One hurdle I have yet to overcome in my quest to become a great cook is home made pastry. I love to bake, and I'm pretty good at it if you must know. But pie crust and tart shells are something I have yet to attempt. Maybe it's easy. Maybe if I try it I'll find that I'm a natural. But I have found the recipe that is a baby-step on the way to home made pastry. A tart crust that's actually a cookie? Now that sounds like something I can do. And Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the author of this recipe, promises that if you learn to make this shortbread crust, "any pie crust will fall at your feet." So I had to try this one.
This tart is just begging to be eaten with a cup of tea. It's the perfect middle ground between a cookie and a pie. It's very thin, it crumbles in your mouth, it tastes lemony and almondy and all-around heavenly. I made this for my mother-in-law, who is coming over tomorrow, but I can't promise there will be any left tomorrow....
One note - make sure you use good quality jam. No rubbishy stuff. No "jelly." The jam is the star of the show, so make it good. I used a blackberry preserves from Fresh & Easy that my parents gave us for our anniversary. It's perfect. The author recommends tart cherry or wild blueberry jam. I'm willing to try it with every type of jam under the sun, if it means I get to make this and eat it again.
Rustic Jam Shortbread Tart
from The Splendid Table's "How to Eat Supper"
makes one 9-inch tart
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup whole almonds
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/4 cup sugar
generous pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 chunks
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup good quality jam
1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 9-inch round silver-colored cake or tart pan.
2. Turn on the food processor and then drop in the lemon zest and almonds, and grind them fine. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and add the flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg yolk, and almond extract. Pulse until all ingredients are blended and starting to come together in small clumps that look like clusters of peas.
3. Turn the pastry out into the pan. With your hands, pat it out to evenly cover the bottom. Nudge the edges to make a 1/2-inch rim around the sides of the pan. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect.
4. Bake the crust in the center of the oven (I'd recommend putting the tart pan on a cookie sheet) for 13 to 16 minutes (I needed the full 16), or until edges are golden and the center is starting to color. The rim will sink down a little, which is fine.
5. Remove from the oven, and turn the heat up to 500. Carefully spread the jam (a pastry brush works well here) over the tart, and immediately return to the oven, even if it's not up to 500 yet. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until jam is bubbly.
6. Cool the tart on a rack, slice into wedges, and serve. Serve warm (but not hot).
Eat it and go ahead and try not to go for a second slice...I'm going to get mine now. And I'm one step closer to making real pastry crust...