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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Plum and almond tart

This is a photograph of a plate on which Mr F and I were served a delicious pudding during our honeymoon in Italy.  I can't remember what the pudding was, or even the location of the restaurant.  The only reason that the photograph is here is because I failed to take one of the plum and almond tart that I made at the weekend and which I took to my friend Jo's birthday party.

Mr. F said it was one of the nicest puddings that I had made and I think he might be right.  Certainly, it was a particularly successful batch of a pastry that I whipped up.  I have previously commented on this blog that I don't understand why people include souring agents in pastry recipes.  However, when I was making this pastry on Friday I was running low on eggs so decided to use yoghurt as a means of enriching normal shortcrust.  It produced a good result: the pastry was crumbly and yet also crisp.

A note on blind baking: this recipe is adapted from Shaun Hill's How to Cook Better.  He is an advocate for a controversial technique whereby he just whacks the pastry case in the oven, sans baking beans and everything, and lets it cook for fifteen-ish minutes.  If it rises up too much then he just presses it down with an oven-gloved hand.  I tried this method for the plum and almond tart and it worked well.  I often worry that blind baking with beans means that the pastry case retains an unappetising soggy bottom.  This was well and truly avoided using the Shaun Hilll way.

For the pastry
200g of plain flour (or tipo "00")
100g of unsalted butter
1 tbsp of caster sugar
1 tbsp of plain yoghurt
A jug filled with about 100ml iced water (i.e. cold tap water with some ice cubes floating in it)
Pinch of salt

For the filling
8 medium-sized plums, cut in half lengthways, stone removed
100g of ground almonds
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs
50g icing sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp Amaretto

To make the pastry, put the butter, flour, sugar and salt in the food processor and blitz until fine breadcrumbs.  Add the yoghurt and set the processor to pulse.  The mixture should start to clag. Add a few drops of the iced water through the processor's funnel until the pastry begins to come together.  Tip it on to a work surface and knead lightly to encourage it to form a solid ball.  The dough should be fairly soft.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

After half an hour, roll out the pastry to fit a 23 cm fluted tart case.  Trim the sides.  Place the case in the freezer, uncovered, for ten minutes, or chill again in the fridge for another half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Bake the pastry case for fifteen minutes.

Whilst it is cooking, whisk together all the ingredients for the filling, except for the plums.

Remove the tart case from the oven and reduce the heat to 160 degrees. Spoon in the almond filling and smooth with a spatula or palette knife.  Arrange the plums in attractive concentric circles.  Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes.  You are looking for the filling to be set: the best way to check, as with cakes, is to insert a sharp knife or skewer into the centre of the tart and see whether it comes out clean.  When it does, remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about half an hour.  Then remove and cool further on a wrack.  It is best eaten cold with double cream.

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