Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Good Turn Deserves Another Almond Tart

I've been busy in the kitchen.  My brother Don was in town for a few days.  He lives in Florida and by this time of the year, he has had it with the hot weather.  Needless to say, he wanted to bottle up our cool breezy New York weather and take it back to Florida.  I appreciate it too.  Cool weather invites me into the kitchen.  I literally have hundreds of recipes bookmarked and dog-eared, waiting to be made, but when you experience one of the hottest summers on record, it is easy to put off lighting the oven, or standing over the hot stove until cooler weather prevailed. 
I owed my brother a good dinner.  You see, Paul bought a new kitchen faucet sometime last winter on an impulse buy.  It's been sitting in my basement in the box, taunting me every time I walk by.  I would nag suggest to Paul that it would be nice to actually see the faucet functioning, at least once a week for the past few months.  Knowing that this faucet installation could potentially turn into a plumbing nightmare, Paul had no intention of installing it by himself did not want to brave it alone.  Don's visit was the impetus for Paul to tackle the job; with Don's help of course, they did it.

Technically it is still summer, but the cool-ish temperatures warranted a fall-ish menu for the "good deed" dinner.  I'll get to the actual dinner in another post.  I want to start with dessert.  I chose to start with dessert because I've been dying to make this...

and didn't want this evil thing lurking around the house with just me and Paul at home.  I adore almond desserts.  Years ago, a time which I fondly refer to as "in my previous life", I lived in Santa Cruz, California..  I frequented a cafe, India Joze, that make the most delectable Mazarin Torte.  Mazarin Torte and a pot of was the stuff of which dreams are made.  I discovered this recipe for an Almond Tart that I think comes pretty darn close.

                                      Italian Almond Tart
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pie & Tart, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2003)

Tart Dough:

Makes enough dough for one 9 1/2-inch tart (and possibly a small tartlette)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 Tbs. very cold water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
      1⁄4-inch cubes

Dough Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl.  Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse meal.

Add the egg mixture and beat just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk.  If dough is soft, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.  Gently roll out the dough, on a lightly floured board.

Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn.  Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick.  Use a small, sharp knife to cut out a round 2 inches greater in diameter than your tart pan.  Using the rolling pin, lift the dough carefully and transfer to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Ease the dough into the pan and pat it firmly into the bottom, and up the sides of the pan.  Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan.   Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim.

Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice.  Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil.  If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold.  Total baking time should be 25 to 30 minutes.   Transfer to a wire rack.  Position oven rack to the middle of oven.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees.  Prepare filling.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
  • 1⁄2 lb. almond paste, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup raspberry jam
  • 1⁄3 cup sliced almonds


In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a whisk, beat the butter until smooth. Add the almond paste, one piece at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. While continuing to beat, sprinkle in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour.

Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of the partially baked tart shell.  Spoon in the almond paste mixture and spread evenly over the jam.  Sprinkle the surface evenly with the sliced almonds.
See, there was enough for a bonus "take home tart" too.

Bake the tart until the filling is golden and the middle is firm to the touch, 35 to 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let the tart cool completely.  If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, let the sides fall away, then slide the tart onto a serving plate.  Serve at room temperature.

Makes one 9 1/2-inch tart; serves 8.  (And and a bonus tartlette for Don to take back to Florida)
And just in case you were is my new was worth the wait! 
Ain't it a beauty?

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