I’ve written a lot in the last month about so called “food holidays”, days that some politician somewhere has deemed important enough to commemorate with some sort of food. I find them hilarious at best and perplexing at worst. Case in point: March 30 is National Turkey Neck Soup Day. What?? How is that even a thing? But today is one, unofficial as it may be, that I love. Pi day. 3.14159265359. March 14. Rather than some random ridiculous day honoring something odd, like green beans or turkey necks, it is clever and funny, a combination sorely lacking in the majority of these “food holidays”. So every year on Pi Day, I make a pie.
This year as I poked about for ideas I came across something called Bakewell Tart, which isn’t a pie at all but it appealed to me just the same. It supposedly originates from the town of Bakewell, which I discovered is in the heart of the Peak District of Northern England. The Bakewell Tart, when you break it down, is very similar to a classic French pastry containing frangipane, which I adore. A butter pastry crust with fruit and an almond filling, it’s something I’ve made a thousand times with all sorts of combinations. It’s one of those recipes that looks more complicated than it is, which is always good. Rather than nestle the fruit on top of the frangipane, as the French typically do, the Brits spread a little jam in the crust and top that with the almond filling. Some versions top the cooled tart with a powdered sugar icing, some sprinkle almonds on top. I prefer the later but to each their own.
There are many ways to go about this one, as this article points out and though raspberry jam is typical, I think any berry jam would do. I used a lovely morello cherry-raspberry that had been hanging out in my kitchen for far too long and it was delicious. Now that I think about it, maybe a nice tart citrus marmalade would be interesting. Hmmmmm. So while it’s not a typical pie, I made it anyway because I really enjoy the combination of butter, fruit and almonds baked to a golden brown. A tart is just a short pie anyway. My palate has no restrictions and neither should yours.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: 3.14 TIMES THE FUN. If there ever was a day to bake a pie, it has got to be pie day. I like tarts because they’re easy. Sometimes pie crust can get a little futzy and complicated. Tart dough, due to the high sugar and fat content, is always friendlier. Roll it out or smoosh it in, it really doesn’t matter much either way. Just get it in the pan and you’ll have a celebratory dessert in no time.
other frangipane based recipes: Pear Frangipane Tarts, Apricot Pistachio Frangipane Tart, Deep Dish Plum Almond Tart
seven years ago: Khachpuri (Georgian cheese bread)
six years ago: Irish Soda Bread
five years ago: Classic French Onion Soup
four years ago: Soda Bread Tarte Tatin
three years ago: Shaker Lemon Pie
two years ago: Brown Bread Ice Cream
last year: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
Makes one 9” tart, serving 8 people
For the filling:
¾ cup almond meal (aka ground almonds or almond flour)
1 ½ Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
1 large egg
1 large egg white
½ cup raspberry or blackberry jam
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
For the tart dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ½ Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, in ½” pieces
1 Tablespoon cold water
1 large egg yolk
- For the filling: in a food processor, pulse the almond meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, almond extract and lemon zest until smooth.
- Add the egg and egg white and pulse until smooth.
- Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated.
- For the tart dough: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.
- Add the cold butter cubes and toss to coat.
- Using your thumb and first two fingers, rub the butter and flour until the mixture is the size of small peas.
- In a small bowl, combine the yolk and the cold water.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the yolk/water mixture and begin to combine.
- Gently knead the mixture together making sure to work in all the dry bits of flour. (Note: of course you can also do all this in your food processor with a few pulses.)
- Pat into a flat round disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least ½ hour. Pastry will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or frozen up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- On a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll – from the center out – to an 11” circle.
- Roll dough up on rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9” tart pan with removable bottom.
- Carefully ease the dough into the fluted edges and pinch or roll off excess along the edges. Reinforce the sides with excess dough where needed.
- Freeze 30 minutes.
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- To assemble: Spread the jam evenly over the base of the frozen tart shell.
- Drop spoonfuls of the chilled almond filling over the jam then carefully, with a small offset spatula, spread the almond filling into an even layer. It’s easiest if you start with the edges to anchor the filling to the crust then moving to the center. Professional trick: place the filling in a piping bag fitted with a ½” open round tip and pipe, rather than spread, the filling in a spiral pattern from the center out and then neatly smooth with an offset spatula.
- Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top.
- To bake: in the preheated oven, bake about 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack until completely cooled.
- Remove the tart from pan, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
- The tart is best enjoyed the day it is made. Wrap leftovers well and store at room temperature.