Every month, the Daring Bakers challenge holds surprises. The recipes I think will be easy are difficult. The ones I think will be difficult are a walk in the park. The ones I think I won’t like I end up loving and making again and again. The ones I’m excited about, I end up procrastinating over and messing up.
I wasn’t excited about Bakewell tarts. They sounded boring. They conjured up images of little sugar-sprinkled items in the ubiquitous GREGS bakeshop windows in London. They sounded… British. And no offence to my British readers, British baking and cuisine just doesn’t fill me with joy. (In fact, I recall once doing some book-clearing in London and coming across a book called “The Joy of British Cooking” or some such oxymoronic title. It contained classics such as pigeon pie and spotted dick. Spotted dick. Who could possibly get excited about a spotted dick? Thank god they’re so close to France and Italy, for otherwise the British might well have gone extinct by their own shocking cuisine.)
Now, not only do Bakewell tarts evoke Britain for me, they also contain almonds. And I know it’s sacrilegious for a pastry enthusiast to admit this, but I have always been suspicious of the taste of almonds. I can eat them, but they just aren’t walnuts or pecans or hazelnuts. So at the beginning of June I thought, right, let’s get this over with. And one Friday afternoon, I crumbled up the shortbread pastry and bought some almonds.
I decided that because of my feelings of antipathy towards the recipe, I would in fact make it in its original form. Embrace the resistance, in other words. I dug out my eight miniature tartlet tins, thrilled to find them amongst the boxes of kitchen goodies still boxed up patiently from the home I sold when I left Cape Town in 2008.
And guess what… they were delightful. The recipe made just enough pastry for the eight tins; the almond frangipane made a bit more than that, and had I been feeling creative (or pro-almonds) I might have thought of some clever pudding to improvise the remainder with.
I made four with homemade berry pan jam, two with lemon curd and two with pears and ginger. Each was delightful in its way. They made lovely dessert for shabbat dinner that evening, and leftovers were dispatched to friends in all corners of Cape Town. My friend’s Granny (known for her stern critiques of family baking) was so charmed she demanded that her daughter-in-law (one of my all-time baking mentors, no less!) call me for the recipe and produce another batch.
Yet another surprising and charming challenge! Viva the Daring Bakers!
The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England. You can find the recipe here and you can check out the other Daring Bakers here.