The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.
Although the history of this dessert is up for debate, I am for more interested in the fact that this tart was so delicious, especially because I wasn’t expecting it to be. I have a confession to make; I really do not like almond extract. It reminds me of the soap in public bathrooms and in my mind makes everything taste worse. Recently I have noticed that the highest quality almond extract can be enjoyable, but even then I am always a bit hesitant. Because the recipe for the Bakewell Tart called for almond extract, I was certain that I was not going to like it. That is until I realized that I was making this dessert and thus had full control over the flavors. That’s where the fun began.
The first step was to eliminate all the almond extract from the recipe, I already liked it more and I hadn’t tasted it yet. I was also worried that frangipane would be a bit rich for a summer dessert. So I decided to make it with peach curd rather than jam, the acidity in the curd helped to cut the richness a lot. Even though the shortcrust pastry dough was impossible to work with in my million-degree apartment, it came out perfectly tender and just sweet enough. I accidently (on purpose) overindulged in raw dough scraps, which I highly suggest because YUM, I love raw dough. Although, I know because of the raw egg content I shouldn’t suggest that anyone try this. But if you’re a daredevil like me….I’m not saying anything else.
Fully cooked and almond extract free, this tart was absolutely delicious. It was nutty and just dense enough, and the creamy peach curd was just the thing to offset the richness of the frangipane. Everyone who tasted it loved it, served with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. The butter pecan ice cream wasn’t my idea, the cook on the boat put it there, and I trust her, she’s British like my tart.
I have mentioned this boat, crew and cook twice now with total nonchalance, but I can’t any longer. I just had one of the coolest weekends ever. I spent three says on a luxury sailboat in Sardinia, Italy. It was unbelievable, I am still in awe just thinking about what a beautiful part of the world I was in. My Bakewell Tart was also very happy to have made the trip, until we ate it of course, after which I don’t think it was quite as pleased. Although we were even happier, a good dessert and a beautiful place on an incredible sailboat; I don’t think it can get much better than that. If it can, don’t tell me, let me revel in the joy of my weekend just a bit longer.
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds
Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour 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 colour.