Saturday, June 27, 2009

June's Daring Baker Challenge: Cake Tart?

Blurb-o'-the-month: 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.

So a bakewell tart is basically frangipane in a crust. Frangipane, at least in this version, is like a very light, delicate almond cake. I've seen more jelloid, custurd frangipane fillings but mine didn't turn out that way. Fruity jam is added to the mix and the challenge's hosts say the bakewell tart lets you show off 'your area's seasonal fruit'. Except I'm in Alaska at the moment and Alaska's 'seasonal fruit' in June is grown in Mexico. Since I didn't want to use $10 strawberries or a jar of fruit cocktail (those raised in Alaska knows this totally counts as a fruit serving in order to avoid scurvy) I just used jam.


I was pretty excited about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge because it featured ALMONDS. I’m not a big fan of plain almonds but pretty much any almond flavored dessert makes my heart flutter. And this month’s challenge was to make a frangipane based tart, that almond cake-like substance. Why we were essentially putting cake in a tart shell was beyond me but I wasn’t complaining.

Since I no longer have a Brian to eat all of my baked goods in one drunken sitting, I decided to take the tart to my aunt’s birthday party, were I was confident they would be eaten up quickly by tipsy lawyers. I was originally going to make one large tart but decided that it would be cute and festive to make mini tarts.


I found mini tart pans at Bed Bath and Beyond (which I always want to call Bath and Body Works, even though beauty product stores generally don’t also stock kitchen supplies) for super cheap and they worked like a charm. Instead of rolling out one giant crust, I rolled (or rather, I had my boyfriend slave roll out) out the dough and then used a drinking glass to cut out smaller pastry circles that ended up fitting the mini pans just about perfectly. Then I spooned in the required fillings and popped them in the oven.

I guess I should post the recipe now, eh? Here it is:

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

INGREDIENTS:

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

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.

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.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

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.

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

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.

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These were adorable and a hit at the party but I thought they could be better. Surprisingly, I didn’t think the frangipane filling was almond-y enough and the crust and frangipane I found kind of bland. I ended up adding more almond extract and sugar to the frangipane after tasting the first batch which helped a bit but it still needed a flavor boost. I also wasn’t a fan of the whole cake filled tart thing. Give me a tart or a cake but don’t freak me out by trying to combine the two. I saw one Daring Baker that experimented with using almond paste to make a gooier almond layer and I think I would’ve liked that a lot better.

Anyways, I never got around to taking a picture of the tarts split open, oops. But some had jam on the bottom, like the recipe called for. But then I got bored and it was late at night so I also did some without jam: some sprinkled with powdered sugar, some topped with almonds, some dipped in chocolate and some with jam on top. Then I put them on a big ol' platter with some chocolate covered strawberries because I am a domestic goddess.


Oh, check out this cute little tuxedo strawberry I made. My chocolate was getting wonky because I was using chocolate chips and not dipping chocolate but I still find it rather adorable. I was feeling rather proud and jolly, though perhaps that was just the vodka punch I was drinking?

7 comments:

John said...

you are right, you ARE a domestic goddess! Love the blog. I just started an Italian food blog at

http://alphabetcook.blogspot.com/

stop on by!

Katy ~ said...

Oh, and you're not a goddess?! Your tuxedo strawberry is terrific.

Lauren said...

Yum! Your tarts are adorable =D. I love the strawberry tuxedos!!

Lisa Michelle said...

Your tarts are gorgeous, and I love how you did so many different things with them, and out of boredom no less! They look professional! That said, love your tuxedo strawberries too..mine always look like crap..lol

jasmine said...

Very cute little tartlettes.

Thanks for participating.

j

KMDuff said...

LOL, love the strawberry wearing a tuxedo! Looks like your tartlets came out awesome!

ice tea: sugar high said...

Love the mini tarts. Look so delectable and adorable. Too pretty to eat.