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Bakewell tart with raspberry jam layer, soft and chewy frangipane filling and almond and cherry topping. A lot going on, but the flavours are well balanced: no death by almond essence here.
There is something very off-putting about classic English cakes, perhaps that’s why there is no word for ‘patisserie’ in English language. The enormous scones, bigger than your hand, stodgy like sludge. Chelsea buns drowning under inch thick blankets of icing. The Victoria sponge – the very idea of calling a cake ‘a sandwich’ is preposterous. The sponge itself only in this country is made with butter instead of eggs and air. The Battenberg – form over substance. Madeira cake - the ‘sponge’ from above in another guise with nothing going for it. Christmas cake – the less said about a dessert covered BOTH with icing AND marzipan, the better.
And the Bakewell. Death by almond essence.
The Germans call their cakes according to main ingredients (mohnkuchen) and like to eat them for breakfast. The French love descriptive words (millefeuille) and dizzyingly complicated concoctions. The Spanish commemorate their saints (Santiago) and make the cakes flat and ingenious. And the English seem to overcompensate by giving these boring baked goods lofty given names: Victoria, Battenberg or Bakewell.
On the other hand I always reproach everyone for condemning without trying, writing off without giving a chance. Mindful of my own success with scones (cut the size and the baking powder); and sponges (just don’t call it sponge; it’s a pound cake or quatre quarts), I set out to improve Bakewell’s reputation. It’s not named as funkily as Manchester tart, a close relation, but it’s better known.
I did a run around local cafes and inspected their cake stands. I researched the lot, Mary Berry including, and liked the sound of the Baking Mad’s recipe by Luis Troyano, the Great Bake Off finalist. After a few tweaks: almond essence out, no icing, topping nicked off my panettone recipe covered with a shower of almond flakes – mainly because I could not possibly match BM’s decorating style – I was really pleased with the outcome.
The Bakewell tart must be gooey. Otherwise it’s just another cake baked on top of a cake, both soused with almond essence. If you layer the shortcrust base with frangipane-like texture, it comes to life: you get the firm, then jammy, then chewy and fragrant, finally topped with crunchy almonds. Really gorgeous. Quite un-British. Almost – French.
bakewell tartServings: 8-10Time: about 2 hours
- For the shortcrust base:
- 215g (1½ cup) plain flour
- 30g (2 tbsp.) icing sugar
- 120g (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks (reserve 1 white for topping)
- 2 tbsp. iced water
- For the filling:
- 75g (6 tbsp.) unsalted butter, soft
- 75g (6 tbsp.) golden caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- zest grated from 1 lemon
- 75g (6 tbsp.) ground almonds
- 1 tbsp. plain flour
- 4 tbsp. raspberry jam
- For the topping:
- 40g (2 tbsp.) caster sugar
- 2 tsp ground almonds
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp corn flour
- ½ egg white (15g)
- 1 tsp. lemon essence
- 50g flaked almonds
- glace cherries, pearl sugar, crystallised rose petals (optional)
1. To make the pastry, mix the butter into the flour and icing sugar stirred together in a food processor or rubbing it by hand, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Beat the egg yolks with the iced water and stir into the flour mix, knead briefly until it comes together. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Lightly grease a 23cm tart tin or a ceramic flan dish. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/320F/gas 4.
3. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a disc larger than your dish. Transfer it on a rolling pin onto the prepared dish, press it into position and trim the excess pastry around the rim. Prick the base with a fork and cover with a sheet of parchment. Weigh with baking beans or coins and bake for 15 minutes.
4. While the pastry is baking, make the frangipane filling. Beat the butter with sugar until fluffy, beat in the egg and lemon zest, then add the almonds and flour and beat until combined.
5. When the pastry base is out and cooled a little, spread the jam over the bottom.
6. You can dollop the frangipane over the jam with a spoon; it will spread while baking; or you can stuff the cream into a piping bag and pipe it over the jam. Either way the trick is not to mingle it in with the jam too much. Slip it back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
7. Prepare the topping: stir together the sugar, ground almonds, oil, cornflour, egg white and lemon essence in a small bowl into a paste.
8. Carefully remove the tart from the oven – the frangipane should have spread over the whole tart by then and started to set – and drizzle with the topping. Sprinkle the flaked almonds thickly on top, dot with the cherry halves if using, as well as the pearl sugar and/or rose petals. Return the tart into the oven and bake for further 15-20 minutes until the topping is set and a skewer inserted into the frangipane comes out clean.
9. Cool completely before serving.