Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust (with bonus shortbread cookies)

I’ve always loved treats with an almond flavor or filling. Now that I’m doing almost all of my baking with almond flour, it’s easier to make healthy treats that satisfy my almond-loving palate.

I’ve been experimenting with my gluten-free pie crust recipe, and recently tried it out in an Apple Frangipane tart. Frangipane is a filling made of ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs. Not all Frangipane recipes call for almond extract, but I like to include it to enhance the natural almond flavor. You can bake Frangipane in a variety of pie and tart pastries, often with fruit on top, or perhaps a layer of jam below.

Apple Frangipane tart is a classic French pastry. A sweet tart crust is filled with frangipane, topped with apples and baked. This recipe uses a gluten-free crust, but you could use whatever sweet crust you prefer. This recipe is a work-in-progress, and I think that pre-baking the crust for about 5 minutes would be a good thing, but I have not tested this theory yet (we can only eat so many sweets!), so I have listed the recipe just as I made it.

Bonus Shortbread Cookies: This crust recipe makes more than you’ll need for a standard tart pan (7-9″ diameter), so roll the leftovers into a log and refrigerate until firm, slice into cookies, and bake at 350 for 7-12 minutes for a delicious gluten-free shortbread cookie.

I used granular palm sugar/coconut sugar in my frangipane. Palm/coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35), tastes delicious and behaves almost exactly like sugar. As a bonus, it contains some B vitamins and a generous amount of minerals like potassium and iron. It does not taste as sweet as refined sugar, but it brings a richer flavor to the finished product. You can find palm/coconut sugar in asian markets, packaged as a solid, hard-to-use lump (which is often combined with refined white sugar). I’ve also seen round shaker-type container of coconut sugar at my local Whole Foods Market, but it was outrageously expensive. I’ve been buying a nice, reasonably-priced granular palm sugar from Nutsonline.com, which is also where I buy my almond flour and many other wonderful things. Their palm sugar isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than what you might find at your market. Since it feels so much better in my body than refined sugar, I see it as a worthwhile investment in my health.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust

Almond and hazelnut crust

1.5 cps almond meal/flour
1 cp hazelnut meal
1 tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp melted coconut oil or fat of your choosing
5 tbsp liquid sweetener (honey, maple, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.)
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

Combine almond flour, hazelnut meal, chia seeds, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a big wire whisk (or any spoon, really) until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, liquid sweetener, almond extract and egg. Beat with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is blended.

Put crust mixture into refrigerator to firm up a bit while you prepare the rest.

Fragipane

1/2 cp almond meal
1 tbsp flour (buckwheat is good, but any will do)
1/4 cp palm sugar (or regular sugar)
3 tbsp butter
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt

Combine almond meal, flour and palm sugar in a food processer, pulsing a couple of times to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste is formed, pausing to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Putting it all together

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Thoroughly grease your tart pan, making sure to get to each nook and cranny.

Press about 2/3-3/4 of the pie crust mixture into the tart pan, making sure it is even on the bottom and sides. This is easier if it is a bit stiff and cold. Take extra care with the bottom edge, making sure that it is not too thick.

Pour frangipane into the crust and spread it evenly. Arrange apple slices on top, arranging them in a pretty pattern.

Bake at 375 for 40-60 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

Every summer my husband and I seem to need to have at least 1 home-made blueberry pies or we feel like we missed something. The problem is that it’s too hot to want to turn on the oven! I’m also still experimenting with gluten-free crusts, which sometimes feels like a lot of work.

So, because of the heat and the gluten-free challenge, we haven’t had a blueberry pie in 2 years!

I’m taking the week (mostly) off of work to have a mini-vacation while I take the morning intensives in the South Boston Yoga teacher training program. I’m having a great time!

Monday I finally got over the heat/challenge thing and made this superb blueberry pie with almond crust. I found a recipe at Elana’s Pantry for this nice almond-flour crust. Since Elana’s instructions said to pat the crust into the pan rather than roll it out, I knew it would have a crumbly consistency. I decided to double the recipe and use 1/2 of it as a crumble topping, which I added in the last 15 minutes or so of baking.

Make sure you have vanilla ice cream on hand–the first bite makes it clear that you must have it a la mode! I love either Purely Decadent or Cocobliss‘s vanilla coconut milk ice cream for this.

