Edible flowers are the best.
I was craving for stone fruit badly, and don’t ask me how, but I managed to find some nectarines and paid high price for it. I know, I know, I am a naughty boy and not adhere to my own rule, as I always encourage people to use seasonal local produce. My bad, but I can assure you that it doesn’t happen every often, especially when you have to pay triple the price. If I have to do this tart again, I probably will use cheaper ingredients like apple, pear or even persimmon since they are in season at the moment.
This recipe is actually from my first cookbook, Have You Eaten? and I just adapted with a few changes. I used nectarines instead of peaches, and also a crunchy short crust pastry instead of Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry. I wasn’t intended to have a super crispy pastry but I like how a mishap turned into a success story!
So, let’s talk about the pastry, it turned out to be much better than I expected, flakey, buttery AND crunchy at the same time. I actually simply used a sweet shortcrust pastry recipe that I am familiar, and usually I will just pour the cold water into the processor without measuring the exact quantity and obviously this time I poured a little too much and the dough became a little too soft. Hence, I tried to laminate the pastry with a little bit more flour tried to strengthen the gluten, eventually I got a dough that I able to work with. Surprisingly, the excess water, the lamination, and the flecks of butter within the dough created a magical pastry that I absolutely love.
I usually prefer to blind bake the tart shell as you can never predict what will happen with a tart when you bake the shell with wet filling together. But be my guest if you prefer the latter method and bake everything at the same time with a softer texture on the inside of the pastry shell.
Then steady but slowly, curl each slice of nectarine like flower petals and arrange them on top of tart to look like a bouquet. The trick is to slice the nectarine finely, about 1-2mm thickness; any thicker than that will be too difficult to roll and it will snap if the nectarine is still firm and crunchy. Don’t try to boil them and hoping they will go soft, I tried it and it didn’t work; the fruit will just go mushy and turn brown. So best is to just leave it with some sugar and brandy and let it macerate.
For the frangipane, you can do a little less than the amount that I used as you can see the frangipane expanded when baking, and covered the flowers a little. I think a little less frangipane will help the flowers to stay in shapes a little bit better.
I love this tart, definitely one of them sweet treats that I will bake over and over again.
Nectarine frangipane tart
(recipe adapted from Have You Eaten? cookbook)
3 firm nectarines, halved, seeds removed, cut into 1-2mm slices
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
4 tablespoons peach or apricot jam, for glazing
120 g (41/4 oz) unsalted butter
110 g (33/4 oz/1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
120 g (41/4 oz/11/4 cups) almond meal (ground almonds)
30 g (1 oz/1/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
Sweet shortcrust pastry
125 g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubs
30 g caster sugar
200 g plain flour
4 tablespoons of cold water
1. Soak nectarines slices in sugar and brandy.
2. To make the pastry, put the butter, sugar and flour in a food processor and pulse in 2-second bursts until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pour water into the processor while still pulsing until the mixture turns into rough dough. Tip everything onto a floured surface, gather all loose crumbs and form a dough. Use the palm of your hand to gently flatten it into a flat disc, about 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 20–25 minutes.
3. Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is 1 cm thick, lightly dust it with flour, fold in half, turn the dough in 90 degrees, then roll it out again to 1cm. Repeat this process 1 more time. Then roll the dough out to around 3-4mm thickness, gently pick up one end of the pastry and roll onto the rolling pin, then drape the pastry over a 23 cm (9 inch) tart tin with a removable base. Line the base and side of the tart tin with the pastry, trim off the excess pastry hanging over the edges, then chill the pastry case in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
4. To blind bake, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Lightly prick the tart base all over with a fork, line the pastry case with baking paper, then fill the tin with pastry weights, grains or dried beans. Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the baking paper and weights, put the tart case back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool.
5. To make the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk into the mixture on low speed until combined. With the mixer still running, add the brandy and lemon zest, then the almond meal and flour. You will have to stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the bowl, then whisk again to make sure everything is well incorporated.
6. Reduce the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Fill the tart case with the frangipane and spread it evenly using a palette knife. Roll the nectarine slices to resemble a flower and arrange all over the top of the frangipane. Bake the tart on a baking tray for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the tart comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
7. Melt the jam in a small saucepan over low heat, then glaze the top of the tart with the jam sauce.