A Bakewell tart is a true British classic baked dessert tart. It consists of a buttery shortcrust pastry shell beneath layers of red jam, frangipane, which is a sponge cake-like filling enriched with ground almonds, and a topping of flaked almonds, all baked until golden brown. A Bakewell tart is a version of a Bakewell pudding and although closely associated with the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, there seems to be no evidence it actually originated there.
The Bakewell tart is a delicious, humble tart and one whose very name excites controversy. Although the terms Bakewell tart and Bakewell pudding have been used interchangeably, each name refers to a specific dessert recipe. In Bakewell itself, it is definitely a pudding, made with a puff pastry base. Actually, the first recorded recipe dates from 1836.
For the jam go for the traditional raspberry one or as here, a combination of raspberry and strawberry - whichever jam you choose, use the best you possibly can. Homemade is great. But if that is not an option, buy a high quality jam or jams with a high fruit to sugar ration, as that will provide a beautifully sharp contrast to the sweet, fluffy frangipane above.
The frangipane in this recipe is made much the same way as one might make a sponge cake, creaming together butter and sugar, beating in eggs, then folding in dry ingredients. Using this method to make the fragipane will ensure a light and fluffy rather than a denser, moister frangipane. You will also be adding a little baking powder to the mixture too, for extra lift. And the traditional flaked almond finish provides a pleasing final crunch to every mouthful of your tart.
The recipe I chose for today hails from the very talented Claire Ptak, a California native, who has been called "London's Hippest Baker" by bon appétit magazine. She used to work as a pastry chef for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse before moving to London in 2005. She is an author and food stylist and since 2010 runs the Violet Bakery in London. She is also the author of the Violet Bakery Cookbook (can be ordered here). She recently had the pleasure of being included in the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks in New York, created by the widely popular American blog Food52.
She also writes a Saturday recipe column for the Guardian, always guided by her motto that "The seasons dictate what happens in the kitchen, and taste trumps appearance every time.“ (the Guardian)
Claire Ptak aptly calls her take on a classic British dessert tart an "updated Bakewell tart“. While her recipe is a bit different, it is still like a classic tart with a hidden layer of raspberry and strawberry jam and topped with fragipane. This is an amazing afternoon tea treat, but at the same time, it is also lovely as a dessert with some lightly whipped cream.
Bakewell Tart Fingers
(inspired by a recipe from Claire Ptak)
Ingredients for the Shortbread Base
- 250 grams (AP) plain flour (white spelt flour also works well)
- 100 grams icing sugar
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 200 grams cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 6 tbsp raspberry jam (use the best you can)
- 6 tbsp strawberry jam (again, use the best you can)
Ingredients for the Topping
- 200 grams unsalted butter, soft
- 200 grams golden caster (superfine baking) sugar
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (I used a bit of vanilla paste instead)
- 3 eggs (M), organic or free range
- 100 grams ground almonds (or use almond meal)
- 100 grams plain (AP) flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 50 grams flaked almonds
- Pre-heat your oven to 200° C (400° F).
- Butter and line a 18cm x 30cm x 5cm (7 inches x 12 inches x 2 inches) baking pan with baking parchment.
- For the shortbread base: combine all the ingredients, except the jams, in a food processor and blitz until the mixture has just come together into a ball.
- Press the pastry evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
- Turn the temperature down to 180° C (350° F).
- Let the base cool for 10 minutes.
- Gently spread both jams over the pastry.
- For the fragipane topping: beat the butter and sugar well.
- Once creamy, add the extracts and eggs, then beat well.
- Carefully fold in the ground almonds, flour and baking powder just to combine.
- Spread this over the jam evenly and sprinkle with flaked almonds.
- Return to the oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden and set.
- Cool for 20 minutes before slicing into fingers. At this point you can dust the tart fingers with icing sugar. NOTE: These will keep well in an airtight container for up to five days.
You can call these teatime treats Bakewell Tart Fingers, Bakewell Tart Slices, Bakewell Tart Tray Bake or an Up-dated Bakewell Tart - call them whatever you want, they will always be delicious.
„Baking with the seasons, like cooking with the seasons, means nothing more than procuring the best possible produce of the moment, wherever you are, and coaxing out the best of its flavour through proper seasoning and preparation. Baking should not only look great, but taste great. This is so much easier to achieve when you stick to the seasons and – much like you do with savoury cooking – taste as you go.“ (Claire Ptak)