Concord Grape + Walnut Frangipane Tart with a Gluten-Free Rosemary Crust

This concord grape tart recipe starts with a press-in, gluten-free crust that’s kissed with walnuts and rosemary and tastes like a shortbread cookie. It’s then topped with a walnut frangipane and halved and pitted concord grapes.

My friend Danese asked me to photograph her in her sunlit San Francisco kitchen making some of her favorite recipes, with the plan of compiling a cookbook to give to family and friends. We had our first session last week, when she made an innovative tomato sauce thickened with ground, toasted sesame seeds and tons of Parmesan cheese. When I asked her what she wanted to include in the preamble to the recipe, she replied that her biggest cooking secret was one that her mother taught her. “All the time that I’m cooking,” she said, “I’m chanting in my head, over and over, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you…'”

I thought of Danese while making this tart the other day, though my mantra was slightly different. A friend had given me about 20 pounds of home-grown concord grapes and I needed a way to get through them all. Concord grapes are an old-school variety, with skins that slip easily off their flesh, three fat seeds tucked inside, and a big, sweet flavor that lets you know where the inspiration for grape-flavored candies came from. Since the grapes themselves contain a ton of natural sweetness, I like them paired with contrasting flavors: salty, bitter, and savory, so I decided to bake them into a smear of walnut frangipane nestled in a rosemary-kissed crust.

For my first try, I pressed whole grapes into the frangipane. I knew this would leave their hefty seeds in tact, but wouldn’t it be lovely if the simplest method could work? Sadly, this was not the case. The hard, bitter seeds made the tart-eating experience wholly unpleasant; they would have to go.

The last time I pitted concord grapes, I was working at an upscale new restaurant in San Francisco as a pastry cook and plater. Plating was the most miserable job there because one was abandoned by the prep crew to deal with (and be held responsible for) all their foibles of the day. Tiny tarts with crusts so delicate that they disintegrated into oblivion as they were unmolded. Crème brulée that had to be frozen for exactly 5 minutes, then turned out onto plates, torched, and served at the exact second before it melted into a puddle. Napoleons with ice cream as their base layer that were assembled to order as servers tapped their feet impatiently, glaring at you for taking so long. Ten hours of this without a break and nothing to eat save for the occasional, surreptitious spoonful of ice cream left me understanding why cooks are notorious alcoholics.

On this particular early Fall night, we had a concord grape sorbet on the menu. Plating sorbets involved laying down three tiny cubes of gelée made from champagne, sugar and gelatin (think boozy Jell-o Jigglers). These got topped with a lace tuile, over which three scoops of different sorbets were formed into quenelles by running a spoon under hot water, then trying repeatedly to form a perfect oval in sorbet that had to be just the right temperature. The plate was then garnished with concord grapes that had been peeled and seeded, as the executive chef didn’t want his customers to have to chew anything. (They would have enough to chew on when they received the exorbitant bill at the end of the night.)

It was while alone in the pastry station, plucking seeds from grapes the size of a fingertip as order after order piled up, that I truly knew misery.

I thought back to that wretched job the other day as I stood in my kitchen, seeding grapes. It was only a cup or so of grapes, and the task wasn’t difficult when in the comfort of one’s own kitchen with good tunes playing on Spotify and no aggro waiters glaring at me. Under these circumstances, I normally don’t mind a bit of tedium. The whole thing probably only took 10 minutes. But I was coming down with a cold that made me want to crawl under the covers and watch Jason Bateman films all day long.

Thus, as I sliced grape after grape in half, trying to keep the flesh contained within their slippery skins as I yanked out those pesky seeds with my nails, I thought, as I often did at that restaurant of yore, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you…”

Thankfully after all that drama, the tart turned out beautifully. The crust and frangipane both come together in the food processor in a matter of minutes. In the oven, the grapes cook into little puddles of intensely flavored jam. The frangipane puffs up into custardy bliss, and the crust stays together enough to slice, crumbling beneath the pressure of a fork into buttery, salted deliciousness.

Serve slices topped with a pinch of flaky salt and a plume of unsweetened, whipped crème fraîche, and you may even hear a few “I love you”s of your own. (Though feel free to make this with seedless red or purple table grapes if you prefer.)

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Tarted Up:
Rustic Rhubarb, Almond and Honey Tart (Gluten-Free)
Apple Quince Tart with Gluten-Free Buckwheat Crust
Kinda Raw Marbled Pumpkin Tart

Great Grapes:
Sangrìa Verde
Grape, Rosemary + Gin Crush

Concord Grape+ Walnut Frangipane Tart with a Gluten-Free Rosemary Crust

This is a versatile tart and fragipane duo that could work with any number of fruits if Concord grapes aren’t available, such as sliced plums, blackberries, ripe pear slices, poached quince, quartered figs, or seedless red or purple table grapes. Sweet rice flour (Mochiko) is stickier than regular rice flour and can be found in Asian markets (sometimes called glutinous rice flour, though it doesn’t contain wheat gluten). If you only have regular rice flour, you may want to add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, or a tablespoon of ground chia or flax seed, to help the crust hold together. If gluten is a non-issue, feel free to trade the flours in the crust and frangipane for white or whole wheat flours.

