Fanny pauses slightly to explain how to construct basic flans using the techniques she has already outlined, but ensuring perfect results whatever the fruit you use. Fanny indicates that the French use Fresh Fruit in their flans, seldom the tinned, bottled or frozen that we lean far too heavily on in this country, apparently. Fantastic, I love fresh fruit and seldom use tinned. Fanny also answers one of my previous queries here - when to cook pastry blind and when to fill it raw. It's almost as if she's been reading my blog and I've slightly irritated her by asking. The method, she proclaims, is constant. Note, do not deviate from this, ever. If the fruit needs to be cooked - apples, gooseberries, cherries, plums, damsons - the one selected needs cooking, dusted with sugar and then glazed when hot. If using fruit that need no cooking - raspberries, strawberries or loganberries - bake the case blind and fill. This ensures, Fanny says, that the moisture from the fruit is insulated from the raw or cooked base by the confectioners custard which should be used in both techniques. All clear? The nation needs to be taught these sog-proof methods if they are to compete with the French, Swiss, Danish and Austrians who provide an array of flans daily. Let the competition commence!
Today's Tarte du Jour is Apricot. A favourite of mine, in season now and perfect for Fanny. She does concede that if I wish to make this in winter I could use a tin of apricots, but with these fresh lovelies how could I resist. Plus, a new method to learn - poaching the fresh apricots in stock sugar syrup. Oh hang on, I assumed as they needed to be cooked I'd be using the method above, but no... I dissolve my sugar cubes in water over a low heat without stirring or boiling, then 'level it off' to a simmer for three minutes. That's it - ready to use, or store in jars for future use.
Fanny tells me to stone my fruit, and place unskinned halves in a wide shallow pan and cover with the stock syrup. Pop in a vanilla pod, and poach very gently over a very low heat. When they are ready (no clues how long - mine took about 15 minutes) remove and wipe the vanilla pod for storage, drain the apricots on a clean cloth and strain the remaining syrup into a jar for future use. Easy.
Listening to Fanny I realise that I need to bake a sweet flan case blind for this Tarte du Jour, using the recipes and techniques used before. Once it is cool I half fill it with some confectioners custard. It's almost as if I am continental now, I just do it. Next I need to arrange the poached apricots on top, very closely together, dome-side uppermost. Fanny asks me to glaze the flan with redcurrant jelly, but I've run out. I do have a very nostalgic jar of Bramble Jelly lurking about, so this should do the trick. As instructed, I make sure it fills all the empty spaces between fruits too.
Fanny now gives me a recipe for Chantilly Cream, which I should make and pipe round the flan and in between the apricots if I like. I'd never known what made cream 'Chantilly' but it seems to be double cream, whipped until it hangs loosely from the whisk, with 'some' teaspoons of icing sugar added to taste. I add two. Not stopping there, Fanny encourages me to add a few drops of liqueur of my choice, I choose Cherry Brandy - not really considering if Apricots, Brambles and Cherries are really the next combination (as it turns out they are!). Then I add a whisked egg white which has been stiffly whipped, and blend with the cream until it is smooth. When I do this, it looks a little runny, perhaps I added way too much liqueur. Perhaps you understand, only perhaps. So I give it another whisk, maybe a little too vigorously, before the piping commences onto today's Tarte...