Photo By: Megan Kempston/Special to the Town Crier
Think about a typical romantic dessert. It probably involves cream, whipped or otherwise, sugar, flour and lots of chocolate – right?
For people with sensitivities to gluten and dairy, though, a dessert in that style won’t make for a very romantic continuation of the evening.
When I started thinking about desserts that are gluten-free and vegan, one of my first thoughts was frangipane, the classic almond confection that often forms the middle layer of a fruit tart.
Traditional frangipane isn’t exactly special-diet-friendly. In addition to almonds, the frangipane layer generally contains eggs and butter, and is baked in a buttery, floury tart shell.
Two changes, though, can turn this delicious dessert into something that works well even for people who can’t eat gluten and dairy.
First, the tart shell is pretty much optional. Passionate pastry fans may disagree, but in my opinion, frangipane is just as good if it’s baked in a dish instead of a tart shell and scooped out onto plates. No tart shell means no gluten – and, even better, less work in the kitchen.
Second, switching to coconut oil instead of butter and eggs in the frangipane itself makes the entire dish vegan. The resulting frangipane is slightly grittier than traditional frangipane, but that seems like a reasonable trade-off for a more healthful dish. The coconut oil also contributes a subtle tropical flavor that works nicely with the almonds. Many grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, now stock coconut oil.
This frangipane can be baked in a small baking dish or in individual ramekins or other porcelain dishes (a single recipe fits nicely in two 4-inch crème brûlée dishes). Frangipane can also be made with any nut, so consider splurging on pecans or pistachios for a variation. It’s good warm, room-temperature or chilled. Try adding sliced strawberries, powdered sugar or some dairy-free yogurt on top, or enjoy it simply. Either way, it’s delicious.
Almond Coconut Frangipane
• 1 cup almonds
• 2/3 cup granulated sugar
• 9 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• Cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, to taste
Grind almonds finely in food processor (but be sure to stop before they become almond butter – 30 seconds or so should suffice in most food processors). Add other ingredients and process to combine. Taste and adjust spices, if necessary. Transfer frangipane to baking dish or ramekins and chill, covered with plastic wrap, from 30 minutes up to a day.
When ready to bake frangipane, preheat oven to 350 F. If using multiple small baking dishes, consider placing them on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get them into and out of the oven. Bake 20-40 minutes, depending on baking dish (frangipane will bake faster in shallower dishes than deeper ones), until top is nicely browned and has puffed just slightly.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to a week.
Makes 2 generous servings or 4 smaller ones.
Interested in learning more about gluten-free cooking options? Read this week's column on ancient grains – pancake recipe included!