Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tart - Daring Baker's Challenge

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.

As an ardent lover of tarts, I was very happy when this challenge was announced. It was a recipe that was completely new to me, it looked delicious, and it seemed pretty simple. Of course, wouldn't you know it - of all the Daring Baker's Challenges I've done, the one that seemed simplest would be the one I mess up. Luckily my problem - undercooking - was easily fixed by an extra 20 minutes in the oven (guess I should have paid more attention to the name of the tart!).

In any case, after I did bake it well, the tart was delicious and seemed to only get better with time. In fact, my parents had about a quarter of a mini-tart left on the fifth day after baking, and according to them it was just as good, if not better, than the tart had been on the first and second days! So apparently, this is a tart that keeps very well.

It is quite simple - a sweet pastry with a layer of jam and on top of that a layer of frangipane (made mainly with eggs, sugar, and ground almonds). While the frangipane was interesting, my favorite part was really just the combination of pastry and jam. I have not yet attempted to make my own jam, but I used some very good jams that I got at the farmer's market several months ago - though I like jam a lot, it seems I never have any occasion to eat it!

I ended up making 3 tarts and still had plenty of dough left over, which I plan to use to make some jam-filled cookies, and hopefully that will use up those jars of jam. I made one big tart, which I filled with raspberry jam, and two small tarts, which I filled with apricot jam. The apricot jam was kind of watery, so I couldn't use a lot because I didn't want to get the crust soggy, though I did take the precaution of pre-baking the crusts.

The raspberry jam was much more substantial, so I was able to use more of it, and I say the more jam you can use the better, so if you make this I definitely recommend a nice sticky jam!

Below is the recipe, along with my notes in purple.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

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)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds *In a stroke of luck, I was saved from having to blanch and flake my own almonds by the genius of the man in front of me at the bakery stand line at the farmer's market. I went the day I was baking the tart and was just there to get my usual loaf of bread, when the guy in front of me asked if he could have some of the almonds that had fallen off of the stand's almond croissants. What a brilliant idea! It would never have occurred to me to ask for them, but after hearing that man I asked for some as well and came home with a nice bag of perfectly flaked, slightly buttery 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.

*I didn't quite follow the tart-assembly instructions as written here. Instead, I rolled out the dough immediately after making it and filled all of my tart pans, trimming and saving the excess dough. I then covered the pans and refrigerated them until it was time to bake the tart, at which point I let the pastry bake on its own for about 10 minutes before taking it out, letting it cool a bit, and then filling it with the jam and frangipane. This way, I could be sure the dough wouldn't get too soggy!

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.

*As I noted above, I completely undercooked my tarts and didn't realize it until it was time to serve them. We cut into the first tart, and the paste was more than "slightly squidgy" - it was a soggy mess! See picture below:

Luckily, my parents were the only audience for this slight disaster, and they readily agreed to wait while we baked the tarts another 20 minutes. We covered them with aluminum foil so the tops wouldn't burn - I think my original problem was that my oven runs hot and so after about 15 minutes the tarts looked like they were done, even if they weren't at all done inside! Happily, the waiting for hours and then additional baking didn't seem to them any harm at all, and this way they were still warm when we finally dug in =)

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. *Instead of a grater, I used my lovely pastry cutter, which is great for mixing butter into flour when you don't want to use your fingers much, as they'll heat it up.

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


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.

*I let my eggs sit out for several hours before I made the frangipane and this seemed to help in that no signs of curdling ever appeared.

Overall, a great tart, and certainly a learning opportunity!