Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ooh La La

OK, flowers are beautiful,

But the beauty of this tart is that a little
goes a very long way

Towards satisfying a craving for
something sweet and indulgent.

Besides, almonds are good for you,
And all the hype about this is true.

Almond Tart - Courtesy of David Lebovitz,
adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere
(with some adaptations by me)

Makes one 9 or 10-inch (23-26cm) tart

For the dough

  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (my addition – caramel & salt are peas & carrots)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115g) chilled unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ice water
    (you may need a teeny bit more depending on the moisture content of your flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    (I didn't have any so I just used the vanilla)

Mix the flour and sugar in a standing electric mixer or food processor (or by hand, using a pastry blender.)

Add the butter and mix or pulse until the mixture is sandy and the butter is in very small pieces, the size of rice or smaller. It should be pretty well-integrated with no large visible chunks.

Add the water and extracts and mix until the dough is smooth and comes together.

Press into a flat disk (I suggest you try and make this about the size of the bottom of your tart shell, it makes it easier to deal with in the long run), wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly.

To put the pastry in the pan, let the dough come to room temperature and press the dough into a tart shell using your hand.

It takes some practice but don't worry if it doesn't look perfect. Try to get the dough relatively flat on the bottom, and push it evenly up the sides with your thumbs. It doesn't need to be perfect, but you do want to make sure the sides don't collapse. If that happens, you can take it out midway during baking, and push the half-baked dough back up the sides.

Put the tart shell in the freezer and chill thoroughly.

To bake the shell, put the chilled (or frozen) shell into a preheated 375F (190C) oven.

Bake the shell for 20-30 minutes, until it is set and light golden-brown.

Remove from the oven and patch any holes with leftover dough.

NB. I used all of my dough, so I made up a teeny tiny extra batch of about 1 tablespoon and used it to after baking to patch a crack and then to extend a side that was a bit shorter than the other.

For the filling

  • 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cups (200g) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (I increased it to 1/4)
  • 1 cup (80g) sliced almonds (I used 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or Amaretto
    (I had neither, so I used The Kings Ginger)

To bake the tart, heat the oven to 375F (190C). line the rack under the one you plan to use with a sheet of aluminum foil or baking paper.

Heat the cream, sugar, and salt in a big, wide heavy-duty pot (use one that's at least 4 qts/4l) until it begins to boil.

Continue to cook and when it starts to foam up, remove it from the heat and stir in the almonds, the extract, and the liquor.

Scrape the filling into the shell. If there's a bit too much filling, don't toss it; if the tart leaks, you can use it for topping off.

Make sure there are no clumps or piles of almonds and that everything is evenly distributed, then put the filled tart shell into the oven.

After the first ten minutes, check the tart.

Take a heatproof rubber spatula, holding it diagonally and with a tapping motion, break up the surface of the tart with a good series of taps (not too hard or you will break the tart shell). This keeps the top of the tart from getting that corn flaky look on top.

Continue to bake, checking every 5-8 minutes, and breaking up any dry crust that may be forming, getting less aggressive as the filling sets up. As it begins to caramelize, stop tapping it and let the tart do its thing.

Remove the tart from the oven when the filling is caramelized to the color of coffee with a light touch of cream and there are no large pockets of gooey white filling, about 30 minutes (my timing was closer to 40). Let the tart cool a few minutes on a cooling rack.

Check and see if the tart has fastened itself to the tart ring. Slide a knife (or a curved vegetable peeler, which will slide nicely in between the ridges) between the tart and the pan to loosen it so the sides don't come off when you remove the ring.

To remove the ring rest the tart on top of a solid object and gently coax the ring off. Slip a large spatula underneath it to return the tart to a cooling rack.

Once completely cool, run a long chef's knife under the tart to release it from the bottom. If it's stubborn, set the tart on top of a warm stove burner for a second or two and you should be able to pry it off.

I lined the bottom of my tart shell with baking paper and I have to say I had absolutely no problems with sticking either on the sides or at the bottom.

Of the pan...
But the same can't be said for how it sticks
To my sides or bottom!

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