A month ago, if you had told me that I would soon need to grate a stick of butter, I would have laughed, thought for a minute, then realized: the Daring Bakers. For my non-foodie readers, the Daring Bakers are a group of brilliant bloggers who take on challenging recipes once a month and all blog about them on the same day. I am a member of both the Daring Bakers and its sidekick, the recently created Daring Cooks. Only three challenges in and I've already had recipes call for things I don't normally do, like, say, grate butter.
For the most part, these challenges are thoroughly enjoyable. And this recipe is! Grating butter, though, not so much.
Let me bring you up to speed. This tart (pudding?) is composed of a shortcrust (basically a slightly flaky and very buttery shortbread), a layer of jam, and frangipane, a spongy, "slightly squidgy" (their words, not mine!) almond-flavored cake/topping. First you need a tart pan. The recipe suggests 9", but mine was 11". That would have been an important fact to note ahead of time. Live and learn, live and learn.
To make the crust, you need:
225g (8 oz.) all-purpose flour
30g (1 oz.) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp.) salt
110g (4 oz.) unsalted butter, frozen
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp.) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 tbsp.) cold water
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and grate the butter over them. Quickly use your hands to mix together the flour mixture and butter until it "resembles bread crumbs."
Next, lightly whisk together the egg yolks and almond extract (if using).
Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together. Add just enough water to form a cohesive dough. Knead it out onto the counter and form it into a disc. Wrap in cling and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (this step can be completed the night before you assemble the tart).
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out to approximately 5mm (¼") thickness. If you can't follow directions and didn't make enough dough for your tart pan, don't worry, it will turn out just fine. Press the dough into the tart pan and trim off any excess, using it to patch any holes in the crust. Toss the finished crust in the freezer for 15 minutes and start preparing the frangipane.
125g (4.5 oz.) unsalted butter, softenedFeel free to grind your almonds by hand or buy them pre-ground. I chose to use a food processor, and it worked beautifully.
125g (4.5 oz.) powdered sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp.) almond extract
125g (4.5 oz.) ground almonds
30g (1 oz.) all-purpose flour
For more fun with butter, cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Using a hand mixer, beat in eggs one at a time. The mixture may appear to curdle, but it will be alright. Pour in the almond extract, scrape down the sides, and add the almonds and flour. Mix well.
As rarely happens in my kitchen, the timing was perfect and I finished the frangipane about the time the crust needed to come out of hibernation.
To assemble the tart, warm some jam or curd (I'm sure homemade would be good, but I used store-bought seedless, sugar-free blackberry preserves) in a pot of boiling water or in the microwave. Spread it out in an even layer on the crust. Top with the finished frangipane and smooth the top.
Pop it in the oven at 400°F for 30 minutes. With 5 minutes remaining, garnish with slivered almonds.
If you can't tell from the picture, my crust does not go all the way up the sides of the pan. It is also a little thinner than I would have liked. All the same, everything worked out. The textures are wonderful and the almond-blackberry flavor is spot-on.
I would have prefered the poofy, slightly rounded look that other, more capable Daring Bakers most certainly achieved, but the flatness of my tart did not affect the taste at all.
That this recipe can withstand my inevitable bunglings and taste no worse for wear speaks volumes. It's a relatively quick recipe to prepare (especially for the Daring Bakers), and it's tons of fun (except, of course, the butter thing). I'm three challenges in, and every single one of them has been fun and tasty.
My rolling pin's just sitting there at the top of the post, waiting. What's next?