Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart

“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 1800s in England.”

I’ve had a busy and stressful month – a trip to California to help build a deck for my mom, family drama that hasn’t been resolved, a quarterly newsletter to put together, the death of a friend who lived in Canada, so attending her memorial service required phone calls and an emergency trip to Seattle to renew our passports. Last week I felt as if it was all going to fall apart, and I even considered forfeiting this month’s challenge. But I held it together (just barely) and was able to complete the challenge this morning. I looked at my few hours of baking as my reward for surviving the month.

This version of a Bakewell Tart (or pudding, because apparently this recipe has elements of both recipes) is a sweet shortcrust pastry filled with jam and topped with frangipane. In English: a sugar cookie crust with jam and a pastry cream made with ground almonds.

I really wanted the entire tart to be made from scratch, so I attempted to make blackberry jam with berries we picked last summer.

I followed a recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It was a disaster. The recipe was unclear about how long it would take to start to thicken. I set it on low after about 15 minutes, and 10 minutes later, it was burned. It didn’t stick to the pan, but it turned brown, tasted burned, and is now in a hard candy stage stuck in the bottom of my pan. I think I’m going to have to heat it up again to get it out.

So I dug around my pantry and found three cans of homemade jams that had been given to us as gifts. I chose my cousin Deb’s plum and apricot jams, as I was making three tarts. (Two for neighbors, one for us. The whole glycemic index thing, you know; we shouldn’t be eating all this sugar by ourselves.)

So I ground the almonds, then started on the crust. (When did I start wearing so many rings??)

The recipe instructed me to grate frozen butter. I’d never done that before. Wow. It works amazingly well, really makes it so much easier to distribute the butter evenly. Who knew? Seriously, why have I never heard of this?!

I patted the dough into a disk and stuck it in the fridge. (I actually did this step the night before assembling the tart.)

The next morning I removed the dough from the fridge to let it warm up a bit, then started on the frangipane: cream the “icing sugar” (had to look that up – it’s another name for powdered/confectioner’s sugar) and butter, add vanilla, and then add eggs, one at a time, plus two tablespoons of flour. As the recipe warned, “The batter may appear to curdle. Don’t panic”. Sure enough.

I then added the almonds…

…and rolled out the dough. As I mentioned, I’d decided to make three tarts – one for each next-door neighbor, one for us. I used these handy paper cake “pans” I stocked up on when Daiso closed. (Oh, how I miss that store, particularly way up here in the boondocks of Northern Washington.)

I added the jam…

…then the frangipane…

…and put them in the oven for about 25 minutes.

The recipe told me the finished tart would “have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy, and a bit spongy-looking”. It was. I took it out. (No overcooking this time!)

It is recommended to serve warm, and because I was giving these to the neighbors, I had to taste test, right? It was also recommended to serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche, and I’d have to agree. However, I didn’t have it, so we did without. (I also didn't have the recommended sliced almonds to add on top.)

You can see my impromptu packaging in the background. I included a note with each tart explaining my baking challenges and the fact that we’re doing our best to limit our sugar, then dropped them off before starting my workday. An hour later 8-year-old Abigail came over with a huge bowl of strawberries, cleaned and sliced. (Thank you, Abigail!)

Definitely a successful challenge. I’ll make this again, and I’ll make it with a raspberry or blackberry jam, if only for the aesthetic appeal of a red or bright-colored jam surrounded by all the golden goodness of pastry and cookie crust.

I survived a hellish month and now have a little dessert to treat myself. It's almost 2:00 a.m., and when I finally get this proofread and posted, it will be mine to savor.


  1. Gorgeous. That golden colour is lovely. Well done

  2. Sorry you had a rough month! Double kudos to you on your challenge, then, because you really did a great job. It looks awesome!

  3. My pics didn't turn out as nice as yours, but it taste good. I made some cherry filling, and it had a good flavor, but I'm not sure I'll make it again.

    Thanks for sharing the pics.

  4. Juline
    Next time you are in Seattle you can get a Daiso fix and stock up on your cute baking papers. There is one in Westlake Center and in Alderwood mall. I saw them last week and thought of you.