I wouldn’t really call myself a sucker for a bargain. I do try to favour items that are on sale, but I won’t go as far as to buy something I don’t really need or particularly like, just because it’s half-price (unlike one of my relatives, who has been known to buy unnecessary things in bulk for that very reason).
Food, however, is a little different. Not that I would ever buy something I don’t enjoy eating. But if it’s on sale, I might buy a little more than I need – because, I figure, food is rarely wasted around here.
And that’s how I ended up with five packages of blueberries. At “5 for 5 dollars”, I just couldn’t resist.
I’ll admit it was a little overboard, and I’m having trouble finishing them off. I nibble a few with my breakfast, try to sneak some into my lunch, but the stack of berries doesn’t seem to be diminishing much. Laurent isn’t helping me at all, because he’s busy eating cherries, these days. I would also like some cherries, but unfortunately I have five packages of blueberries to finish.
So, I decided to do something a little more proactive. It’ll take a few projects to really finish off these berries, but at least this one has put a nice dent into them. It’s a recipe I took from Louis-François Marcotte’s Simple et Chic, a lovely little book I got for Christmas and haven’t used nearly enough yet.
This Almond and Berries Tart is in many ways similar to the Bakewell Tart we had to make for the last Daring Bakers’ Challenge. In fact, I used the shortcrust pastry recipe we were given for that challenge, because it comes together so beautifully (the recipe in the book had a weird flour/butter ratio, and I had a feeling it would come out hard). The almond cream filling is made slightly differently, and is less puffy and cake-like than the Bakewell version, but the underlying principle appears to be the same.
The book’s recipe called for blueberries and raspberries, but I substituted fresh apricot for the latter. Yes, on top of the mountain of blueberries, I also had a bag of apricots to finish – I couldn’t help myself, they smelled so good in the market stalls! And apricot is always a good match with almond flavours.
I also played around with the almond filling. The book asked for 2 cups of whole almonds to be ground, but I only had almond meal on hand. I estimated that 2 cups of whole almonds would probably yield 1 cup of powder, which in retrospect was probably a little too much (this is why cookbooks should always incorporate weight equivalents!). On top of that, I added a little more, to compensate for the fact that I had put in less sugar than indicated.
So, really, I tweaked a lot of things. Often, when I improvise too much, disaster is in the air, but this time, it honestly came out quite delicious! It was not too sweet, the flavours went well together, and the ultra-moist texture was delightful. Laurent is usually not too happy when I make big tarts or cakes: since it’s just the two of us, it takes us a long time to finish them off, and he gets tired of them. So we usually give away a large portion of the desserts. But in this case, he seemed more than happy to keep most of the tart for the rest of the week (although we still gave a lot of it away).
Only four packages of blueberries to go!
Blueberry and Apricot Almond Tart
Adapted from Simple et Chic
Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) tart, serves about 8
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
110g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and diced
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract
1-2 tbsp cold water (or more if needed)
For the filling:
175g (6 oz) almond flour
190g (7 oz) sugar
150g (5 oz) unsalted butter, softened and diced
2 whole eggs
2 tbsp amaretto (almond liqueur)
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml (1 cup) fresh blueberries
3 apricots, pitted and diced
To make the pastry:
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the diced cold butter. 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 them into the flour mixture. Add in the water slowly, putting just enough to obtain a dough that holds together, but is not sticky. Form dough into a disc, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour.
When ready to use, roll out the dough on a floured surface, about 2-3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Line a 23 cm (9 inch) tart pan with the dough, fold the excess dough over the sides of the pan and pinch all around to secure. Prick the bottom of the pan with a fork, repeatedly. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
To make the filling:
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour and the sugar. Add in the softened butter and cream until smooth. Incorporate the eggs, amaretto and vanilla and continue mixing until the mixture is homogenous.
To assemble and bake the tart:
Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
Spoon half the almond filling into the prepared tart pan, then evenly sprinkle with half the blueberries and apricot. Cover with the remainder of the filling and scatter the remaining fruit on top of that. Gently press the fruit halfway into the filling with your fingers.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 180ºC (350ºF) and continue baking another 30 minutes, until the top of the tart is golden brown. The center will still be quite soft, and a little jiggly.
Serve at room temperature, or cold. Refrigerate the leftovers.