CREME D’AMANDES (Almond cream) - September 2015 - Le Menu Paleo
CREME D’AMANDES (Almond cream) – September 2015
Creativity is the child of curiosity. It is born out of a lack of satisfaction with status quo, a need to see what’s out there. We all know the story of Pandora’s box and yes, sometimes, curiosity is not rewarded, like when I asked myself if throwing a ripe banana, some nut meat and an egg in a bowl would produce a biscuit – it doesn’t.
But sometimes you get a lot more than you bargained for. That is the case with almond cream, or Frangipane, a base for delicious cakes.
One of the things I miss on the Paleo way of eating are tarts, and in particular, apple tart and plum tart. One of my grandmas made the apple tart and the other the plum tart. Actually the later made plum tarts on an industrial basis because of a couple of highly productive and very old plum trees in her garden. I love them both (the tarts and the grandmas) and I am on a continuous quest to try and produce either (the tarts, not the grandmas who I visit every time I go to France). So I keep looking at numerous different recipes to see if I can find a base I’m happy with.
During my search, I was reminded of a traditional French tart whereby an almond cream/batter – a Frangipane – is poured over the apples or pears which sit on a tart base. And that’s when curiosity pulled onto the creativity strings: what would happen if I did away with the base?
So I found a recipe for the Frangipane from one of the masters (you can’t go any higher than Michel Roux Junior) and started experimenting with fruits, flavours, and cooking techniques, from using a heavy based pan on the hob, to baking. And do you know what? It opened the door to an unlimited diversity of delicious cakes. Truly, as you will see, the possibilities are endless. And although I will share some of those recipes with you this month, I predict that I will use this base to make many others which will no doubt creep into this site on a regular basis.
Yes, obviously it has nuts, so it is not suitable for everybody. But if you can eat nuts, it is a way to make delicious cakes which do not look or taste like an alternative. These recipes stand proud in their own right. Besides, I love the fact that you can put your own stamp on it since you can give them just about any twist you want.
So please, be creative with it, use the technique outlined and then experiment yourself with whatever you have in the fruit bowl or in the garden, whatever dried flavours you have in the cupboard and whichever baking dish you have at home, be it ramekins, loaf tins, heavy based pans or tart moulds. There are no conventions, as long as you know how to recognise when it’s cooked, you’re away (and you’ll see, it’s child play).
The quantities are so easy to remember, it’s one of those recipes you can store in a draw in your head and adapt anywhere you are. I do. At my parents’ house there is a minimum number of baking dishes; two in fact, a loaf tin and a round cake tin. But there was a garden full of fruits and many mouths eager to test each and every one of my creations – and everyone had their favourite. My father preferred the fruit upside down cake (I made it there with Mirabelle plums); I loved the hazelnut loaf with peach compote, and my mother preferred the pistachio and raspberry loaf.
There are a few points you might want to bear in mind when cooking these cakes which I have learned from experience.
Obviously, the wider the tin, the thinner the cake and therefore the less time the cake will need in the oven. This will be reflected in the recipes. Ditto if you use muffin cases or ramekins. Also, to avoid leaving half the cake at the bottom of a tin like I have done several times, you might find that lining the bottom of the cake tin can be useful if you want to eat the whole cake…
However, I also find that lining the sides of the tin changes the way the cake cooks (thanks mum for pointing that out, since it wasn’t obvious to me at the time). I prefer the cake when I do not line the sides. But please try both and go with your preference or with how sticky your tin is. And since we are on the subject of tins, this batter melts before cooking, so beware of the loose bottom tins, there might be leakages…so either line well or like me, use different tins!
There are some nuts that can burn quicker than others, hazelnuts and pistachios for example. I have experimented there too and chargrilled hazelnuts are not as tasty as it sounds. So if you make a large cake or loaf size cake based on this recipe, keep an eye on them and cover with foil towards the end the cooking time if necessary.
You may notice that I use ground almonds and not almond flour (which is a fine powder). This is because I prefer the texture of the cakes that way and find the ones made with the flour a lot drier. But again, this is a personal preference and please, use both at once, or one or the other, to create your favourite version. Just bear in mind that you might need to change the quantity of flour.
One last thing: these cakes are best eaten on the day and will mould quickly if they are not kept in the fridge. Since the ingredients are more expensive than usual cakes, I recommend you make the quantity that will suit your purpose. Alternatively, you can share the love of cake around, be it with friends, colleagues or neighbours. You can also check the Instant Trifle recipe in the Leftovers section or the Banana Pudding recipe from the Made by kids section for ideas on how to jazz up leftover cakes or compote. There is also an Apple cake and custard ice-cream recipe….I know, sounds weird, but my youngest couldn’t stop eating it because it’s truly delicious!