Not really period: lemon Frangipane tarts

My Frangipane enthusiasm remains undiminished, and this weekend I decided to play with the flavors a bit. I added a bit of fruit preserves to the bottom of each tart — some quince, some tart cherry — and made the Frangipane with lemon juice and zest. I also went with a very rich modern pastry for the crust, and because I believe in gilding the lily I served them with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Although it’s not rooted in history, here is the recipe if you’d like to make your own.

Pastry:

  • 12 ounces flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together the dry ingredients, then cut and rub in the butter until mixture is crumbly (looks like breadcrumbs or coarse wet sand). Add the water and mix gently to bring together. Divide into 8 pieces and roll out. Line 8 small (4″) tart pans or ramekins (as pictured here) with the pastry and trim the edges. (Mine slumped — leave a bit of overhang to prevent that.) Prick the bottom of each crust gently all over with a fork, then line each with parchment paper and fill with weights or dry beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes, until pastry looks dry all over.

While the pastry blind bakes, prepare the filling:

  • Optional: 8 teaspoons jam / preserves, set aside
  • 4 ounces sugar
  • 4 ounces softened butter
  • 4 ounces finely ground almonds / almond flour
  • Juice and zest of one medium lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Cream together butter and sugar. Add ground almonds and salt and mix well — it should look pale and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and eggs and beat enthusiastically until everything is well incorporated.

Once the crusts have come out of the oven and cooled enough to remove the weights and parchment, spread a teaspoon of jam or preserves in the bottom of each, then top with the almond mixture. Be careful not to overfill (hence splitting the recipe between 8 small tarts). Bake tarts for 30 minutes. Let cool prior to serving.

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Recipe: Frangipane Tart with Paest Royall

I am still proofreading and putting the final touches on the cookbook, and I’ve forced myself to stop putting new recipes in it. That doesn’t mean I’m not still testing recipes, though — for my own enjoyment, for future editions, because I sort of have an obsessive personality — and last night I was playing around with another version of Paest Royall, a 1545 pie crust recipe that I think every SCA cook has tried their hand at. I have started looking at post SCA period historical pastry recipes, which include quantities, and it’s been an interesting process. Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796) happens to include a recipe for Royal Paste that I used as a starting point for this experiment. Of course, I needed something to fill the pastry with, so I made a batch of Frangipane with rose water for a more 16th / 17th century flavor profile. (Caveat: I have not thoroughly researched Frangipane, or come across a pre 1600 reference or recipe. Anyone have anything documenting its early history?)

It turned out lovely:

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 pound flour
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 scant teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Several spoonfuls of water

All ingredients should be at cool room temperature. Mix the salt into the flour, then cut and rub the butter in until the mix resembles wet sand. Incorporate the egg yolks, then add water a spoonful at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Form into a disc and set aside while you prep the filling.

Frangipane:

  • 4 oz finely ground almonds
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 4 oz butter, softened/room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T rosewater

Cream together first three ingredients, then gently beat in eggs and rosewater until filling is smooth and uniform.

Roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart pan, pressing into the sides of the pan and trimming the edges. Pour in the filling and spread evenly. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Let cool before serving.

Recipe: easy and delicious fresh cheese


Cheese is awesome, isn’t it? As part of my ongoing home dairying adventures, I’ve settled on a simple method for making fresh cheese that I think is historical and that produces a very tasty final product. I made some today and remembered to snap a photo before we gobbled up every molecule. 

You will need:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk 
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (actually the amount isn’t really that important, you could use anything from 1/4-2 cups)
  • A large container with a lid, like a giant Mason jar
  • A nonreactive pot
  • Some cheesecloth or a very clean kitchen towel
  • A colander 
  • Salt plus optional herbs or whatever else you’d like to use for flavor 

Method:

  1. In the jar, combine the milk and buttermilk. (Full disclosure: you can also do this in the pot itself.)
  2. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight (up to 24 hours), until milk is fully soured (cultured).
  3. Transfer cultured milk (called “clabber”) to the pot. 
  4. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the clabber curdles. This happens faster than you might expect. 
  5. Line the colander with a kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth. If you want to reserve the whey, place the colander over something big enough to catch that much liquid. 
  6. Drain the curds by pouring the curdled clabber slowly through the lined colander. 
  7. Draw up the corners of the cheesecloth, tie loosely, and hang to drip drain. I use a wooden spoon to suspend the bundle over a pot or deep bowl. If you are impatient, you can squeeze the curds, but this makes the texture less creamy. 
  8. When the curd reaches desired dryness, add salt to taste, or use in any recipe calling for fresh cheese. 

In addition to being a perfect base ingredient for many recipes, this cheese is great spread on fresh bread. If you go that route, do experiment with adding other flavors to it.