Frangipane, sometimes spelled frangipani, is similar to a pastry cream, and some may refer to it as specifically an almond pastry cream. Actually, frangipane can be any cream or custard-like substance with nuts. What makes it different from the average pastry cream is that it is often used as a filling in pies and is baked. This results in a very different crusty exterior to pies or tarts, and is a quite rich and delicious alternative to standard fruit pies.
Recipes for frangipane can be found in cookbooks dating back to the early 17th century. These recipes primarily refer to frangipane as an almond or pistachio custard that could be used very much in the same way as pastry cream, to fill cakes or pastries. It’s not clear when the idea of baking frangipane struck the French chefs, but there are several centuries worth of recipes with baked custard.
Contrary to popular belief, frangipane doesn’t need to contain almonds, or any nuts for that matter. If you do like nut flavoring, you’ll find many people suggest hazelnuts instead of almonds, especially in Italian inspired recipes. The standard frangipane tart tends to be made in the shorter tart pans, with a layer of fruit, over which the frangipane custard is poured. Fruits that can be sliced into half moon shapes, like pears, apples, and peaches lend themselves particularly well to this style of tart.
There are also recipes for savory frangipane. For instance, slices of onions and goat cheese may be topped with frangipane custard that is primarily flavored with black pepper. You can make this type of savory dish in either a tart style, or in a galette. The primary difference is that the galette is usually made from formed puff pastry and baked flat on a baking pan. The tart is piecrust pastry, usually formed into a short tart dish.
Many recipes for frangipane today are used as filling for pastries. They are usually a combination of almond paste, sugar, butter and eggs. Alternately, some of the baked tart types contain heavy cream and eggs, more resembling custard, and the older 17th century version. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of these recipes are most delicious, and most suited to your cooking styles. Experimenting with a few recipes can make for tasty fun in the kitchen and may delight anyone who gets to taste different variants with you.