But there I was, about to post a thread in the "I won't be participating in the June challenge" thread on the Daring Kitchen site. And then I took a moment to read some of the other posts on the thread. People were not participating because they had lost their job and found themselves homeless, or perhaps they had a baby yesterday. Some daring bakers were getting married in the next few days, and I think that there was even some violent crime in there.
I felt deep shame. And then I hoisted myself out of my chair, and I made the damn tart.
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.
And it was very good- and English, just like my semi-dormant, non-Jewish self.
Now just one little note here before we begin. Let's talk about almond extract for a moment. I admit that I am a fan. Back in high school I use to stop in at Cedar Chest in Northampton and slather myself with Caswell Massey Almond lotion. It made me feel fancy (and you know how I like to feel fancy) and it masked the cigarette smell that would follow me back to campus.
Joey, on the other hand, has a very different reaction to almond extract. He had some nasty experience involving horchata and liquor that his stomach never quite came back from. We all have our feelings and memories associated with almond extract- whether full of pain or joy.
My point is this- although this tart seems especially almond extract centered, Joey couldn't stop eating it. So there. Don't be scared by the whole almond thing.
You can find all sorts of fascinating information on the history of this dessert on the Daring Kitchen site. Is it a tart or is it a pudding? I don't know, but this just bears repeating:
"Someone once said something like 'The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.'"
That's from Jasmine and Annemarie. Thanks to them for that, and for, as it happens, a pretty great challenge.
So there are three elements here, there is the sweet shortcrust pastry, the franginpane, and the jam.
For the pastry:
8oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond 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.
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.
For the Frangipane:
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) powdered 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. 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.For the jam, I used a blueberry chile jam that I made last summer.
Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough 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 1/4'' thickness, by rolling in one direction only, and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to a nine inch 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 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.
Top with whipped cream or creme fraiche to really propel yourself over the moon.