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.
Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits. In my case: strawberries!
Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling. Today’s post is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavored shortcrust pastry, frangipane and homemade strawberry-lemon-ginger jam.
Bakewell Tart History and Lore
Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Medieval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted, “This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”
By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.
This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or the cook should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.
Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.
Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.
Is it a tart or is it a pudding?
It’s a debate that rages on… It’s been said that the “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.”
The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting and slightly convoluted one. The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’, and so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along and adds clarity to what it really is.
Makes one 9” tart
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows), 1 cup jam or curd, warmed for spreadability (recipe follows), one quantity frangipane (recipe follows), and one handful blanched, flaked almonds
Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface and roll the pastry to 1/4” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the center and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
225g all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
110g unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp almond extract
5-6 Tbsp ice-cold water
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water a tablespoon at a time, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
4 quarts strawberries, hulled and quartered
½ cup lemon juice
2 packs no sugar pectin
3 TBS minced crystallized ginger
1 TBS butter
1 cup agave nectar
2 2/3 cups sugar
Place all ingredients except for agave nectar and sugar in a large pot. Mix well and cook on high heat, stirring often, bring to a rolling boil. When boil can no longer be stirred down add the agave nectar and 1 cup of sugar. Mix well. When pot begins to boil again add the remaining sugar. Stirring continuously, bring to a full rolling boil and hold at this state for 3 minutes. Test for jelling and then hot pack and process jars according to safe canning practices.
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp almond extract
125g ground almonds
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is pale and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. Pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground almonds and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.