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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.
I was a little nervous when I saw this months challenge. For one, I had never even heard of a bakewell tart or pudding before. Second, I had never made a sweet shortcrust pastry before. Third, I am not a huge almond fan. I like them enough, but I wasn’t too sure about all of the almonds and almond paste used in this recipe. However, even with all of these worries, I gave it a shot anyway. After all, I did join the Daring Bakers to give me the opportunity to bake things that I wouldn’t normally try.
My worries were pretty much unfounded as I must say, that I was pleasantly surprised. It was really easy to make, it only took me a couple of hours from start to finish. It also had a wonderful flavor. The nuttiness of the almonds paired nicely with the blackberry preserves I picked up at the grocery store. I know I know, I didn’t make my own preserves (gasp!). I just didn’t have the time.
I also could not find ground almonds at my grocery store so I bought a bag of sliced almonds and used my quick-chop to get them to a fine texture. They probably weren’t as fine as they could have been, but I found I still enjoyed the taste and texture.
To make the pastry: 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
To make the Frangipane:
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.
To assemble 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.
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.
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