Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Frangipane Tart

How Will You Measure Your Life?

One of the more interesting books I've read this summer for the leadership course I will be helping to teach next year is Clayton Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life.  It's geared towards an older demographic, but I have to say one of the most relevant pieces of information I found was this following tidbit:

We choose a profession based off of two factors:
  1. Hygiene factors: things that make us not dissatisfied with our job- believe it or not, this includes salary in addition to job security, work conditions, and elements such as an effective management
  2. Motivating factors: the things that really cause us to love our jobs- challenges, recognition,   responsibility, growth, and genuine interest.  While to an extent some hygiene factors or necessary, we will find a truly fulfilling profession based off of motivating factors.
As I was reading this section, I couldn't help but think back to the overly long blog post on my quarter life crisis...  Food and photography gives me genuine interest, but they give little in the way of hygiene factors, and let's face it- there's not a terrible amount of growth and recognition in the food and photography word.  Yet, at the same time, a genuine interest in something can carry you a long way....

Southern California has finally been experiencing a heat wave, and being the idiot I am I picked today to go teach conceptual photography to a friend.  So in ninety degree heat, the two of us hiked up a mountain (for a scenic setting), with me in a long sleeve button up (to look presentable in a photograph), wearing sandals (I wanted to be barefoot in the photos).  By the time we got to the top we were both winded, I was sweating profusely in all the wrong areas, and my feet looked like I had been dancing in a pit of razor blades.

But then I began teaching her how to properly do the Brenizer method, and walked her through a conceptual photography piece- a swarm of paper butterflies emerging from a tattered book into the sunset.  All of that pain we endured going up the mountain became a distant memory.  Three hours later we wrapped the day with a couple of simple portraits, and the last thing I remember doing was taking out my memory card to let her use my camera, and supposedly stashing that little sucker in my pocket. 

When I got home however that memory card was nowhere to be found, and needless to say I was crushed.  I checked the car a good 4 or 5 times, thinking that it would magically appear the next time I opened the door.  I groped the insides of my pockets with the tenacity of a registered sex offender, hoping I would find it there.  After the umpteenth attempt at looking for the damn card, I gave up and eventually faced the truth that the photos I was so looking forward to editing are long lost, along with the pictures for 3 recipes I had shot for this blog that had not been transferred to my computer yet.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I have been so disappointed.

Yet, at the same time I can't help but look at the glass half full.  The fact is, I was able to teach someone something new, and walk her through the steps of something she didn't know how to do before.  As devastated bummed as I am that a memory card full of food pictures and 4 unedited conceptual photography pieces are probably laying somewhere in the bastardly hills of Irvine, I can't deny how satisfied I felt being a teacher.  I'll admit it truly made me happy.

It also doesn't matter that the battle scars on my feet will be causing some discomfort for quite a while, or that my legs are still sore from hiking in sandals that barely have any tread left.  Once I got to the top of the mountain and started photographing, I started doing something that felt fulfilling.  Those motivating factors were doing there thing.

After this ordeal, I did a little thinking- maybe I've been taught that I have to be measuring my life through hygiene factors rather than motivating factors (instead of the other way around).  After all, I went to a school that had a parking lot resembling a luxury car dealership.  I've grown up thinking that money --> happy career --> happy family --> happy life.  In fact, the importance of hygiene factors has become so ingrained into my mind that I genuinely think it is foolish to follow a dream career if it leaves you living paycheck to paycheck and without any time to spend with your family.  Sometimes I wonder to myself why can't I just get the same excitement I get with food and photography out of medicine or computer science... I think life would be a heck of a lot easier :p.

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with frangipane tarts.  I've already made nectarine and black cherry ones in the past, and they always turn out to be winners in my book.  What can I say, almonds make me a happy camper!

Since my food processor broke ages ago and making pie crust by hand can be an annoying clusterf*ck, my trusty KitchenAid came to the rescue, and I have to say, did a pretty damn good job.  The best part is, it's hard to over process butter in a stand mixer compared to a food processor.

I decided to make a double batch of frangipane since I had enough crust for two tarts.  I tried experimenting by baking the second one in a spring form pan so I would get high sides and a tart that resembled an elegant cake.  However, the excess crust collapsed without any filling holding it up, so I ended up with something a bit more... rustic.  It was still delicious and more like an almond-tastic cake rather than a tart, which I liked, but trimming the excess crust will be a duly noted step next time. 

I don't know what it is about raspberry frangipane tarts that make them turn out so ethereal in photographs-  they just kept shimmering in a way that made all my pictures look like a fine painting (not that I'm complaining of course).  I guess that means I'm going to have to make more tarts so I can experiment with different fruit to see if they turn out just as shiny hehe!

And that's the great thing about my love of food and photos- I could wake up and practice them every single day and never get tired or burned out.  Yet here I am complaining to you about how they could never be a feasible career, because I simply measure my life by the wrong standards.  So as you read this post, ask yourself the very same question I've been pondering this past week-

How will you measure your life?

tarte aux framboises et au chocolat (thanks google translate!)

Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Frangipane Tart


pate brisee
adapted from Martha Stewart


2 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, cubed
~1/2 cup of apple juice, iced

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the flour, salt, and sugar.  Toss in the butter and chill in the freezer along with the paddle attachment for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Mix on low until the butter become the size of peas and the overall mixture is like pale, yellow gravel.  With the mixer still on low, slowly drizzle in around 1/3 cup of the apple juice, adding more if necessary until the dough comes together.  Be careful not to overmix.  Shape the dough into 2 flattened discs, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

almond frangipane
recipe via Use Real Butter 


4.5 oz (125g) unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz (125g) icing sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) almond extract
4.5 oz (125g) ground almonds
1 oz (30g) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in color and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color. 

to assemble
1/2-3/4 cup of raspberry jam
4-5 oz of grated dark chocolate
1 pint of raspberries
1/4 cup of apricot jam   

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the pate brisee and line the tart pan.  Spread a layer of raspberry jam on the bottom, followed by a snow of dark chocolate.  (The amount is up to you).  Carefully top with the frangipane, and dot the top with raspberries so they're like rubies peaking up from the pale yellow batter.  Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is golden brown.

Once cool, heat the apricot jam with a splash of water and brush the top of the tart.


  1. oh my! this looks absolutely fantastic! yumm... want to try it out for sure.

  2. You're doing such wonderful, introspective work. Your food looks incredible. You definitely have a gift! Keep on writing those vin diagrams! Use them for defining where you want to be in your life. They are what helped me find my way into the life I wanted to live!

    All the best to you!