I'm not much of a baker. This hits a little too close to home. Too many of my baking attempts can be described as "rustic." Or "artisan," my new favorite. I like flames, and knives. Handfuls, and splashes. Measuring cups and piping bags? Not so much.
But I'm getting better! So much better. Thanks Ballymaloe! One of my favorite recipes that I've learned here is this delicious, refined-looking berry tart. I'd like to think that I could have pulled this off even without a swarm of highly-skilled instructors telling me what to do. But maybe not. So while writing it up for you, I've tried to touch on the finer points that don't quite make it into the original Ballymaloe recipe.
Unlike most tarts, the crust is made with ground almonds, giving it a chewy texture and complex flavor that needs little more than fresh fruit to show it off. Hear that, my gluten-free friends?
And, unlike most tarts, there are very few steps, and you should be done in an hour or less.
Don't get me wrong - this tart does require some finesse. You'll need some patience to line up all the berries on top, and a little careful attention once the thing comes out of the oven.
A few points to watch out for:
- Use salted butter. Or add a pinch of salt to the butter in the recipe if you use unsalted.
- Make sure your ground almonds are quite fresh. They can go rancid quickly, and the taste will absolutely ruin all your hard work. It's a good idea to store them in the freezer. And buy them pre-ground - most people's food processors can't take them down to the fine consistency that you'll need.
- Watch the crust carefully in the final minutes of baking. The color should be a deep golden caramel, and it can burn quickly once it starts to brown up. On the flip side, if it's undercooked, the crust won't set up properly.
- Once you take the tart crust out of the oven, hang out for a few minutes. It still needs some love. You'll see that the texture looks a little loose. That's OK, but you need to give it a little help to firm up. First, using the tip of a knife, ease the crust away from the sides of the tin, pushing towards the center and encouraging it to really come together.
- Then, after about 5 minutes when the crust is set but the pan is still quite warm, remove it from the tin and cool on a wire rack. If you let it cool in the tin, you'll never get it out. (Trust me on this one.)
You can also use little tartlet pans, if you have them. Just plop about a teaspoon of dough in each cup. No need to spread it across the tin - it will melt into the correct shape while baking. These are quite delicate, so I wouldn't recommend traveling too far with them.
Overall, try to bake and eat the tarts the same day - the almonds and butter don't keep very well. Don't worry, it shouldn't be a problem!
Berry Tart with Almond Crust
Yield: Makes (2) 7" tarts or 24 tartlets (I made one 7" tart and 12 tartlets)
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 20 min Total Time: 1 hour, including cooling
4 oz / 110 g salted butter (add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted)
4 oz / 110 g ground almonds
2.6 oz / 75 g sugar (castor sugar is ideal)
4 oz / 115 g raspberries
4 oz / 115 g blueberries
4 oz / 115 g strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tbs black currant, raspberry or apricot jelly, thinned with a bit of water
Preheat oven to 350F / 180C.
Cream butter in a bowl til soft and fluffy, then add almonds and sugar and stir to combine. Don't beat the almonds too hard, or else they'll release too much oil.
Press dough into tart tin to form a base about 1/4" thick. Drop remaining half of dough teaspoon by teaspoon into tartlet tins. Or, bake the tart, remove from tin, and bake a second tart if you don't have both types of tins.
Bake tart for 15-20 minutes, removing once the crust is a deep caramel color. Watch closely in the final minutes so you don't burn the crust. Tartlets will take only about 12-14 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack. Using the tip of a knife, push around edges of tin, easing away from sides and encouraging the crust to really come together. After about 5 minutes while tin is still warm, ease tart out of a pan and continue cooling.
Once crust is cool, arrange berries on top. Then paint each fruit with black currant, raspberry or apricot jelly. Use a basting or paintbrush if you have one. (I used a piece of wadded-up paper towel because I didn't have a brush and it worked out fine).
Serve on the same day - the crust is delicate and will break down after a day or two.