Pâtisserie Valerie is one of Soho’s surviving treasures. A Belgian-owned coffee shop originally, I believe, it has been run by the same Italian family for the last forty years. The present generation are rather energetic, and have converted a very dowdy little business into a roaring success with a branch in Knightsbridge of all places. The miracle is that they have done all this without ruining the place. It is so busy now I hardly use it at all, but until ten years ago it was my breakfast haunt. There was never any shortage of characters about the place, but my fondest memories were of
Pâtisserie Valerie used to supply various tarts and pastries to the Old Compton Wine Bar, but I have to say they were not very good in those days. (Another miracle of the place’s regeneration: the things that needed improving, have been, and those that did not, like the distinctive croissants, have been left alone.) The French apple tart was possibly their worst effort historically and, consequently, the first one I learned to make. The incorporation of amaretti biscuits was inspired by a picture in an Italian cookbook by Bugliagi. The photo in question was of four rather dry pastries on a table, in a large room, in the ducal palace at Mantua. The whole effect was so stunning that I had to make them. Unfortunately recipes were not supplied, so frangipane was substituted for apple purée, and the amaretti included to transform the French tart into a sexy Italian number.
Put all the ingredients for the frangipane in a food processor and whizz until just mixed. Refrigerate until needed.
Peel and core the apples, then cut into six segments. Immediately toss in the lemon juice and
The various types of apples react in different ways to this process, and only trial and error will show you which stand up to cooking without going too mushy. As a general rule I prefer Cox’s or very similar apples such as Braeburns.
Pack the frangipane into the pastry case; it should only half fill it. Push the apple segments in an even pattern into the case.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.