It's Daring Bakers time, it's Daring Bakers time!
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.
You can find the recipe on each of their blogs, linked above.
This month's Daring Bakers' challenge has been a favorite dessert since I first learned to make it during one of my earliest classes in cooking school. I've since made them only once, and that was when I tried out Claire Clark's recipe from her cookbook, Indulgence. While I liked her tart shell more, mostly because it was easier to manage and tasted just as good, the filling for this challenge tart was amazing.
We were allowed to choose the accompanying filling that went with the tarts. Traditionally, the dessert included a layer of jam across the bottom. I used fig jam. Because fig jam will make you faint. In a good way.
The tart shells. I've tried many different shortcrust dough recipes, and this is one of the more finicky. Make sure the dough is slightly sticky, as the recipe directs, or it may come out to crumbly when baked. Pay careful attention to the temperature before rolling it out--too hot or too cold, and your dough may crack or stick to your rolling pin. Keep the flour handy to dust your work surface and pin.
Spread the jam across the bottom, and plop the almond cream filling on top. Be gentle when spreading the almond cream, or you might push the jam to the tart's corners, and it may even rise to the surface, up the sides. You may want to chill or even freeze your tart shells after you've smoothed the jam in to avoid oozing. Because oozing is bad, unless we're talking cheesy pizza or the chocolate out of s'mores. Okay, maybe it's not so bad . . . but in this case, it would be wretched.
Spreaded! And one before being spreaded, so you know I didn't Photoshop it to fool you.
As they bake, the upper crust will rise, but then deflate again as the tarts cool. I had leftover filling, so I filled a ramekin to make a little dessert. Which disappeared shortly after this shot was taken. *shrugs*
Oh my. Almond cream, despite its name, bakes into a light, moist, flavorful, wonderful, spectacularly delicious cake-like substance. Holy cheese, it's good. It's even tasty raw. Not that I'd know this. Just take my word for it (don't eat it if you're pregnant or have a compromised immune system--raw eggs and all that make for bad news!). I initially thought I'd overbaked the tarts because of how brown they got, but it didn't affect the taste at all, and I think this browning enriched the tart's nuttiness.
The jam. It permeates upward. Like tulips out of the snow in the spring. Only tastier. If there are any doubts about whether almond cream and fig jam get along, banish them now. You may not have noticed, but they're an elderly couple who like to hold hands, smile at each other, and walk through the park. That's right--just like the diamond commercial. They get along most righteously.
Want ideas for other Bakewell Tart fillings? Visit my fellow DBers on our blogroll!
For visual reference:
The Claire Clark Bakewell Tart, with raspberry jam that I baked last fall.
In reverse, the fig and frangipane crostata I made for the 2007 Winter Festival of Pie. Suspiciously, a "fresh fig and almond crostata" appeared in the October 2008 issue of Martha Stewart's "everday FOOD." A co-worker had given me the issue, and the photo made me do a double-take. Drat on you, Martha--drat on you and your weird capitalization system!
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 (here's the strawberry jam I used)
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds
Assembling the tartPlace 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.
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).
Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film
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
Jasmine’s notes:• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
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.
• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).