Among the basic preparations found in French bakeries is a paste-like mixture of eggs, ground almonds, butter and sugar known as frangipane.
Commonly used as a filling for fruit tarts or other pastries, frangipane is also spread on slices of brioche or French egg bread, sprinkled with sliced almonds and baked. This delicious creation is called almond toast or pain aux amandes.
Many French bakeries both here and abroad sell almond toast, which usually is eaten for breakfast because it tastes best while still warm. Slices of almond toast also would be a good substitute for sweet rolls at a festive brunch and it is quick and easy to make.
This recipe for frangipane and almond toast comes from Leah Grossman, the French-born and trained baker who owns the Boulangerie bakery in Seattle, Wash.
During a recent trip to Seattle and a visit to Grossman's bakery, we found her authentic almond toast and other breads to bring back vivid memories of foods eaten long ago in France.
Frangipane takes only minutes to make in the food processor. The basic technique that applies to this preparation is grinding almonds to a floury consistency.
Using the metal blade and a dry food processor container, blanched almonds can be ground to a powdery or floury consistency by adding a small amount of flour to the nuts before processing.
For this recipe, 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour are processed with the skinned whole almonds. The nuts are ground in just 30 seconds.
Finding brioche shaped into a loaf (rather than the more common individual muffin shapes) is getting easier as gourmet food stores and bakeries like Grossman's bring European specialties to U.S. neighborhoods every day.
LEAH GROSSMAN'S FRANGIPANE-ALMOND TOAST
1 cup whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 ounces softened unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons rum
12 slices loaf brioche or rich egg bread (each slice about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick)
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
Insert metal blade in dry food processor container. Process almonds with flour until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
Process butter until softened. Add granulated sugar, egg, egg yolk and rum. Process until fluffy, about 90 seconds, stopping several times to clean container sides with spatula. Add ground almonds and pulse until mixture is thick and evenly mixed. Refrigerate frangipane until firm enough to spread.
Spread bread slices generously on one side with frangipane. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Bake at 400 degrees 12 to 15 minutes until bread is toasted and frangipane is slightly golden. Remove from oven, and while still warm, dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.