The crust is not as cohesive as a wheat-based crust, but it crumbles charmingly and tastes delicious.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

For the crust and crumble (see Elana’s original posting here):

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp light-flavored healthy oil of your choice (Elana recommends grapeseed)
4 tbsp agave/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/honey
2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2 pints fresh blueberries
2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/3-1/2 cp sugar (I used Succanat)
1 tsp cinnamon
butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust and crumble:

Combined almond flour, salt and baking soda in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil, agave and vanilla.

Stir oil mixture into almond flour mixture, mixing well to combine. Consistency should be fairly crumbly.

Press 1/2 of the almond mixture into a pie plate, reserve rest for topping.

To make filling:

Combine tapioca flour, sugar and cinnamon. Gently fold into blueberries, making sure everything is evenly distributed. If you’re using butter, put small pieces here and there on top of the blueberries.

Put blueberries into prepared pie crust and cover tightly with foil with a few small holes punched to let some steam out.

Bake covered for about 40 minutes. Uncover and distribute reserved crumble topping over pie (don’t touch! It’s hot and sticky).

Return pie to oven, uncovered, and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until crumble topping is nicely browned.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin_Pie

I’ve recently been using more coconut milk in my diet, and was excited to see this recipe for pumpkin pie, from foodie blog Eat This!. This recipe replaces the evaporated (or condensed) milk with coconut milk to make a dairy-free alternative. While coconut milk has a lot of fat, they are medium-chain fatty acids, which aren’t as bad for you as the saturated variety that’s in dairy and meat. Don’t look at coconut milk as a “health food” exactly, but rather simply a great alternative to milk. And that’s a godsend if you’re lactose intolerant!

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

    3/4 c. granulated sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1/4 tsp ground cloves
    2 large eggs
    1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
    1 can coconut milk
    1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Directions

Preheat overn to 425 degrees.

Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves. Gradually add coconut milk while stirring.

Pour into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.

Read more at Eat This!.

Mincemeat has a bad rap

For about a year now, I’ve been thinking about trying to make home-made mincemeat for my husband. My father loved mincemeat, and my mother would buy jars of Nonesuch Mincemeat and make a pie for him every winter. As a picky eater, I resolutely refused to even taste it. I don’t think my mom especially liked it, and perhaps my older brother would eat a bit. Despite my refusal to have even one taste of it, I remember thinking it smelled good. It was dark brown, and smelled sweet and spicy.

My memories of this good smell made me think that my husband would enjoy mincemeat, and that I might actually like it, too. We both love that other, much-maligned holiday treat, fruitcake (but only from Deluxe Fruitcake in Corsicana, TX–it’s the only one worth eating). I did some internet research for recipes and found one that looked like the right combination of tasty and not too difficult.

So, what is mincemeat? It’s been around for hundreds of years and no one seems to know what it’s all about. Traditionally, it did contain finely minced beef, along with fruit (fresh and dried), spices, fat (as suet) and some sort of alcohol like wine. It was a way to preserve meat and fruit in a time before refrigeration. I did find several recipes that had beef listed as one of the ingredients, but since I don’t eat beef (and since it sounds kind of yucky to put it in a sweet pie), I sought out an all-fruit version.

From reviewing several recipes, I determined that it’s a fairly flexible recipe that should contain some fresh apple and maybe some fresh orange, a variety of dried fruit (raisins, cherries, peaches, apricots), butter, spirits like brandy and spices. It’s actually really easy to assemble, and cooked quietly and happily on the stove for about 40 minutes.  I used the recipe for Bubby’s All-Fruit Mincemeat (found at globalgourmet.com), and adapted it to what I had on hand. Here’s a link to the original recipe.

I haven’t yet made my mincemeat pie, but this stuff is awfully tasty just eaten with a fork!

My adaptation of Bubby’s excellent recipe is as follows:

Cathy’s Mincemeat


1 Granny Smith apply, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

1 naval orange, cut into small pieces (including skin and pulp)

2 small (or 1 large) Bosc pears

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup succanat (or rapidura, an unrefined sugar)

3/4 cup Brandy

1/4 cup dark rum

1/2 cup water

4 oz raisins

4 oz dried bluberries

4 oz dried apricots, cut into small pieces

3 oz mixed dried apples and peaches, cut into small pieces

5 tbsp butter

1 oz candied ginger, cut into small pieces

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

pinch cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and let it gently simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all of the dried fruit is plump and soft, and the liquid has been reduced to a very thick syrup. Cool completely. This should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Now you’re ready to make pie!

Let mixture cool completely. It is not ready to use as a pie filling, or whatever else sounds good to you.