Fanchonettes

Fanchonettes are a type of French tart, traditionally topped with meringue. This recipe comes from Charles Elmé Francatelli, who most likely learned how to make them when he was training under Antonin Carême, a famous French chef at the time. The 1836 English translation of Carême’s books, French Cookery, contains a similar recipe for fanchonettes, which can be flavored with vanilla, almonds, coffee, currants, pistachios, hazelnuts, or apricots. I chose to make Francatelli’s version, however, because his fanchonettes are made with chocolate – my favorite.

Pastry:

  • 1/2 pound flour
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 1 oz baker’s sugar
  • small pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • about 1/4 cup water

Custard Filling:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 oz baker’s sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 oz chopped baking chocolate
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • small pat of butter

Meringue:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 oz baker’s sugar
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt for the pastry together in a bowl. Rub in the butter. Add the egg and mix with a fork. Add the water, a little bit at a time, just until it comes together. You might not need all of it. Chill the pastry for about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the pastry. Cut into circles and use to line greased muffin cups. I was able to make 9 fanchonettes with the amount of filling – the recipe is supposed to make 12, so either Francatelli used smaller cups or he had a thinner layer of filling. With either 9 or 12 tarts, you will have some extra pastry which you can save to use for something else later.
  3. Put all the filling ingredients in a saucepan. Gently heat and stir for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes thick.
  4. Pour into the prepared cups and bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes, until the filling is set and the pastry is starting to turn golden-brown.
  5. To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until stiff and add the sugar. Use a knife to spread a smooth layer over the top of each tart. Then, put the meringue in a piping bag and pipe a design on top; I used a star tip for this. Shake some sifted sugar over the top (I actually forgot to do this – it still turned out fine) and bake for about ten minutes at 325 degrees, until the meringue just starts to turn brown.
Before baking…
…out of the oven…
…with meringue spread on top…
…and a piped meringue design.

Francatelli suggests further decorating the meringue with strips of jelly, pistachios, almonds, or currants. I ended up using a piping bag to pipe little dots of red-currant jelly. This looks pretty, but doesn’t add much to the taste, so you could leave it off and just stick with the meringue as-is.

Tasting notes:

While I don’t normally like meringue, I absolutely love these. The chocolate filling is dark enough that it contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the meringue. The pastry is excellent, too.

I do think I might have overbaked the custard filling a bit – it still tastes delicious, but it did crack a bit on top. Next time I might try blind baking the tart shells for a few minutes first, then baking the custard at a lower temperature. I might also try increasing the ratio of filling to meringue; while I think the filling is actually supposed to be just a thin layer, I would really prefer more! I am curious about trying the other flavors Francatelli suggests, such as coffee or lemon; but at the same time, I love chocolate so much I might just make this version again.

References:

Baker, A. (2004, September 23). Francatelli, Charles Elmé (1805–1876), chef and writer on cookery. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carême, A. (1836). French cookery (W. Hall, Trans.). London: John Murray. https://dlcs.io/pdf/wellcome/pdf-item/b29338098/0

Francatelli, C. (1846). The modern cook. London: Richard Bentley. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=kMlEEwk4zf0C&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA408

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