Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' June Challenge: Bakewell Tart... er... Pudding

Are you ready for this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge? Ready or not, here it comes!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I have never quite been able to sort out my feelings about the word "pudding". In my early years, it only evoked "chocolate pudding", or some other sort of cream. Then I discovered what remains one of my favourite animated films ever, Astérix et Cléopâtre, which is truly a French classic (I have friends who grew up on various continents, and we are all familiar with this cartoon). In one of the most memorable scenes, the villain and his sidekick decide to make arsenic pudding (and they sing a pretty catchy tune while making, too); the result didn't look like a cream at all, but rather like a cake. That's how I discovered that there are several kinds of pudding in this world. But both my parents, who have travelled in England, have always seemed to have a sincere loathing of plum pudding; and so, despite never having eaten cake-like pudding myself, I've always thought of it as something undesirable.

As a result, I was a little wary when I saw this month's challenge: Bakewell Tart... er... Pudding. The title alone was confusing. Was I going to have to make plum pudding? In the middle of summer? But after reading the recipe and browsing the DB forums, I discovered that "pudding" can also refer to any kind of dessert in Britain. Then, on closer inspection, I realized that this month's recipe was really very similar to something I had eaten many times in Belgium: tarte à la frangipane. Now that I was willing to make!

You can find all the information you want on the history of this classic English dessert at The Daring Kitchen, or on Jasmine's blog, or on Annemarie's blog. I myself have decided to refer to it as a tart, because... well, as I've made clear, I have issues with the word "pudding". However, I have no issues with this dessert!

The Bakewell Tart is basically a pie crust, filled with a thin layer of jam or custard, and topped with frangipane. I had made shortcrust pastry many times before, but had had some bad luck with it recently, with various recipes: sometimes it had come out too dry, or too hard. I have to say, though, this pastry recipe is a keeper: I made it twice, and it came out perfectly crispy every time!

But because I was nervous to begin with, I made 10 cm (4 inch) tartlets and 5 cm (2 inch) mini-tartlets, which are easier to bake evenly (and easier to share). I also used every trick in the book to avoid having problems: I folded the dough over the edge of the pie mold (to keep it from shrinking in the oven), I pricked the bottom with a fork, and I scattered almond powder over it before adding the filling (this helps absorb moisture and prevents the crust from getting soggy).

We had free range concerning the choice of the filling. For my first batch of tartlets, I used fresh raspberries and blueberries and cooked them separately with sugar. For the second batch, I made a quick lemon curd, and topped the tarts with lemon-flavoured icing. I hadn't iced anything in ages, and I had never tried to make patterns before... which I guess is evident from my pictures. But at least I got to use my icing syringe for the first time ever!

I had never made frangipane before, and was surprised at how easy it was. It was basically like making a pound cake, but with almond powder instead of flour. I had a little bit of trouble spreading the frangipane over my second batch of tartlets, because I had over-filled them with very liquid lemon curd, and so the layers got blended a little. Fortunately, since they are the same colour, you can't really tell. :-)

I really enjoyed making these Bakewell Tarts - and eating them! I liked that they were not too sweet, and I loved the different textures in every bite: the crispy pastry, the gooey jam, and the light, spongy frangipane. It's definitely a crowd pleaser. In fact, I was supposed to take my second batch over to a dinner party last week. Unfortunately, that was the night I got sick and had to go to the emergency room, and so my friends never got to taste the Bakewell Tartlets. My in-laws did, however - and they loved them!

Many thanks to Jasmine and Annemarie for this great challenge!

Adapted Challenge Recipe:
Bakewell Tartlets (raspberry, blueberry and lemon)

Makes eight 10 cm (4 inch) tartlets, or twenty 5 cm (2 inch) mini-tartlets

For the sweet shortcrust pastry
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

For the frangipane
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

For the raspberry filling (fills half a batch)
250ml (1 cup) fresh raspberries
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

For the blueberry filling (fills half a batch)
250ml (1 cup) fresh blueberries
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

For the lemon curd (fills a full batch)
6 eggs
200ml (3/4 cup) lemon juice (4-6 large lemons)
200g (1 1/4 cup) icing sugar
125g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, diced

For the lemon icing
(Adapted from Susannah Blake's Cupcakes)
2 tsbp lemon juice
100g (3/4 cup) icing sugar

To make the pastry:
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the cold butter, diced (or grated). Working quickly, use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract and incorporate it into the flour mixture. Add in the water slowly, putting just enough to obtain a barely sticky, cohesive dough. Form dough into a ball, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (longer is better).

To make the fruit filling:
Put your selected fruit into a small pan and combine with the sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until fruit loses its consistence and juice. Raise heat to medium-heat and continue cooking and stirring about 10 minutes, or until your fruit has reached your desired thickness (in this case, I kept it fairly liquid).

To make the lemon curd:
Whisk the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar together in a saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick enough that you can make lasting traces in it with your whisk. Remove from heat, add the diced butter and continue whisking until butter is melted.

