Tart Party, Sans Vicars

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. This was a fun one for me because I’d heard of bakewell tarts, but never seen or tasted one. They turn out to be surprisingly easy to make, and scrumptious with tea—go figure!

Although there are a variety of ways to make a bakewell tart, our recipe was composed of a rich shortbread crust topped with layers of jam and frangipane, a moist almond filling. We were allowed the option of using either store-bought or homemade jam, and since it is strawberry season AND right around Father’s Day and our 10th wedding anniversary, I made fresh strawberry jam for Jeremy, his favorite.

Now, I’ve done jams a few times in the past and it is not my forte. I tend to get paranoid that it hasn’t cooked long enough, thereby far overcooking it and ending up with fruit candy that won’t come out of the jars. This time I carried home 4 pints of gorgeous Oregon strawberries a mile home from the market, and promptly dumped every last one of them out on my front porch as I tried to dig my key out of my pocket. An inauspicious start, to say the least. Since my berries were now all bruised and dirty, the clock was really ticking. I immediately rinsed them all off individually and used them right away, since bruised and/or wet berries will spoil in the blink of an eye. Considering my previous track record, I decided to try my hand at freezer jam, which apparently uses an ungodly amount of sugar and gives the berries a kind of artificial citric acid tang. It was totally easy to do, but I think it didn’t really show off the natural flavor of the fruit, and it set up pretty soft. I followed the instructions exactly, but my berries were quite juicy, so I wonder if that affected the outcome. In the end, I really think I just need to come to terms with traditional jamming and keep practicing.

The next day, with 5 pints of sort-of set strawberry freezer jam at the ready, I proceeded with my tart. I did my crust in the food processor, and it came together in no time. After giving it a short stint in the fridge, I rolled out my crust and got it into the tart pan with a little help from plenty of bench flour and a jumperoo to keep the baby from making a break for the dog’s water bowl every 10 seconds. Then we made frangipane to the tune of “Oh Susannah” and “London Bridge is Falling Down” while the crust set up in the freezer for 15 minutes. Quick smears of jam and almond filling, and the tart went into the oven for half an hour. It came out darker than I expected, which may be because 200 degrees Celsius is actually 392F, not the 400F that the recipe indicated. Guess I should have looked up the exact conversion. I got it out in time, but I wouldn’t call this frangipane “tanned”.

We gave it a few minutes to cool and set, and then dove into it with dollops of vanilla whipped cream. It was absolutely delicious; all three of us loved it, and it only lasted us about two days. I think I see many more bakewell tarts in our future! In the meantime, be sure to check out all the daring tarts at the blogroll.

Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding

One recipe sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
about 1 C jam or curd, warmed for spreadability, and sieved if seedy
One recipe frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it warm up for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 1/4” thickness. 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 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 25-30 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

8oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp almond or vanilla extract (optional)
1-2 T 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. (You can also use a food processor for this.)

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the 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.


4.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz superfine sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
4.5 oz ground almonds
1 oz all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is light yellow 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.

I am a member of the Theta Class of the Daring Bakers, induced in July of 2007. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.

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