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.
What exactly is a Bakewell Tart (or Pudding, if you prefer)? Based on my research, it’s a pastry consisting of a shortcrust pastry shell, spread with jam and covered with a sponge-like filling enriched with ground almonds, known as frangipane. It may also be covered with chopped or sliced nuts, such as almonds.
According to Wikipedia, “The origins of the Bakewell Tart are not clear, however the generally accepted story is that it was first made by accident in 1820 when the landlady of the White Horse Inn, left instructions for her cook to make a jam tart. The cook, instead of stirring the eggs and almond paste mixture into the pastry, spread it on top of the jam. When cooked the jam rose through the paste. The result was successful enough for it to become a popular dish at the inn. The name is believed to have come from a customer who decided that the tart was “baked well” thus the inn called it their “Bakewell” tart.”
Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is a pudding, where a layer of jam is covered by an almond pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is an actual tart, which the DBers are presenting today, where a rich shortbread-like pastry is filled with jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.
The core of this challenge was to make the actual Bakewell Tart. An optional component was to make your own jam filling from scratch. I decided to forgo the jam making process because I already had a jar of lovely Cherry Amaretto preserves that I brought back from Seattle. I love the flavor combination of cherry and almond, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect filling for my frangipane-topped tart! I was right. My cherry preserves with just a kiss of almond flavor were a perfect match for the buttery shortbread crust and fluffy almondy frangipane. It was a really lovely dessert that was enjoyed by all who tasted it- including me!
I also brought back a bag of toasted hazelnut flour from Seattle that I’d been dying to use. So, I also made a batch of tartlets using that in place of the almond meal called for in the recipe. To make my shortcrust, I decreased the AP flour by 1/4 cup and added the same amount of the hazelnut meal. I also used some vanilla bean paste instead of almond extract. The crust had a slightly rougher, more rustic texture than the almond version, but it was really nice. I used the hazelnut meal to make the frangipane topping with the same result. A little rustic, but delicious nonetheless! The tartlets were filled with Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, instead of jam, and topped with toasted, chopped hazelnuts. OMG! You haven’t lived until you’ve had a gooey, chocolatey Nutella-filled Bakewell tartlet! Absolutely divine!
I thought that this challenge was a perfect one for any time of year. The Bakewell Tart is a deliciously rich and nutty confection that can be served warm or cooled. Yet, despite its substantial nature, it can be prepared with a minimum of time and fuss in the kitchen. It can also be adapted to use whatever seasonal fruits are available in your area. It also keeps well. I put half in the freezer, and several days later it tasted just as scrumptious as the day I made it.
If you’d like to see how the rest of the Daring Bakers fared with this challenge, visit the Daring Kitchen web site.
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)
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.
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It’s a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn’t have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).
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.
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.
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract.
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.
• Add another five minutes or more if you’re grinding your own almonds or if you’re mixing by hand (Heaven help you).