I've been looking at some higher-end recipes to add to my baking repertoire during the holidays. Some, like petit fours, call for frangipani, which I've never used. Isn't that basically the same as marzipan? I haven't seen it in any local stores.
— Lauren C., via email
Your confusion is understandable, as each of these pastry ingredients is nut-based.
Whereas marzipan is an almond candy made with ground nuts, sugar and corn syrup, frangipani often contains almonds — but can include other nuts — along with sugar, butter and eggs.
Food historians trace the term to a 16th-century Italian nobleman, the Marquis Muzio Frangipani, who popularized almond-scented gloves among the European aristocracy. The scent became so popular that pastry chefs tried to capture it in desserts, concocting an almond-scented cream filling with many uses. Centuries later, frangipani fills Danish pastries, King's Cake and many fresh-fruit tarts, as well as petit fours.
You don't have to buy frangipani because it's so easy to make at home. Use any kind of shelled nut that would pair well with other flavors in your recipe. Pistachio frangipani goes well with peaches, almond with figs, pecan with blueberries and hazelnut with apricots or cherries.
Finely grind the nuts in a food processor. The addition of sugar prevents them from becoming too oily. Then beat the ground nuts together with butter, egg yolks and a little bit of flour. The ratio is 1 cup nuts to 1/2 cup each sugar and butter, 4 egg yolks and about 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
Spread across the bottom of a tart pan with a removable bottom, frangipani bakes into both the tart's crust and filling.
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