The stereotypical hunk: tall, dark, handsome and able to make a darn good frangipane. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I don’t quite fit the bill. I’m short and my brother reckons he got all the looks. Still, I rarely burn in the sun and my frangipane tartlets are as good as any you’ll find in these parts. I can pretty much guarantee that last statement since I live in a part of the world that does not tolerate anything that is less than truly manly. You’ll be surprised to learn that frangipane tartlets don’t rank very highly in the manly charts. I know, I was as surprised as you.
A pint of bitter, a minced beef and onion pie, rugby and some sporadic sexism clock up way more in the manly stakes. Funny then, that the top chefs in the world and some of the top pastry chefs are male. There has always been a disparity between those who cook for a living and those who cook at home. The former may be a cook with a modest repertoire and a list of previous employers longer than the menu of his current traditional English pub, or he might be a professional line cook with a good grounding in French cuisine and hopes of becoming his own boss one day. Both at different ends of the spectrum, but equally understood as being dignified in their own way.
Then there’s the home cook. Views on the male food enthusiast have begun to change over the last ten years. For many, dad’s role was to carve meat and, if the weather permitted, cook a variety of sausages and burgers rather badly outside while the neighbours called the fire brigade. The idea of men in the kitchen has been a source of mirth among housewives for decades. Men not knowing their way around a kitchen, using every pot, pan and plate in the house to make even the simplest of meals and the dreadful offerings of heart-felt dross that grace tables every Valentine’s Day. Sadly, some of these stereotypes have a firm historical truth. In 2011, however, things are very different indeed.
As women have found their independence, so too have men found it necessary to fend for themselves in the kitchen. Without writing an essay on social history, I think it’s safe to say that men and women have spent the last forty years re-defining their roles and the kitchen is one area that has changed dramatically. It’s acceptable for men to cook for the family, women who lack any form of culinary knowledge are not embarrassed to say so, television chefs continue to make home-cooking a popular past time among young men and televised cookery competitions have no doubt inspired countless adolescents to pursue a career in a professional kitchen.
No matter how much things have changed, there is one thing that I suspect will not. Your average bloke will not be boasting to the lads about his latest frangipane tartlet recipe over a pint of lager and a packet of pork scratchings. Even with a wife and baby boy, a decent amount of self-esteem and the ability to eat my own body-weight in pizza, I feel slightly self-conscious about posting a recipe for apricot and almond frangipane tartlets. They’re a delicate balance of flavour and texture and I think it’s impossible to make them at all manly. Anyone for mangipanes? Frangimans? No, I didn’t think so. Therefore, if my friends ask me what I’ve been making, I’ll just say something like beef brisket.
Almond and apricot frangipane tartlerts
250g shortcrust pastry
1 jar apricot jam
125g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
40g plain flour
1 tspoon almond extract
whole almonds for decoration
Roll out the pastry and cut to the size of your tartlet trays. Line each tray with the pastry and prick the base with a fork all over. Trim the edges and place in the fridge until you’ve made the frangipane mixture.
To make the mixture, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Next, add the almond extract and the ground almonds. Beat again and finally add the flour. Beat one last time and don’t worry about the mixture having small lumps in it.
Spread jam over the base of the pastry and then pour the frangipane mixture over the top. Don’t fill the tartlet tins to the top because the mixture will puff up in the oven and will ooze over the sides. Leave at least a centimetre between the mixture and the top of the pastry case. Decorate with flaked or whole almonds.
Bake in the oven at 200C for between twenty and thirty minutes. The top will be golden and firm when the tartlets are done. Lower the heat if the tartlets begin to burn and make sure that you leave them to cool before serving. The jam will be extremely hot.