I don't remember what I had been looking for, exactly, but I'm pretty sure, maybe, that it had to do with pithiviers. Yes, I think I had been scrolling through Google images, or perhaps Pinterest, all the while ogling pictures of pithiviers. Or maybe it was just their frangipane filling? Either way, I’d been engaging in this meditation in an attempt to go to my happy place, or, more specifically, as a way to make my mind unavailable to increasing levels of anxiety, because for some reason, when I think to myself “happy thoughts, happy thoughts,” that is not what I typically get. So instead, I focused intently: la, la, la, frangipane, la, la, la, pithiviers, la, la, la, the sky isn’t falling... when, serendipitously, something I hadn’t been looking for caught my eye: the Bakewell Tart, which had sadly been missing from my life until now.
The tart itself is comprised of a blind-baked pastry crust, filled with a thin layer of jam, followed by a thick layer of frangipane, and topped with sliced almonds before baking. Seems straightforward enough, right? Well, wasn’t I surprised to find out that the history of the tart is actually a bit murky, its place of origin hotly debated, and even descends to a macabre level in the case of the Bakewell Tart murder. I’m pretty sure I had been seeking happy thoughts, though, when I originally came across the tart and so I’m going to return to that original initiative while still providing some background. I'll leave the rest for Poirot (Suchet, NOT Branagh. Sorry not sorry.) Here goes.
In the town of Bakewell, England, there are multiple shops claiming to be *the* spot where the eponymous tart was created, by mistake, no less. That's right, it came into the world as a screw-up. It’s worth noting that prior to taking on its contemporary tart-form, it did exist in a previous incarnation as Bakewell Pudding. Despite there being some fundamental distinctions between the two (puff pastry vs short-crust pastry, all purpose flour in the filling or strictly almond flour) it turns out that the pudding and the tart are still much beloved and oft-confused kin to this day. You can ice them, or not, I glean that this might be another potentially sensitive issue. You can make little ones to share with your family, or not, but if they find out, that might be another potentially sensitive issue.
By the time I finally got around to Bakewell Tart making, I had plans to get together with family the following day, I was hit with the inspiration to make individual tarts for them. Plus, I love an excuse to use my grandma’s old cookie tins. Everyone lights up when they see them, the fond memories of baked goods stored within are strong. I went a bit cuckoo and personalized a tart for each person with the initial of their first name in almonds...I also had a backup plan with the almonds simply scattered across the top of the remaining tarts...just in case my first attempts turned into Pinterest fails.
It gives me great joy to share the things I’ve made with my family, and it has since I was a kid. Speaking of which, I’m recalling the time I accidentally botched the measurements for baking powder in a batch of blondies. Boy, was that a surprise. I remember the final hurdle of hurriedly getting through dinnertime, after having gone through the steps of assembling the ingredients, mixing, baking, and cooling. They looked so good as they sat there in the pan, the surface dotted with M&M’s in the time before the blue one came about. Rip, tan M&M.
I recall the anticipation of cutting into them and serving a piece to each family member. Everyone was excited. They smelled so good! Unfortunately, upon tasting, disappointment settled in. The silence spoke volumes while everyone exchanged nervous glances across the table. The spell finally broke when I was asked “How much baking powder did you put in?” Mom and Dad were able to troubleshoot fairly quickly, as baking powder was, somehow, the sole prevailing taste. I’m pretty sure they were horrified by that creation. I was horrified by it. I remember feeling crushed, but also resolved to myself that I would attempt these again, and NEXT TIME, I would get it right. You see, unlike the Divine Providence of the Bakewell Tart, those blondies were not a glorious mistake. I’m so glad we’ve put that all behind us.
The recipe for pastry crust yields enough for two large tarts. Anytime I make this dough I always make enough so that I can squirrel one disc away in the freezer. Since the dough is unsweetened, it works wonderfully in other applications, such as quiche and pot pie. I always sleep a little easier knowing I have some on standby. This recipe has been adapted from Stephanie Johnston's Bakewell Tart and the berry jam has been adapted from a Martha Rose Shulman recipe, both via NYT Cooking. The pastry crust has been adapted from Tartine.
Yield: 1 large or 8 individual tarts
Well hello! I'm Kat, and
I'm always either cooking or thinking about what I want to cook next. For me, food is always about so much more than just my next meal. This is a place for sharing stories and recipes from a life lived through the lens of food...