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Monday, September 1, 2014

Maid of Honour tart (Almond Tart Bake-off)

When I saw the September Avid Baker's Challenge for almond tarts, I remembered this similar recipe and decided to do a bake-off taste test.  The original recipe yields 12 tarts, but doesn't specify what size.  I reduced the recipe by 1/6, assuming I would get two tarts.

Not having a proper mini tart pan, I used a 4.25" pie tin.  I quickly realized this was far too large.  For one, I had to roll the pastry paper thin to get something that would fit in the tin.  That didn't seem right.  And then I saw that not only would a single teaspoon of jam barely wet the bottom, but the filling I'd made certainly wouldn't cover it.  I decided to make a single tart, but I still had to add more jam to give a respectable layer, and barely had enough almond filling to spread across it.  I suspect the tarts should have been made in something more the size of a standard muffin tin (which would explain the yield of the original recipe), or even a tassie tin.  The photo in the original recipe shows tarts with a substantial depth, although they looked at least 3" across.  I still don't think a teaspoon of jam would produce that thick of a layer in anything larger than a tassie, if that.  Of course the difference in size would also affect baking time, and hence the texture.

In the recipe for the almond tart challenge, I described the kitchen tools I use for these small batch exercises.  That would explain the odd measuring sizes below.

Here's what I used:

225g 37.5g (1/3 cup) plain flour
135g 1½ tablespoons butter
2 tsp 1/3 teaspoon icing sugar
1 whole 3g egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp scant 1/2 teaspoon cold water

50g ½  tablespoon unsalted butter
75g 1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 dash spoon + 1 smidgen spoon heaping teaspoon self raising flour
pinch of baking powder
2 whole 6g (scant 1/2 teaspoon) beaten egg yolk
100g 16.7g (3 1/3 tablespoons) ground almonds
zest of 1 1/3 lemon
1 tbs ½ teaspoon cream
6 1 teaspoon damson jam
Icing sugar for dusting

Put all the pastry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.  Wrap in cling film and set aside for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Roll out pastry and cut 12 circles with a pastry cutter, large enough to fit the bottom of your tin and up to 1" up the sides.  Place a circle of pastry into the tin and gently press down and against the sides.

For the filling, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  Stir into this the flour and beaten egg yolk. Stir and then add the almonds, lemon rind and finally the cream.  Add a teaspoon of jam into each little tart and then a spoonful of filling.  Divide any leftover filling between the tarts.  With the back of a teaspoon gently smooth over the filling so that no jam is showing.  Bake for 20 minutes; remove from the oven and leave in the tart tin to cool.  (If you try to remove them when they are still hot the pastry, which is very fragile, will start to crumble and break.  As they cool the pastry firms up.)  Dust with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  Store in an airtight tin.

Conclusion:  These were very good -- the lemon contrasted nicely with the mild plum jam, and the almond filling rounded it all out.  They weren't particularly unique tasting, though. Conventional flavors, surprisingly.

Recipe:  Maids of Honour via Maria Dernikos, using a recipe by Clarissa Dickson Wright.


  1. These look amazing. I need to try tarts..for some reason they intimidate me.

    1. Fear not, Virginia! As long as you have the proper pan, they're as easy as... pie! ;) Seriously, using an improvised pan could cause you trouble with getting the crust to perform properly and with getting it out. Otherwise, it really is just like making a pie -- it's just a different shape.