Raspberry whipped cream, chocolate curls, a flaky and tender pie crust... not to mention an almond filling halfway between cake and pie! These are just a few of the elements that make this Julie's best pie. Read on for how it changed her feelings about almonds and frangipane, the old-fashioned term for this almond cream filling.
The almond paste and almond cream recipes are from my commercial baking chef-instructor, the fabulous Chef David Colley.
The raspberry whipped cream was an invented out of necessity.
In commercial baking class, Chef Colley introduced us to his favorite--almond cream pie, also known as frangipane. I'd never had it, but I loved it instantly even though I was never really a big almond fan. The class reintroduced me to almonds in recipes such as this. I liked it even more when my baking lab partner, who suffers from severe wheat and gluten allergies, was able to enjoy at least the filling.
With the flaky, tender crust and the sweet, nutty almond cream, I wanted other tastes and textures as compliments. I love almonds paired with raspberries, and the barely sweetened, nicely tart, soft and smooth whipped cream was a nice topper to the soft crumb of the almond cream.
I also love chocolate and raspberries, and the bittersweet crunch of the chocolate shavings cuts nicely through the tastes and textures of both the whipped cream and almond cream. You end up with the gentle crunch of the pie crust on the bottom and the snappy crunch of the chocolate on top. I love the way the tastes and textures come together with this pie!
For Alton Brown's pie crust:
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, chilled
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lard, chilled
6 ounces (approximately 1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup ice water, in spritz bottle
For almond paste (makes twice as much as you need--half the recipe if you use liquid egg whites or care to half an egg white)
16 ounces almonds, blanched
16 ounces powdered sugar
1 egg white, room temperature
For almond cream
1/2 pound almond paste
1/4 pound sugar
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 ounces cake flour
For raspberry whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons strained raspberry coulis or strained raspberry jam, heated over low heat to soften, then cooled before use
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate in bar form
Alton's directions for pie crust, with minor edits to suit the greater pie recipe:
Place butter and lard in freezer for 15 minutes. When ready to use, remove and cut both into small pieces.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until texture looks mealy. Add lard and pulse another 3 to 4 times. Remove lid of food processor and spritz surface of mixture thoroughly with water. Replace lid and pulse 5 times. Add more water and pulse again until mixture holds together when squeezed. Place mixture in large zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes (Note: While the dough rested in the fridge, I made the almond paste and almond cream recipe below, though the crust recipe can be carried through to the end before starting the almond paste and almond cream recipes.).
Place 2 metal pie pans in the refrigerator to chill.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut along 2 sides of the plastic bag, open bag to expose dough, and sprinkle both sides with flour. Cover again with plastic and roll out with a rolling pin to a 10 to 11-inch circle. Open plastic again and sprinkle top of dough with flour. Remove pie pans from refrigerator and set first pan on top of dough. Turn everything upside down and peel plastic from bottom of dough. Place second pan upside down on top of dough and flip again. Remove first pan from atop dough. Trim edges if necessary, leaving an edge for meringue to adhere to. Poke holes in dough and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Place an oven rank in center of oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Directions for almond paste:
Grind almonds in food processor with powdered sugar until almonds are finely ground. Add egg white and process until paste forms.
Directions for almond cream:
Soften almond paste in bowl of stand mixer, with hand mixer, or by hand. Add sugar and butter, and cream the mixture together. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl once all the eggs are incorporated. Stir in the cake flour.
Pour the almond cream into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until tester comes out with moist crumbs (no wet batter, and not clean). Let pie cool on a rack and start raspberry whipped cream.
Raspberry whipped cream directions:
Note: For raspberry coulis, just cook 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries over medium heat until they're totally broken down -- don't add sugar or lemon juice for this. If you don't have any raspberries around but you have raspberry jam, just heat 3 tablespoons of jam over heat until it melts. Strain seeds out and let the coulis/melted jam cool.
Chilling your mixing bowl might help, but I've never found it necessary. You can just stick your bowl in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Whip 1 cup of whipping cream until cream is thickened. Add sugar, and continue whipping until just before stiff peaks form, or just a bit past soft peaks--just don't let the cream curdle. Fold the raspberry sauce in by hand.
Make sure your chocolate is at room temperature so it doesn't just flake off when you try to make your curls. Use a vegetable peeler with a swivel blade to "peel" the end off the chocolate bar, making short curls and curved "chips" as you peel. Set them aside for your topping.
Greater pie directions, concluded:
As soon as almond cream is totally cool, spread raspberry whipped cream over the top, then sprinkle chocolate curls on top of the whipped cream.
Serve with a smile, or a sly grin as people wonder about this "cake pie"!