We’ve all learned that to make the perfect, flaky crust, you need cold butter, cool hands and a resulting dough that must be chilled before it’s baked.
Now, take those techniques that you’ve labored to master all these years — and throw them out the window.
Because here’s a supremely flaky crust that breaks all those rules.
It’s made with boiling hot butter that’s mixed with flour to form a dough that you press — while still warm — into your pan before baking.
How crazy is that?
It’s almost embarrassingly easy and pretty fool-proof. And it produces a crust that would rival any at a fancy patisserie.
It’s the foundation for “Almond Tart with Mirabelle Cream,” the recipe of which can be found in the memoir, “Four Kitchens” (Grand Central Publishing) by New York writer Lauren Shockey. The book chronicles Shockey’s time cooking as a stage at four restaurants around the world. I love the prose as much as the recipes that are included.
Shockey learned to make this tart with its unusual crust from her friend, Paule Caillat, a cooking instructor in Paris.
The crust is partially baked. Then, a filling of eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla and almond flour is added, before the tart finishes baking. After it has cooled, you can dust it with powdered sugar like I did — or not.
Serve wedges with a dollop of softly whipped cream flavored with Mirabelle, a plum eau-de-vie. Or use Calvados instead like I did.
The buttery, flaky crust gives way to a dense, yet delicate filling that’s almost like an almond paste cake. And yes, talk about intense almond flavor. Wow.
There’s an almost austere elegance to this tart. As far as desserts go, it’s more Adele than Lady Gaga. It’s not showy or flashy, but rather simple and plain. But when you experience it for the first time, you realize it’s nothing short of perfection.
Almond Tart with Mirabelle Cream
(Serves about 8 )
For the dough:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 cup flour
For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (Trader Joe’s is a great source for it)
Pinch of kosher salt
2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon Mirabelle or other plum brandy or kirsch or Calvados
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium-size oven-proof bowl or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, combine butter, oil, water, sugar and salt. Place bowl in the oven for about 15 minutes, until mixture is bubbling and butter is just beginning to brown on the edges. Remove bowl from oven (carefully, as the bowl will be hot), and add flour all at once. Stir quickly, until it comes to together and forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with your palm and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Prick dough all over with tines of a fork, and press the tines up against the rim of the tart shell. Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add almond flour and beat until well combined. Then beat in the remaining filling ingredients.
Once the tart shell has been removed from the oven, lower the heat to 350 degrees. Fill the tart shell with the almond filling, then return the filled tart to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
While the tart is baking, prepare the cream: In a large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar and salt, and beat with an electric mixer or whisk until soft peaks form. Stir in the Mirabelle.
Remove the tart from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature with a large dollop of the whipped cream.
Adapted from “Four Kitchens” by Lauren Shockey
More Holiday Desserts: Frozen Maple Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries