I was a good girl. I only ate one piece of this tart, even though I could have eaten the whole thing. But I played nice and let the seven other people sitting around the table have a slice too.
I'm still fantasizing about it though and I'm looking for an excuse to make it again. Has Arbor Day already passed? Grandparents Day? (Oh no, I'm not a grandmother yet. That won't work.) There's got to be a holiday today somewhere in the world that I can celebrate, no?
If you're worried about rolling out that crust, have no fear. You don't have to. You can just take it from the food processor and pat it into your tart pan with your fingers, as I did. The next time I make this, I may add a bit more sugar and try substituting some ground walnuts or pecans in the crust in place of some of the flour to give it even more flavor.
Be warned there are a few tricks to having the crust come out well. You don't want to overwork it and make it as tough as shoe leather, and you don't want the sides to shrink in the oven, leaving you with a flattish-looking tart shell. So pay attention:
For a 9 inch tart shell:
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. very cold butter
1 large egg, beaten
1 T. ice water
Place flour, confectioner's sugar and salt in food processor and whir for a minute to blend ingredients. Drop butter into the processor in little pieces and pulse until it reaches the consistency of oatmeal or very coarse sand. Add the beaten egg and the ice water and pulse for another few times until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. The less you work it in the food processor or your hands, the better.
Remove from food processor and press it into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan, making a thicker area around the perimeter. Prick it all over so it doesn't bubble up in the oven. Place it in the freezer for at least a half hour. Longer is better. Butter a sheet of aluminum foil on the shiny side and lay it over the pastry shell. Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Remove the foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until golden.
Let the tart shell cool. In the meantime, take 3/4 cup of sliced almonds and brown them in a nonstick skillet (don't add butter or anything else to the pan) or toast the almonds in the oven until they turn color. They'll burn really fast once they start to turn golden so watch them carefully. Cool the almonds. When the pastry shell has cooled, place the almonds inside like so:
You can start making the almond cream while the pastry is baking. Here's what to do:
Recipe is adapted from a decades-old "Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking".
1/2 cup sugar
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
2 cups milk
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 t. almond extract (or vanilla if you prefer)
Combine sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat; cook and stir till thick and bubbly. Stir a little of the hot mixture into the beaten egg. (If you put the beaten egg directly into the hot mixture, you'll end up with scrambled eggs.) Return to remaining hot hot mixture. Bring just to boil, stirring constantly. Cool, then chill thoroughly, placing a piece of plastic wrap over the top to avoid a "skin" from forming. Whip the cream and fold into egg mixture with the almond extract.
When everything has cooled, spread the almond cream over the toasted almonds in the pie shell. The recipe for this almond cream was meant to fill a pie shell, so you will probably have more than you need to fill the 9-inch tart shell. (Oh, too bad, guess I'll have to finish up the leftover cream.)
Slice strawberries (about one quart) and arrange over the cream, starting from the outside and working your way to the center like so:
After you've covered the entire pie in strawberry slices, heat about 1/2 cup jelly (currant or apricot) in a saucepan. I used currant and thinned it with the juice of 1/2 lemon. Using a pastry brush, paint the strawberries with the melted jelly and place in refrigerator until serving time.The result is a luscious tart with a shortbread crust, velvety almond cream and plump berries coated in a viscous jelly. Who could resist?
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