I totally fell behind on my Daring challenges while trying to get my blog transferred over. So I couldn’t miss this months, and fortunately it was a pretty fun one. Here’s what our hosts had to say about the 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. Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits. 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 the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.
There were several firsts in this recipe for me. I had never made frangipane, in fact my first thought was “Oh cool, frangipane, wait, what is frangipane?” My faint memory was right, it is a filling made from or tasting like almonds. We made this frangipane by used ground almonds. Wondering the best way to grind almonds? I cleaned out our espresso grinder and it made a wonderfully fine almond powder.
Another thing I’d never done was grate butter, yes, that’s butter in the photo, not cheese. By grating the butter and getting each individual piece of butter coated in your flour mixture, you get an incredibly flaky crust that melts in your mouth. Now for the crust we wanted really cold butter, I stuck mine in the freezer for five minutes and put my grater in the fridge for five minutes to make sure the butter wouldn’t melt. For the frangipane we wanted softened butter, and I forgot to soften it. An easy was to do that is to cut your butter up into little cubes. Don’t microwave it! Microwaving breaks down the butter differently and once that happens, there’s no going back. It definitely changes the texture of your baked goods. By cubing it, there’s more surface area and a smaller “center” to get soft.
Finally, for the filling, I used my rhubarb strawberry jam. It’s got a great tartness to it that I thought really balanced out the sweet and buttery goodness of the crust, and the richness of the almonds. I don’t have almond extract so used vanilla, I also made a half batch in a muffin pan rather than a full large tart. This was a lot of fun, and although I’m not sure I’d make this exact recipe again, I know I’ll be using the crust recipe with the grating technique, and I’ll be playing around with ground almonds. You can check out the original challenge and recipes here, this is what I made.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup and 2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt (actually I used a small pinch of kosher salt
2oz or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
1 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS 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 yolk with the vanilla extract 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.
5 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup and 1 TBS icing sugar
1 egg and 1 egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup and 1 TBS ground almonds
1 TBS 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, beating well. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After eggs 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.
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
1/2 cup jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane
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. Divide into 6 even pieces. Flour the rolling pin and roll each pastry piece to 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 muffin pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. (Don’t skip the freezer! Very important!)
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 10 minutes. 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.