Saturday, February 02, 2013

Bakewell Tart, Tea and Downton Abbey

I soo look forward to each week's trip to Downton Abbey.  Not only is the program a feast for the eyes,  the dessert accompaniments have become a feast for the taste buds.  What a wonderful way to begin each week!

I had a little trouble deciding what I was going to prepare this Sunday.  Having limited knowledge of British desserts, I consulted my friends from Scotland and New Zealand for input on what to try next.  They made a few recommendations, one of which was fruit cake (I think not).  I do plan to try a couple of them in the coming weeks.  I found a recipe for a bakewell tart which seemed promising.  I think it called to me because of the ground almonds.  It seemed like the perfect way to ring in episode 4 of Season 3.  I believe the Countess of Grantham and Mrs. Padmore would be proud to serve this tart at Tea.

The original recipe can be found here.  I made a few changes but all in all, I followed protocol.

Here is what I did...

Bakewell Tart (with tart shell recipe at end of post)

1 tart shell, partially baked in a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan (see recipe at end of post)

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds, blanched if you can find them
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup sugar
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (not traditional, but just lovely in there)
1/3 cup jam (I used olallieberry but raspberry is pretty traditional.)


In a food processor, grind almonds and flour until fine in texture. 

Add sugar and blend.  Add butter, almond extract, zest, egg and egg white.  Blend until smooth. 

Pour filling into a medium bowl. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Move rack to center of oven and preheat to 350F.  Spread jam over base of par-baked tart shell.

Add almond filling by dollops over surface, then spread carefully.  I had to place the tart back into the oven for a couple of minutes to soften the filling enough to spread without making a mess.

Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack.

To serve, push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan.  Tip:  Use a large canned good to support the base while slipping off the outer ring.

Cut tart into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
**Almond filling can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Whole tart can also be made half a day in advance.

Result -
While not as sweet as some of the other things we have tried, this bakewell tart had a wonderful richness... likely from all of the butter.  It was also perfect with tea.  The verdict?  A delicious, beautiful European treat to continue our Downton Abbey viewing party tradition.

So, what were your favorite lines from tonight's episode?  Despite all of the sadness, there were some good ones.
  • "Please, a woman of my age can face reality far better than most men." - Dowager Countess of Grantham to Lord Grantham in response to discussion of Lady Cybil's situation
  • "She was the only person living who thought you and I were such nice people."  Lady Mary to Lady Edith following Lady Cybil's passing

I cannot wait for next week's episode!  I wonder if Matthew and Mary will raise Cybil's baby.  Hmm... we shall see!

Tart Shell


Makes one 9-inch tart crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt together. Scatter pieces of butter over dry ingredients and pulse until coarsely cut in.

Lightly break up the egg and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Once in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. 

Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 

Wrap dough in plastic and chill 2 hours.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll out chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper, lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, to a 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper.

Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

Freeze crust for 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Move a rack to center and preheat the oven to 375F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.
Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

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