I have a thing for cinnamon. I don’t know exactly what it is about this spice that makes it feel so homely and comforting. And although I now associate cinnamon with much more than just Christmas baking, it still holds a big corner of my heart, being one of my earliest memories of home.
Cinnamon, now one of the best known and versatile species, is a name given to several species of Cinnamomum, but only a few of them are grown commercially for spice. Cinnamon, although not grown in Europe, has been well known since antiquity. First imported to Egypt, somewhere around 2000 BC but the source of this aromatic spice was kept secret in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the protective of their business middlemen, who handled the spice trade. Cinnamon is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but is now also grown in other countries, Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Madagascar being the biggest producers of this spice. It’s probably worth knowing that what most of us tasted as ‘cinnamon’ is a different species called Cinamomum cassia or simply cassia, often referred to as Chinese cinnamon. Cinamomum verum, mostly grown in Sri Lanka, is often considered a ‘true cinnamon’.
Cinnamon appeared under many names throughout history. The English word cinnamon has been in use since around 15th century, and it’s derived from a Greek word κιννάμωμον (kinnámōmon). Early modern English also used terms canel and canella, which are now still in use in other European languages (French name for cinnamon is cannelle, and Italian – cannella). The word is borrowed from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna meaning ‘tube’, to describe the way cinnamon bark curls up as it dries.
This beautifully warming and aromatic spice has many uses. And although most of us associate cinnamon with autumn and winter, especially Christmas bakes, it is also used in many beverages, preserves, jams and pickles. Cinnamon also appears as an addition to many meat dishes, especially lamb and chicken. Many Indian savoury dishes use cinnamon to add extra flavour and aroma. The list is endless, and it certainly doesn’t end on the well-known apple pie, which without cinnamon would be somehow incomplete.
As I am warming myself up for the craze of Christmas baking, I made this Pear and Cinnamon Frangipane Tart. Maybe not a Christmas classic, but it definitely proved that it can become one. Not too difficult to make and not too time-consuming, this tart can definitely be your go-to emergency bake, for the times when family or friends decide to only give you a few hour notice of their arrival in your home. That is, if you want to treat them with something nice ^^ If you have more time to spare, try this Apple Frangipane Tart, żubrek’s favourite!
PEAR AND CINNAMON FRANGIPANE TART
for the crust
180g plain flour
40g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
4-5 tbsp cold water
few drops of almond extract
for the pears
4-5 pears, peeled and cut in quarters
1/3 cup caster sugar
for the frangipane
125g butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1tsp Amaretto or almond extract
2tbsp plain flour
100g ground almonds
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Start with making the pastry. Mix the flour and salt, and add it to the pastry board. Add butter and cut it into small cubes with a knife, mixing butter with flour at the same time. Add egg yolk, water, sugar and almond extract, mix everything together.
2. Quickly knead a smooth dough. It should be quite soft, not too dry. Wrap your ready dough in some cling film and put it in the fridge for about half an hour.
3. Prepare the pears. Add water with whisky, cinnamon and sugar into a pot, bring it to a boil. Once boiled, turn the heat down, add the pears into the mixture and keep cooking them for about 15min with the lid on. After this time, take the lid off and cook the pears for another 5 minutes. Drain the pears.
4. Prepare the frangipane. Cream butter and sugar with your electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and egg yolk, one at the time. Add Amaretto or almond extract, flour and almonds. Mix until combined.
5. Grease a tart tin with butter, set aside. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on the pastry board, until big enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart tin. Transfer the rolled out pastry to the tin, and prick the bottom with a fork. Transfer the frangipane to the baking tin with pastry, spread evenly. Decorate with drained cinnamon pears.
6. Bake in the preheated to 180 degree Celsius oven, for about 25-30 minutes.
7. To add a ‘glossy’ effect, you can spread some apricot jam (heated with some water) on top of the baked pastry. Not too much though, as the tart is sweet as it is.