almond frangipane filling

One of my husband's sisters lives in Belize. She claims she lives in a swamp but it sounds more like a tropical paradise to me. Because she grew up here in Canada, she sometimes grows tired of fresh mango and pineapple and yearns for more temperate fruits. During a phone conversation back in March when I was still working at the bakery, I happened to mention the frangipane tarts we made there. A moment later I was promising to make these for her as soon as humanly possible, and no I didn't think they would stand up well in the mail. Joni visited us last month and amidst lakes, gelato and outdoor Shakespeare, these happened. Because they had to, and also because they are very good. (She admitted that she was hoping some would arrive by post.)

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almond frangipane filling adapted from Flo Braker's The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. Makes enough to feed 3 frangipane fiends for 3 days.

2 cups almond meal (aka almond flour - you can make your own by grinding blanched almonds) 1 cup (/8 oz) butter (room temperature) 1 cup granulated sugar (I used organic evaporated cane sugar juice, large crystals with a slight honeyed tone) 4 eggs (room temperature) 1/2 tsp almond extract zest of 1 organic orange (optional)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one by one, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next. Add extract and zest and mix well, until frangipane is smooth and homogenous. The filling may be used immediately or refrigerated for up to a week. Frangipane can also be frozen if you don't think you'll get to it right away.

To use: Prepare your favorite tart dough, and be sure to have some pretty fruit on hand. Fresh or canned pears, nectarines and peaches can be sliced into fans, and/or fresh or frozen raspberries, cranberries, blackberries or blueberries or fresh or canned cherries all work to arrange into pretty designs to top the tarts. Alternatively, you could decorate with whole almonds or chocolate chunks. Roll the tart dough out and line your choice of tart pans or rings (shells can be set aside in the fridge for later use if you wish to make ahead up to this point). The number or shells you make will depend on the sizes of your pans. To bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Scoop frangipane into shell to fill it halfway (frangipane will rise in somewhat in the oven) and press flat. If using filling from fridge you will have to press slightly harder; the filling is quite soft when freshly made. Arrange fruit on top and slide into the oven. Bake until shells are golden brown and tops feel slightly springy when lightly pressed (or at least don't feel mushy). The amount of time will depend on the size of your pans, however it usually takes about 35-40 minutes for me. Optional: while tarts are still warm from the oven, you can heat up a glob (a few spoonfuls to half a cup) of apricot jam with a small splash of water, and when it boils bush it onto the tarts as a glaze. You can also garnish with toasted sliced almonds if you wish (to toast, spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake in a 350° oven for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and keeping a close eye on them until evenly golden).

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It's interesting the roundabout ways in which we get what we want. I wanted another day vacation (actually I'd like many more, but let's not go there just yet), and here I am at home on the couch with stitches in my knee thanks to a careless move when building a sheet-metal shed yesterday. It's not that bad; I'll be back at work tomorrow, but when I woke up this morning it hurt a lot and I couldn't walk. Instead I managed an awkward painful hop-shuffle-drag gait across the house and called in sick so I can keep it still for the day. I'll have to work on a more comfortable way to get those other vacation days. Speaking of vacation, we just had an excellent week of freedom. We built a shed, swam at several new old beaches, cleaned the house and let it get messy again, harvested onions, had some dear family moments and saw an old friend, and explored tide pools. Again, please (though maybe without the shed).

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It is near impossible to continue having a rotten afternoon when watching six otters dipping and diving, frolicking and feasting. They are so graceful, sleek and lithe, and were eating noisily and playfully turning cartwheels in the ocean.  Also, I am blessed with the most wonderful friends. The kind who send luminous postcards and beautiful shirts by snail mail, out of the blue. 

Sunday was just right: I gained several precious inches of soil back from the buttercups, and planted tomatoes, Jer made crêpes,and the day slipped by in a peaceful, puttering way. We had a nice visit with Jer's parents, and I made a friend who is as fond of peppermint tea as I am (A substantial garden bed full? The minimum. Let it take over the yard!)

Past bedtime, I remembered the garden, the garden looking thirsty in the midday sun. All the little plants we are tending and gentling along. There was no choice but to go water it. With the exception of the slugs, which had lurked their way out for an evening salad crawl, the nighttime garden is a magical place (and I'm sure the slugs would beg to differ). The first quarter moon was bright in the soft indigo sky, and everything was quiet and shadowy and new. 



I feel like I've been away for ages; so much has happened in the past week. I went to Salt Spring Island and spent a relaxing day with my mum, and fell asleep listening to tree frogs singing to each other in the arbutus forest, a wash of pinprick stars in the skylight above me. Yesterday, we went up to the farm and Jer dug us some rhubarb while I picked nettle in a clearing. I picked slowly and selectively, soaking up the peaceful energy of the forest, and still got two full bags. The tender tops, picked before the leaves droop past three o'clock, are lovely fried or sautéed, in soups or spanekopita, or dried for tea. My favorite tea blend consists of generous pinches of nettle, peppermint and raspberry.

Easter came at the bakery in a frenzy of hot cross buns. There was also chocolate bread, and kugelhopf, and lulls in the lineups.

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choruses of frogs

This evening we drove up island with Jer's parents (there is a long story here but they tell it better). The overcast day had given way to light rain and glowing golden haze in the west. Beyond the city, the mountains were faint as carved clouds. As we drove into the hills around Goldstream, swaths of cloud clung in chunks to the wet trees. Up on the farm under the dark, spangled sky, choruses of frogs were singing. On the way home, mist swirled on the road. Now, here at home on the striped blanket in our living room, Zephyr the bunny is getting extra sly at sneaking bites of houseplant. IMG_7870