Oh my goodness, I had no idea until this morning that Smitten Kitchen also has a bakewell tart. Had I known this before, I wouldn't have waited to make this treat until I found Cathal Armstrong's recipe in his new cookbook, My Irish Table. Certainly will have to try Smitten's recipe now; in part because I'm not sure my results from Armstrong are all that authentic and in part because.... well, because it's Smitten. You need no other reason. I'm not sure that I've ever written directly about Smitten on the blog (I don't think I have) but she is certainly within my top five, maybe even three, first epicurean resources (this even includes major places like Jamie, Bon, etc.) I have followed her almost from the beginning; she was, in fact, the only food-based blogger I followed for a couple of years.
In any case, not to complain about Armstrong's bakewell tart, at least not in terms of tastiness. I took a few chunks to work where no one complained, and Jamie managed to sample it for three days in a row, which is really saying something considering his aversion to sweets. Armstrong's base for his tart is a puff pastry, of which I was lucky to already have a half batch in the freezer of Poires au Chocolat's Rough Puff Pastry. I've made this rough puff a couple of times and have been very pleased with the results.
The dough is beautiful, supple, a pleasure to work with. The only energy this recipe really needs is just some patience and time (while you do other things). Even incorporating a more expensive, premium butter still wouldn't make this nearly as expensive as an all-butter store bought puff pastry. It's also just damn fun to make it yourself. I have noticed I haven't managed the same amount of puff from this as Poires does in her photographs (though quite close, really), but it is a rough, so the lesser layers makes for less puff. Also, I often find that the store bought puff pastry often puffs up too much. Yes, there is such a thing as too much puff for many recipes. Sometimes you want the flakiness and layers but a puff so strong that the recipe's filling slides off the puff isn't the way to go. I've come across so many recipes that instruct to roll down the puff so that this doesn't happen (or I often wish afterwards that I'd done the same).
Armstrong's next layer is a layer of jam. I used local Amour Spreads' Raspberry Rose Jam, which I picked up at Liberty. I love these local jams. They are definitely special-treat range of cost, but lovely to check out what they're offering every few months (their jams are typically seasonal, and you can easily fall for a seasonal special never to see it again, or at least not until the next year). I've liked all of them I've tried but their raspberry jam is absolutely the best. When I saw this (new to me) Raspberry Rose Jam, it seemed perfect for my first bakewell tart. I admit that I (and others who tried it) couldn't really pick out the rose part of this jam, but the raspberry was wonderful as always.
Armstrong's final layer is a cake batter that doesn't have any chemical-based (baking powder or baking soda) rising agents, and depends on eggs to aerate and lift the cake. I don't always find success with these types of cakes but this one rose very nicely. It was also pockmarked with air holes, which contributed to the texture of the cake but I'm not entirely sure whether it was intentional.
And here's my mistake: I read the recipe wrong; I thought that the custard sauce was an alternate to the jam layer. This was due in part to many bakewell tart recipes incorporating the custard in the actual baked tart. So I skipped the custard because I used the raspberry jam. In transcribing the recipe below, I realized that he instructs to make the custard sauce separately and serve it on top of the tart. We ended up eating this as sort of bakewell tart bars. This made the cake part dry out rather quickly but even without the custard sauce, the final result is very buttery and I'm not sure it would even be worth the hassle of the custard sauce.
So it's been far too long since I've encountered a bakewell tart in its natural habitat (England), so I can't say with certainty how far off that basic this recipe is, but in researching it, I'm reminded that most recipes use a shortbread-type crust and almonds are definitely incorporated. There are no almonds in Armstrong's version. I'm all for doing something different from the traditional, but I do personally like to stick with traditional the first time I make a new recipe, so I can mange to get the basics down and know what I'm altering from when I go for more experimental recipes. Ultimately, we enjoyed this treat but I'm not sure I can yet claim to have made a bakewell tart!
Cathal Armstrong's Bakewell Tart
1/4 batch Mam's Quick Puff Pastry (recipe in book) or 1 (14-ounce)package prepared all-butter puff pastry
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temparature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup jam, such as raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry
custard sauce (recipe in book)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Roll out the dough: On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a 1/4 inch-thick, 15 inch diameter circle. Loosely roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then unroll it into a 9-inch pie pan or fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure the dough comes all the way to the rim. Using a paring knife, trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang all around. (It will shrink a bit as it chills.) Coverthe pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until white, light, and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Scrape the bowl down from time to time. Lower the speed to medium and beat the eggs one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next and scraping the bowl down occasionally. Beat in the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour by hand.
Assemble the tart: Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and trim the dough flush with the rim of the pan. Spread the jam evenly in the pie shell and spoon the cake batter over it. Bake for 10 minutes, the lower the heat to 300 degrees F and bake for another 50 to 60 minutes, until the tart is nicely browned and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Present the dish: When the tart is done, transfer it to a wire rack and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve with warm custard sauce. The tart will keep for up to two days; gently reheat it covered at 300 degrees F until warm, about 10 minutes.