Tuesday, 4 January 2011

F is for... Fig and frangipane flan

Fig and frangipane flan

Like most people, I had no real idea of the difference between a flan and a tart - they've both got pastry cases. They can both be savoury or sweet. So what separates them? It's tricky to say really and the only definition that seemed to offer any solid explanation of their subtle differentiation involved custard. A flan, apparently, must have custard in its filling - so I suppose a savoury flan is more like a quiche? So what's the difference between a flan and a quiche? Well, it's the job of another letter to answer. For now, I'm focusing on flans and flans alone.

As had become the course of things for F's menu - special dietary considerations had to be taken into account, so two different puddings plus an option of plain figs and honey was needed. One choice a flan and the other, due to the excesses of dairy in the flan, was simply a tart - but a fig and frangipane tart, inpired by a recipe in Jamie Oliver's Italy, so it still had enough F's to be getting on with.

Fig and frangipane flan

Creme patissiere
16 fresh figs: half cut into quarters and the other half cut in half
4 tbsp French brandy 
4 oz of caster sugar

Place the sugar and brandy in a skillet and heat until the sugar has melted and turned a light, golden brown. Toss the fig halves gently in the syrup and after a few minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon. Reserve the brandy syrup for later.

for the sweet shortcrust pastry 

This recipe makes enough for one large tart tin or up to 10 individual tart tins.

5 oz/ 125 g of unsalted butter
4 oz/ 100 g icing sugar, sifted
10 oz/ 250 g plain flour, sifted
the seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
The finely grated zest from one lemon
2 large egg yolks 
A pinch of salt
A generous splash of milk 

Place all the ingredients, except the milk, in a food processor and blitz until your mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the milk and blitz until the pastry starts to form a dough, but don't overwork it - this is shortcrust pastry, so you don't want to overwork the gluten. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least half an hour. 

Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C Fan). Roll out the pastry and line your tin/s. Blind bake individual pastry cases for 10 minutes or one large case for 15 - 20. Remove the tin/s from the oven, remove the baking beans and parchment, brush the pastry bases with a little whisked egg and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes.


Frangipane proved to be immensely popular with all of the members of my family and it is certainly a real favourite of mine too.

10 oz/ 250 g ground almonds
2 oz/ 50 g plain flour, sifted
10 oz/ 250 g unsalted butter
10 oz/ 250 g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
The scraped seeds from a vanilla pod
2 tbsp of French brandy

Cream together the butter and sugar and add the remaining ingredients and mix until completely smooth and silky. Pop the frangipane in the fridge for an hour to firm up. 

Preheat the oven to 170 C (150 C Fan). Spread a generous layer of frangipane over the cases of the fig and frangipane tart cases and a slightly less generous amount if you're making dairy rich flans. Push the quartered figs into the frangipane and pop them in the oven for half an hour for individual cases and 45 minutes for one large case. The frangipane will puff up and turn golden brown. Drizzle a little of the reserved syrup over the tarts and serve warm, or allow to cool completely if transforming them into flans.

Once cooled, spoon some creme patissiere into each pastry case and smooth over their tops. Place a cooled fig half into the centre of each flan and drizzle over some of the cold, reserved brandy syrup. Pop your flans in the fridge until ready to remove from their cases and serve.  

Fig and frangipane tart

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