I have experimented with various pastries - shortcrust, sweet shortcrust, blind-baked; some with almond meal that does not need pre-baking. However, I have finally arrived back at what I think is the ultimate sweet pastry - the pate sucree. Yes, it's fiddly and blind-baking is a must, but the crumbly texture of the base combined with the soft frangipane is too perfect to go past. So here's the recipe.
1 large or 1 1/2 baked quinces
1 quantity frangipane (see below)
Tart pastry (pate sucree)
(Best made in a cool room with cool hands and bowls.)
200g unsalted butter, cold
240g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
30g icing sugar
25ml iced water
200g whole almonds
200g butter, soft
50g plain flour
200g castor sugar
zest of 1 lemon
For the tart
Pre-heat oven to 185C.
Place the butter, flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly until you have rough crumbs.
Tip out onto a working surface. Whisk the yolk and water until combined and sprinkle over the flour. Using your palms, push down and smear forwards, gathering the mixture back. Repeat the process five or so times until the butter and flour are just combined and can be pushed together to form one mass.
Gently bring together and knead into a ball. Don't worry about bits of butter that haven't entirely combined; the dough should looked marbled. Refrigerate for half an hour.
Roll out the dough with a little flour to a thickness of about half a centimetre. Line a greased tart tin with the dough, trim the edges and push the sides neatly into the rims. Line with enough foil to tuck over the sides. Freeze for 20 minutes.
Fill the shell with dried beans or baking weights and bake for 15 minutes or until just set. Remove weights, reduce temperature to 175C and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack while you make the frangipane.
For the frangipane
Finely grind the almonds in a food processor. Add the butter, flour, sugar and zest. Whip until a little fluffy. Add the eggs singly until well mixed.
Spread the frangipane over the tart. Cut the quince quarters into thirds and poke into the mixture.Bake 30 minutes, or until golden brown and just set.
Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar if desired.
Brigitte Hafner's recipe for baked quinces