All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes 1 (4.25 x 14.5-inch) rectangular tart, or 1 (8-inch) round tart

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 cup (2 ounces) raw walnut halves
1/3 cup (1.25 ounces / 35 grams) oat flour
1/3 cup (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) sweet white rice flour (Mochiko)
1/3 cup (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) sorghum flour
3 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon rosemary needles
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2″ dice

Filling:
1 cup (5 ounces / 140 grams) concord grapes, halved and seeded
3/4 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) raw walnut halves
1/4 cup (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon sweet white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 tablespoon coarse sugar
1/2 cup crème fraîche whipped with 1/2 cup heavy cream, for serving

Instructions

Make the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Have a rimmed baking sheet and 4.25 x 14.5-inch rectangular tart pan (or an 8-inch round pan) with removable bottom ready.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, oat, rice and sorghum flours, with the sugar, and salt. Process until the walnuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together, about 30-60 seconds. If it doesn’t come together, keep processing until it does.

Dump the crumbly dough into the tart pan. Use your fingers to press the crumbs first into the sides then into the bottoms of each pan to about a 1/8″ thickness, taking the time to make it as even as you have the patience for. If the dough becomes sticky, chill for a few minutes and dust your fingers lightly with flour. Lightly prick the bottom of the tart with the tines of a fork in a few places. Freeze until firm, 15 minutes.

Place the tart shell on the rimmed baking sheet, and put in the oven (no need for weights). Bake until golden and firm, 18-22 minutes. While the crust is still hot, use the back of a teaspoon to press the sides and bottom down gently; this compresses the crust and makes it less prone to crumbling.

While the tart shell bakes, make the filling:
Place the walnuts, 1/4 cup of sugar, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and grind very fine. Add the butter and egg and process until smooth.

Scrape the frangipane into the par-baked tart shell and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the grapes on top of the frangipane and press down slightly. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake the tart until the frangipane is puffed, golden, and firm to the touch, about 35-45 minutes, rotating the tart halfway through the baking time.

Let the tart cool for at least 20 minutes. To remove the sides, place the tart on a few small jars, ease the pan sides away from the crust, and let it slip down. Cut the tart into wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of the whipped crème fraîche.

51 thoughts on “Concord Grape + Walnut Frangipane Tart with a Gluten-Free Rosemary Crust”

  1. I LOVE your friends cooking mantra! That is hilarious and I'm totally going to start chanting that when I cook! I bet it really does make the food taste better! I don't think I've ever cooked with grapes before, but this tart is beautiful and I love the walnut and grape combo. And as you probably could have guessed, I'm in love with the pic of your cat at the end, adorable :)

  2. Your friend's kitchen mantra is the sweetest thing! Also, what a lovely idea she has to make a cookbook for her friends and family. Your tart with frangipane and rosemary has me salivating over here – I HAVE to make this! Gorgeous!

  3. pinning! i just bought concord grapes today at whole foods that are seedless! i made a cornmeal cake last year with the concords via bon apetite and it was scrumptious. so happy you posted this. Do you think an equal oat-spelt-all purpose mix would fare alright in the crust? love press-in crusts : )

    1. What?! That just made my day! I didn't know seedless concords existed – hurray! Also it apparently leads me to write bad poetry. :) I think that flour combo should work perfectly. If the dough doesn't come together after 30 seconds, just add another tablespoon of butter. I posted a gluten-full version here if you want to compare the two recipes, too: http://www.bojongourmet.com/2013/05/rhubarb-bourbon-brown-butter-tart-with.html. Come back and let me know how it goes!

  4. Gorgeous frangipane, but even more beautiful words. Reading about the "I love you" mantra and your own concord grape hell brought a smile to my face on a morning that has been far from pleasing. If that's not the true intent of blogging, I don't know what is.

  5. Oh my goodness, Alanna — this tart took my breath away! It's so, so beautiful. I am such a huge fan of herbs in tart crusts, and frangipane, and creme fraiche, and all of this!! Just perfection. (P.S. Your tales of working in a restaurant kitchen sound grueling to say the least… and bahaha "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you"! Clearly, it didn't affect the outcome in the least!)

  6. You are a true artist — this is spectacular, and I just love the combination of frangipane with all kinds of fruit. One of the farmer's at our Sunday market sells seedless Concords, but you know, the flavor isn't there. You can't mess with Mother Nature, she knows what she's doing! Fabulous post!

    1. You sweetheart! Thank you, Sue. Ok, I'm glad to know the seedless Concords aren't all that – now I don't feel so bad for writing this ranty post.

  7. I love your story. Sometimes I think it'd be fun to work in a restaurant… And I obviously have no idea of what it would be like. Thanks for reminding me what a gift (so cheesy a way to put it, but it's true) being able to have an "I love you" mantra is.

    Also, the flavors! The photos! Ahhhh. You're the best. xo.

  8. Alanna, this is incredibly beautiful and I love the story you shared along with it. The fantasy of working in a restaurant kitchen is definitely more beautiful than the reality (I never worked in the kitchen but I worked in restaurants for years and saw how hard the kitchen worked). And the photos of this tart are GORGEOUS!! Incredible.

  9. beautiful, inspiring, and endlessly adaptable! but i can't wait to try it just as it is here. fingers crossed for concord sightings…
    with adaptations in mind, if i were going to sub in hazelnuts for the walnuts, do you think i could just throw them in raw, skin and all? or should i toast/remove the skins.
    thanks again – you've sparked many creative adventures in my kitchen

    1. Crossing fingers for Concords! I think you could go either way with the hazelnuts, toasting them if you want a more pronounced flavor and leaving them raw for more subtlety and a faint touch of bitterness from the skins. Please let me know what you try, and thank you so much for the kind words!

    2. they never did turn up so i went with seckel pears and used the whole raw hazelnuts – that rosemary crust calls to me when it's not around! incredibly good. i've made it twice, so: thank you thank you!

    3. Ooooooh!!! That version sounds completely amazing! I just saw some seckel pears, and now I'm dying to try your variation. Thank you so much for the note!

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