I've been having a hard time deciding on what I was in the mood for in January, the month of new, fresh starts (read: light and healthier) but still, you know. Dead of winter. And I live in Alaska. It looks like this:
I started concocting this elaborate, perfect dessert for the season that I attempted but dare not speak its existence for fear of being smited, it was so awful. Let's just say, the syrup soaked dough balls came out looking like mini jellyfish (that wanted to eat ME).
Luckily, I had a backup plan to ALSO try my first tart ever this weekend after I got a food processor for Christmas. I could finally make dough without the debilitating terror of having to touch it (and screw the whole thing up with my lava-fire hands that would melt the butter, then stretch it too much and omg!) It was time consuming (refrigerating the dough a couple times) but I've got a new appreciation for pans that shape stuff prettily (look at the little crinkles! They're perfect!).
It came out surprisingly good! My confidence in my tart-making abilities is through the roof. w00t!
ITALIAN ALMOND TART
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pie & Tart, by Carolyn Beth Weil
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
1/2 lb. almond paste, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup apricot jam (or raspberry, plum or cherry)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup apricot jam (or peach)
2 Tbs water
1 tsp. of Almond Extract (or 1 tablespoon Disaronno Amaretto)
In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.
Stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the medium bowl and put in food processor. Add the butter and pulse processor until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and pulse just until the dough pulls together.
Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured board, flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out from center until the dough is about 1⁄8 inch thick. Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9 1⁄2-inch tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan. Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking.
Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.
Line the pastry shell with lightly buttered aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a whisk, beat the butter until smooth. Add the almond paste, one piece at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. While continuing to beat, sprinkle in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour.
Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of the partially baked tart shell. Spoon in the almond paste mixture and spread evenly over the jam. Sprinkle the surface evenly with the sliced almonds.
Bake the tart until the filling is golden and the middle is firm to the touch, 35 to 45 minutes.
Heat glaze preserves and water in a 1-quart saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring, until preserves are melted. Remove from heat and force through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract.
Brush top of hot tart generously with glaze and cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Remove side of pan and cool tart completely, about 2 hours.
Serve at room temperature. Makes one 9 1/2-inch tart; serves 8.