When I was little, there were many bakeries in our city where one could get bread and other essentials but there were only a few confectionaries (patisseries) that specialized in sweet things, like cakes and cookies. One of those was Hurricane. It’s probably the oldest confectionary still in existence in the city. It’s tucked away in the old part of town, a veritable hole in the wall, with enough room for five or six small tables that surround an ancient wood-and-glass case (the same one since I was a kid) that has always contained cookies for sale.
Back then, Hurricane was considered fancy and it was rather expensive. Before I was even born, this was a place where ladies of high society would go for tea and cookies, served in real china by the family that owned it. For me, Hurricane has always been a bundle of memories. There was the smell of sugar and butter that reached out to the street and around the corner, driving me crazy with desire. There were the butter cookies with their tips dipped in chocolate sprinkles. There were the kok, a traditional dessert of thick pastry cream sandwiched between two cake-like cookies, with the top cookie covered in vanilla or chocolate glaze.
But above all, I remember the varkoulles, or little boats. They consisted of a cookie shell in the shape of a small boat, filled with a frangipane filling. They tasted intensely of almonds and the shell gave a satisfying crunch when bit into, only to give way to the soft, almost creamy filling. They were my absolute favorites and they filled me with joy when my parents would buy them for us. It was probably with them that my love affair with frangipane started.
What’s there not to like? A mixture of nuts, sugar, flour, butter and eggs, at just the right ratio, bakes into a filling that is incredibly satisfying no matter what surrounds it. It’s what makes the French galette de rois, a traditional New Year’s pie made of puff pastry filled with frangipane, such a delightful treat. And it’s what makes this apricot cherry tart irresistible. And the fact that it is a single (food processor) bowl recipe makes it even better. If you don’t have apricots or cherries at hand, switch it up. Plums, apples, pears, or any fruit that’s not too juicy will do fine. If you don’t have pistachios, you can use almonds, which is the more traditional version of frangipane.
Apricot Cherry Tart with Pistachio Frangipane – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup (a scant 4 ounces or 110 grams) shelled unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all purpose flour
Few pinches of sea salt
6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
5 tablespoons (70 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 2 teaspoons brandy or another flavoring of your choice (optional)
8 firm-ripe apricots, pitted and cut in half
8 sweet cherries, pitted and cut in half
Powdered sugar or 1/4 cup apricot jam
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it to the bowl, then run the machine continuously (don’t pulse) until the mixture forms large clumps. It might take 30 seconds to 1 minute for it to come together. Transfer the dough clumps to a 9 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom and press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the dough to rest (this will reduce shrinkage when you bake it). Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. Let crust cool.
Make the filling: In the same food processor bowl (no need to clean it between these steps), grind your pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add any flavorings and egg, blending until just combined.
Spread filling over cooled crust. Place apricots and cherries cut side down onto the pistachio filing. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the pistachio portion comes out batter-free. Let cool completely in pan.
To finish, you can make a shiny glaze for your tart by warming apricot jam in a small saucepan until it thins, and brushing this mixture over the top of the cooled tart. Or, you can dust it with powdered sugar.