Words & Recipe by Emma Chow
My mother’s and my relationship with each another significantly improved with two events. First, when I had children. Secondly, when I started making her patisserie favourites at home, her willingness to come visit us in our country home significantly increased.
My mother migrated from Malaysia to London in her youth to study nursing, before meeting my father and moving to Australia. When he died, she worked full time, taught herself to trade on the stock market, earned an additional bachelor’s degree and raised me all on her own. She and I fought right through my teenage-hood. We’re too similar: stubborn, argumentative, independent, outspoken, and impatient. I never really understood all the work she did and sacrifices she made until I became a mother myself. In the last few years I’ve tried to make up for being an ungrateful brat by mastering the classic desserts and pastries that she loves.
When my dad was around, nearly every weekend he would buy a whole apple and almond tart from the local French bakery and consume it almost entirely on his own, save a piece each for my mother and I if we were quick.
I’m not sure if this has anything to do with my mother’s love for apple frangipane tart. But I make it for her when I have time, especially coming up to mother’s day. She’ll sit at my table with the baby on her lap and the bigger boy beside her and she’ll have as much of that tart as she wants. I’ll wait on her with tea and coffee, refuse her offer to do the dishes, and make sure that with all these small gestures she will know how much I love and appreciate her and all she’s done for me.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
125g butter, at room temp
100g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Almond cream (Frangipane)
This is a simple recipe for almond cream which does not include use of brandy, corn starch or pastry cream (custard) which is typical of most patisserie recipes
100g almond meal
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 large apples – generally granny smith are good for tartness, but I often buy pink lady or fuji apples and find they work find for this sort of cooking. If you grow your own apples, even better!
Ground Cinnamon for garnish
Apricot jam (optional)
Start by making the pastry as it will require at least 2 hours to rest before it should be rolled. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale but not fluffy.
Add the egg and beat until combined fully.
Add flour and salt, fold through until just mixed. Alternatively you can follow these same steps in a stand mixer or food processor. Just take care not to over mix the dough when you add the flour, as this will cause your pastry to be tough.
Flour your bench top and scrape the pastry dough from the bowl and onto the bench. With lightly floured hands, knead the dough a few times until smooth then form into a flat disc and wrap with cling-film. Place in the fridge to rest for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Next make the almond cream.
Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold through almond meal and salt.
Add egg and milk and beat to combine.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celcius.
When the dough has rested, roll it out to about 5mm thick and line a 20-25cm diameter tart ring of about 2cm height on a paper lined baking sheet.
Alternatively you could use a spring-form cake tin with a removable base. Just make sure the sides of the tart shell are no higher than about 2.5cm.
Fill tart shell with almond cream, spreading the cream roughly level with a spatula.
You can choose to peel or not peel your apples. Cut the apple in half and remove the core pieces from each so that you have 2 nicely curved pieces like the shape of a rainbow. Slice thinly from top to bottom. From outside in, layer the apple
slices over the tart. Lay each slice halfway over the previous slice and go round in circles until you reach the centre. Try to save your smaller pieces of apple for the centre. You don’t need to press the slices into the cream as it will rise
Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are golden at the almond cream popping up between the apple slices near the centre is golden also.
If using, heat a couple tablespoons of apricot jam in a small saucepan. When hot, remove from heat and use a pastry brush to glaze the apple slices. This makes it look professional but is not really necessary.
Garnish tart with ground cinnamon.
Allow to cool to warm before serving.
Tart is still delicious 3 days after making as long as it is kept covered in the fridge.
Almond cream will keep in a covered container for a week.
Pastry can be frozen and kept for a month or in the fridge and kept for a week.