I just came back from Milan where I spent the last week touring around the city with a friend and helping my parents move to a new apartment. These activities left hardly any time for baking or cooking (and I was too busy eating italian croissants, ice-cream and pasta) but I was able to squeeze in a couple of bakes in my first two days. I was really inspired by the Italian summer, especially after visiting the market around the corner.
The market stalls were full of summer fruits and vegetables that actually taste like they are supposed to taste, and not like they are full of water with a taste that barely reminds you of that type of fruit or veg (come live in Holland and you’ll understand what I’m talking about). I’m not saying that in Italy all fruit and vegetables taste amazing, but the quality is superior not only because of the weather that provides a lot of sun but also because people care more about what they eat and cook. It’s quite normal to see clients telling the market vendors how they rated last weeks cherries and courgettes, or explaining how big, small, juicy or ripe they want their products. While I do think that Italians can be quite picky and critical (and sometimes annoying) about food, it’s nice to be in a country were there is such care about the quality of the produce.
At the market the cherries and the nectarines were looking divine so I decided to make a tart to celebrate both mine and their arrival in Milan. It was really hot so I didn’t want to make a tart that required too much work and having the oven on for long. A rustic summer fruit frangipane tart was perfect. This tart has been in my family’s repertoire for a few years. I don’t exactly know when or how we started making it, but about five years ago my mother and I had a phase in which all we baked were frangipane tarts. Sometimes with cherries, sometimes peaches, or nectaries, apricots, most fruit really. The combination of frangipane and summer fruit is just perfect for a summer dinner. It’s not too heavy, you’re using great seasonal produce, and it’s quite easy to make, the only pain is slicing the fruit but you can do that while you’re preheating the oven and getting the butter to room temperature (which takes 5 minutes in the Milan heat).
I use store-bought puff pastry because I think it’s pretty good and you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen on a summer’s hot and sweaty day (plus I’m too lazy to make my own). The fruit will shrink and the frangipane will puff up, so don’t worry is some of the fruit disappears from the surface once you’ve taken it out of the oven, it will just add an extra rustic touch to the tart. I like to sprinkle icing sugar and sliced almonds on the tart, but it’s also good just as it is with some vanilla ice-cream on the side.
Ingredients (one 27cm tart, serves 10-12)
1 30cm disk of puff pastry (store-bought)
110g butter, softened
2 medium eggs
100g of almond flour
300g of cherry, stone removed and halved
1 nectarine, sliced into half-moon slices
icing sugar and sliced almonds fo decoration (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 375°F. Line a 27cm tart mold with baking paper and the puff pastry disk without cutting the excess pastry from the edges (these extra bits will puff up and get nice and crispy once baked). For the frangipane, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and whisk until incorporated and smooth. Mix in the ground almonds. Add the frangipane mixture to the pastry case and smooth it down with a spatula. Use the cherry halves, cut side up, to create two concentric circles. In the center overlap the nectarine slices to create the shape of a pinwheel and add a cherry half, cut side down, in the center of it. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tart mold. Once it’s cool slice and serve or sprinkle some icing sugar and sliced almonds before serving.