds and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to cool and harden the dough before baking.
  2. Mix the pastry cream and the almond cream together to make your frangipane. Fill your cooled tart pan or molds with the frangipane. Arrange raspberries on top and sprinkle on some sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees F until the frangipane starts to brown slightly on the edges; for two-inch tarts, this will take about 30 minutes.
  3. Once your tart(s) is/are done, remove from the oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes before unmolding. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

Note: If you have leftover pâte sablée, you can turn it into sablée cookies by rolling the dough out to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness, cutting out cookies using a cookie cutter, and baking at 325 degrees F for 10-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

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Balthazar

Hooray for the end of yet another semester of college!! It has been a memorable one with lots of great times with even better people, and not surprisingly for me, a lot of those great times involved eating (or preparing) amazing food.

But of course there were some not-so-bright moments as well. I’m pretty sure that this past reading week was the most intense one I’ve experienced so far, since the semester was technically supposed to end two days before Christmas but most professors pushed up their finals to the week before they were supposed to be scheduled so there was basically no time to prepare or study. I mean, I’m pretty sure that plenty of people had it much worse than I did, but I’ve still earned the right to be relieved that it’s all over right?

But me being me, I made it a point to go out to eat at least once during reading week. My favorite gals from my French class second semester freshman year (can’t say last semester anymore) and I had been talking about going to Balthazar since February, and we finally did about ten months later! Shoutout to Margaryta, Kylie and Sara for being the absolute best!

Yup, nothing says basic b•tch New Yorker like brunching at Balthazar. But I was careful not to allow my expectations to get too high since I’ve been disappointed too often in the past after eating at so-called amazing restaurants; Sarabeth’s definitely comes to mind. But I gotta say, pretty much everything we ordered was on point.

We started with a steak tartare and a goat cheese and caramelized onion tart to share. The tartare was seasoned well and was pretty tender, but I wasn’t wild about it; for some reason the beef didn’t taste extremely fresh. But the tart was phenomenal. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with such a classic combination, but I loved the rich creamy, smooth and thick texture and sour tang of the goat cheese paired with the fragrant sweet onions. There was some olive paste on the side, which added an extra acidity and complex earthiness to prevent the cheese from being too heavy.

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Steak Tartare
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Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart

After what felt like hours, our main courses finally arrived! Sara and I split a duck confit and a beef stroganoff, both of which were ridiculous. The beef was incredibly tender with a perfect fat-to-meat ratio; it wasn’t too stringy but still had enough structure. The broth was hearty, comforting and incredibly flavorful, and the broad egg noodles were fun to slurp. There was plenty of sauce left over in the bowl after I finished my half, but thankfully there was a huge basket of bread that was perfect for sopping up the leftover juices. Carb overload!

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Beef Stroganoff

I had been craving a nice duck confit for a while, and Balthazar’s rendition of the classic French dish was richly satisfying. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender with a slight fragrant crisp on the exterior, and I loved the flavor of the pearl onions and roasted potatoes that accompanied the dish. Duck confit is invariably made with a ridiculous amount of duck fat (how else would it be so delicious?), but it didn’t taste too oily or greasy at all. Another super hearty and delicious plate to make the tastebuds happy.

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Duck Confit

This indulgent meal at Balthazar was just what I needed to get me through a rough end to the semester; each dish seemed to be giving me a warm hug, and miraculously my tears from crying about finals didn’t ruin the textures. The food brought back great memories of eating at bistros in Paris and made me look forward to a year abroad! While nothing was life-changing, everything was done extremely well. Prices were steep, but definitely worth it; I can say that Balthazar has earned its great reputation.

Rating: 4.5/5 spoons