A Crust That’s Flaky In More Ways than One

A perfect holiday dessert with the perfect -- and crazy -- crust.

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.

Butter, sugar, oil, water and salt in a Pyrex cup that goes into the oven.

Flour is immediately added to the boiling hot butter to form the dough.

The warm dough is patted into the tart pan.

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.

It may not be flashy, but it's perfect.

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: My Q&A with Lauren Shockey

More Holiday Desserts: Frozen Maple Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

And: Emily Luchetti’s Gingerbread with Warm Apples and Cider Sabayon

And: Sally Schmitt’s Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce

And: Flo Braker’s Open-Faced Apple Galette with Quince Paste

And: Pumpkin Swirl Ice-Cream Pie with Chocolate-Almond Bark and Toffee Sauce

And: Pichet Ong’s Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

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  • A beautiful crust and tart! Really mouthwatering.



  • Very nice, I want to try to make this. Where did you buy Calvados in the Bay Area?

  • Wow, what a unique method for pastry crust! I’m a huge sucker for almond pastries and I can see myself loving this. (A little too much, lol! But that’s what the holidays are for, right? πŸ˜‰ ) I can’t wait to try this!

  • Arlene: I actually bought a bottle of Calvados a year ago when I visited the St. George Spirits tasting room in Alameda. They make a really wonderful Calvados.

  • What an easy crust. I need to try it next time. I’m so used to my Martha Stewart/Julia Child recipe!

  • I can almost smell the deliciousness of this almond tart! Love the crust recipe– must try!

  • That crust sounds super easy and hot! πŸ™‚

  • Thanks, an easy crust in the holidays is a lifesaver..

  • That is really different looks sooo good! I feel like making one now…just in time for Xmas too. πŸ™‚

  • This tart sounds amazing. With boiling hot butter and a pressed crust that’s flaky? I gotta give this a try to find out myself! πŸ™‚ Not that I don’t trust you, I just want an excuse to eat more dessert! πŸ˜‰

  • Hallelujah! I’m a “warm hands” kind of person, so the other method doesn’t work well for me. I’ll have to give it a try!

  • Okay, DEFINITELY need to try this. I love that it doesn’t have quite so much butter as normal pastry crust!

  • Wow, beautiful crust and looks so tempting!

  • What a perfect tart! Who would have thought to use scalding hot butter to make a perfect tart crust. Thanks for sharing this little tidbit. Now I have to try it for myself.

    Have a great day!

  • What a beautiful tart — I love that it is almond — very appropriate for the holidays πŸ™‚

  • That sounds perfect! I prefer Adele to Lady Gaga anyway

  • I’m so fascinated by that pastry crust-as you say, we’ve always been taught cold, cold, cold! πŸ™‚

  • This is mind-boggling. Enough to keep me awake all night.

    Maybe you should send me a slice to convince me. Okay two or three slices. πŸ˜›

  • That’s really hard to believe, isn’t it? It looks like a fabulous tart, Carolyn. I can’t wait to experiment with that crust! No rolling out…I’ll love that!

  • Hi Carolyn- Just made the tart late last night and enjoyed it today. Found the crust to be not so flaky but more like shortbread – very tender and almost too oily. I think next time I will experiment and omit the oil – just rely on the butter for fat content. It certainly was easy to make!
    The filling is yummy, of course. Eggy and not too sweet, nice texture. I added a splash of almond extract along with the vanilla since I’m fond of the flavor.
    The only thing I found disconcerting was that I couldn’t tell when the filling was done – I followed your instructions for 30 min, and it worked just fine. But it sure was hard to tell as it still looked a bit jiggly.
    I also do not own a tart pan, so I used a shallow 9″ cake pan and lined it with parchment paper. Worked fine, although I don’t think the edges got as brown as they should’ve.
    Another excellent recipe, Carolyn, Thank you! I look forward to tinkering with it more.

  • what word can i use to describe what i see in this tart? lovely, definitely. elegant, for sure. very nice recipe and execution, carolyn!

  • Gregory Anderson

    I was so delighted to discover this recipe. Not only have I been wondering what to do with the bags of almonds I have, but I’m looking for a crust to use for a luscious French Silk and even for a version of PB-Chocolate Cream Pie. I think this will fit the bill. I’ll be back to letcha knows. haha _ga-

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