Top | Pies and Tarts, Crisps and Crumbles
(recipe, Caroline Cummins)
As a kid in England, I always had trouble keeping all the B-named desserts straight. I didn't realize it at the time, but those I preferred — the Battenberg cake, with its bizarre pink-and-yellow checkerboard squares of cake, and the Bakewell tart, with its glaze of white fondant and its candied cherry decoration in the middle — featured almonds as their central flavor. (Banbury cakes and Eccles cakes, by contrast, are basically versions of mince pies.) When I took a look at Nick Malgieri's version of the Bakewell tart in his book Bake!, I realized that it was very similar to the gâteau Basque: a pie crust with a thin layer of jam and an almond puff on top. I decided to amalgamate the two. This is the result.
Traditionally, the Bakewell tart calls for raspberry or strawberry jam. But I like matching stone fruit with stone fruit, and so, to boost the almond flavor of the topping, I prefer the cherry jam of the gâteau Basque or an apricot or peach jam. Whatever jam flavor you choose, try not to use an overly sugary one; since so little jam is used in this dessert, you want the fruit flavor to come through, not the sweet punch of the sugar. If you don't have any commercial almond paste on hand, Malgieri suggests making your own by combining 1 cup blanched almonds, ½ cup sugar, and ½ tsp. almond extract in a food processor. The process is a bit like making your own nut butter; you'll need to whirr the machine until everything is finely ground, then continue mixing for another few minutes until it is a paste.