To make the lemon icing:
Put the lemon juice in a bowl and gradually sift in the sugar, stirring with a spoon until the sugar is completely blended. You want to end up with a thick mixture.

To make the frangipane:
Beat the soft butter with the sugar until fluffy and light yellow. Add in the eggs, one at a time (the mixture will curdle: this is normal). Mix in the almond extract, then incorporate the almond powder and the flour. (Note: the instructions suggested using a stand mixer, but I did it by hand and it was fine)

To assemble and bake the tartlets:
Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Roll out your pastry dough to desired thickness (the recipe suggested 5 mm, but it seemed too thick to me, so I rolled it down to 2 mm). Cut out portions of the dough to fit your chosen mold: the dough should be large enough to comfortably cover your entire mold, with enough leftover to cover the top of the edges. (Note: do not attempt to stretch the dough to fit the mold: this will create too much gluten and harden the dough.)

When you are done with your first series of tartlets, gather the remaining scraps of dough and reform them into a large ball. Roll it out again and repeat the process as many times as necessary. (Note: the dough will get harder the more you manipulate it. As a result, the last tartlets you make may have a different texture - mine was still good, but keep this in mind if you want all your tartlets to be absolutely perfect: you might want to make fewer in that case.)

As you make the tartlets, prick the bottoms repeatedly with a fork and place the shells in the freezer for 15 minutes (or in the fridge for longer).

When you are ready, take the tart shells out and sprinkle the bottoms with almond powder. Spread a thin layer of fruit filling or curd on the bottom of the shells.

Top the tartlets with a thick layer of frangipane. Don't be afraid to cover the entire shell: the frangipane will rise, but it won't overflow.

Place the tarts on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-thirty minutes, depending on the size of your tarts. The tarts are ready when the frangipane is puffed and golden brown. Let cool.

Once cooled, carefully break off the excess edges of the pastry and unmold the tartlets.

To ice the tartlets (lemon curd version):
Put the icing in a syringe and make your desired patterns. Alternatively, if you prefer very sweet tartlets, cover the entire top of the tartlets. Let set in the fridge.


  1. Beautiful decorations with teh icing sugar! They look fantastic :) very mouth watering... Cheers!

  2. Not only are your tarts gorgeous, but your frangipane is perfection, light yellow, smooth and fluffy! What kind of almond flour did you use? I just used ground almonds, as I couldn't get out to get some good almond flour :( Mine is speckled and gritty That said, I also love the glaze pattern on top. Spectacular Bakewells!

  3. Lovely icing,look very pretty and delicious :)

  4. J'aime beaucoup ton billet! Tes tartelettes sont parfaites et quelle jolie présentation. Avec le lemon curd cela doit être absolument délicieux:)) Félicitations!

  5. Beautiful tarts, especially the lemon curd one... it looks wonderful with the icing! Your frangipane has a really soft, cake-like texture to it that looks lovely. I also really, really liked this pastry shell!

  6. Your tarts are lovely! Great job on this month's challenge.

  7. Your frangipane looks absolutely perfect and those lemon curd ones are the best, aren't they? I actually like that filling the most of the ones I tried sofar. Gives it a nice tangy taste to it. I didn't take any of the precautions you took when baking, but then I had no idea what could go wrong, so merely followed the recipe, but I think I was lucky too that they came out as they did!

  8. I like the twirl of icing on the top! The berry fillings sound delicious! Good job on the challenge!!!

    Glad to hear that your health issue wasn't serious:)

  9. Yum!! I love the berry fillings you made =D. All of your tarts are adorable! Awesome job on this challenge!!

  10. What pretty tartlets! Very well done!



  11. Wow, reading that about the arsnic pudding... my roomate is crazy about Astérix et Cléopâtre and he was just showing me that little clip about a month ago! Our house is filled with those books. So good!
    Your tarts look wonderful, really spongy! great job.

  12. I think I missed that word "thin" on the jam and put way to much jam in and not enough frangipane. Yours looks so fabulous; I'd need one of each and probably another to even begin to think about which one would be my favorite.
    Oh yes arsnic pudding hehe.
    Hope all is well with you now.

  13. Mmm, they look perfect, and I love the flavors you chose! :)

  14. Your frangipane is awesome looking. Those tarts are gorgeous, bravo!!

  15. I hadn't made the connection before now, how that was almond flour! Oh what fun I will have substituting!
    Your tarts look super tasty! Great job!

  16. Those little iced lemon tarts are stealing the show! Fabulous job!

  17. Oh, I love the lattice design! Nicely done!

  18. Loved the story! And, your mini tarts are very cute!

  19. They look amazing and I like your iced lemon tartelettes.

    Thanks for participating.


  20. Lovely, lovely, lovely,....Yum!!! I just love it all,......

    Your mini tartes look so fab!

  21. I agree about plum pudding (my tongue is rebelling at just the mention of it) so glad these didn't punish you too much. The look lovely!