This almond pie, closely identified with Chez Panisse, is very firm, which makes it perfect to take on a picnic.
Craig Lee / The Chronicle Special
This recipe has been adapted from “Mapie’s la Cuisine de France”, but has been identified as Chez Panisse’s homemade dessert. It’s very firm, almost candy, so it’s best eaten with your fingers, making it a great picnic dessert.
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, not too cold
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier
- 2 or 3 drops of almond extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup (about 3 ounces) sliced unbleached almonds
For the pastry: Combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch slices and stir it into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is mostly made of pieces the size of cornmeal and the mixture is mixed. begins to hold.
Mix the water and the vanilla and stir it into the flour-butter mixture until the dough is smooth and holds when pressed. Gather it into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Let stand 30 minutes so that the flour absorbs the moisture more completely. At this point, you can wrap the dough in foil and freeze it for up to a month.
Pinch off a small piece of dough and set aside for patching. Press remaining dough into 9-inch pie dish with removable bottom. Do not use black; the shell could burn if you do. Make sure you have a layer of even thickness on the bottom and sides. If the thickness is uneven, some parts will overcook before others are cooked. Wrap the shell in foil and freeze for 30 minutes or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap the shell and place in the oven (you don’t need to fill the shell with weights as it doesn’t shrink much) for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
For the pie: Combine cream, sugar, Grand Marnier, almond extract and salt in a saucepan large enough for the mixture to triple in volume, stirring well. Heat until thick and bubbling, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the almonds and let stand for about 15 minutes.
During this time, patch the pie shell if necessary. Use an offset spatula to smooth a small piece of very soft reserved paste over any crack that appears to be going through the shell. Be careful not to puncture the crispy top of the baked crust if you can avoid it; if the filling leaks, it will caramelize at the bottom of the shell. It is a necessary step, which is worth it.
Fill the shell with the still hot filling, which will be quite runny. Make sure the almonds float evenly in the filling. If they are gathered on top of the liquid mixture, the finished pie will have a cornflake-like texture instead of the shiny surface you want.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil, matte side up, on the oven rack as the pie may overflow. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Check the pie – it must be bubbly all over. Otherwise, use the side of a large rubber spatula and gently break the surface crust to allow the mixture to bubble all over. Turn the pie over and continue baking for another 5 minutes. Check again and break the surface again if necessary. Bake the pie for a total of 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is a nice creamy, toffee undertone, turning the pie occasionally to ensure even cooking. The pie will continue to brown a little when it comes out of the oven.
Cool the pie on a wire rack, loosening sides of pan slightly every minute or two for 5 to 10 minutes, or until set. Remove the circle from the pie and return the pie to the wire rack to finish cooling. If you remove the circle from the pan too soon, the sides will fall off the pie.
If you want to remove the tart from the bottom of its mold, gently slide a thin, sharp knife between the dough and the white mold; the tart is still warm, about 15 to 20 minutes after taking it out of the oven. Slide the pie from the bottom of the pie pan onto the wire rack.