Bakewell Tart

I was quite pleased when I saw the Daring Bakers challenge this month.  I have very British parents and, despite also having lived in London myself  for a few years, am quite familiar with the Bakewell Tart.  I knew one taste would bring with it some happy memories and a warm sense of nostalgia.

On a practical note, I was also delighted to be making short crust pastry (after quite an absence, I must say).  Every time I make pastry, I vow never to wait so long next time.   So here was my chance.

The tart is very easy to make.  It is essentially a very simple sweet short crust pastry, topped with jam and then a deliciously rich frangipane (almond paste).  I made this tart with blackberry jam, but would love to experiment further.  Perhaps create little individual tarts next time that showcase a variety of flavours.

I will definitely make this again.  It is so simple, and for me, full of lovely memories.

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.

{ Bakewell Tart }

Place the chilled dough disc (recipe below) on a lightly floured surface. If it is 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 (recipe below), 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 }

* Ingredients *

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

* Directions *

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.

{ Frangipane }

* Ingredients *

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

* Directions *

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.

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)