Bakewell is a pretty little place way up north in Derbyshire. It’s not too far away from Chatsworth House, a mansion well-known as being Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley in her novel, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I think Bakewell is mentioned in the book, if only in passing.
Anyway, Bakewell is a lot more famous for being the birthplace of the beloved British dessert – the Bakewell tart.
This is not to be confused with Bakewell pudding, also invented in the same locality. Bakewell tart is a delicious relation to the frangipane tart: a rich shortcrust pastry encasing a layer of jam, followed by thin layer of almond-rich sponge, which is topped with flaked almonds and baked until golden.
For a classic recipe, there are hundreds of riffs on a standard theme. Felicity Cloake in her Guardian “How to cook the Perfect…” series adds a little lemon zest for her Perfect Bakewell Tart. The Hairy Bikers add ground almonds to their pastry. Nearly everybody, like James Martin, goes for raspberry jam, but you get a few recipes that go on a bender with apricots and blackcurrants.
I’ve tried all kinds of pastry. Plain pastry in a 2:1 ratio of flour to fat works really well. Then I discovered a wonderful keeper of a pastry recipe in the making of apple pies, and now it’s my firm favourite.
You can use all kinds of jam, but I think raspberry treads the balance between sweet and tart absolutely perfectly. Strawberry doesn’t quite achieve that element of sharpness. It doesn’t have to be a fancy jam – in Bakewell Tart I like ones with a pretty firm set.
Most Bakewell tart recipes use very little flour in the almond sponge. All the recipes use predominantly ground almonds. I prefer a higher ratio of flour, as the almond sponge bakes to a light, yet substantial finish, which is much better than the overly damp, heavy almond frangipanes I have disappointingly produced in the past.
I’m not a fan of icing so no glacé for me, but I can’t resist a good sprinkling of flaked almonds. It adds extra flavour and crunch, and sets the whole tart off perfectly!
Just wonderful with a good book!
The Perfect Bakewell Tart
- 200g shortcrust pastry
- 3 tbsp raspberry jam
- 120g butter
- 120g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 60g ground almonds
- 60g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp almond extract
- flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a tart tin with the shortcrust pastry, prick all over with a fork, and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 180˚C.
Make the almond sponge filling by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs and almond extract. Finally fold in the flour and ground almonds, and add a little milk to loosen the mixture to softly dropping consistency.
Spread the jam over the base of the tart. Top with the almond sponge and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with ground almonds and bake for around 25-30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and then unmould from the tart tin. Cut into slices, and serve.