Thursday, August 11, 2011

Almond Tart a la Lindsey Shere

This caramel-y, nutty tart will knock your socks off!

Lindsey Shere was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse for 25 years and made this tart on their opening night. I stumbled upon this recipe that was posted on the LA Times website earlier this year, and it was printed from the "Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook" (Random House, 1982). Lindsey also published the recipe in her "Chez Panisse Desserts" (Random House, 1985). Like many things that were popular in the 80's, recipes  won't necessarily stand the test of time, however this one is a keeper!

Perfect Tart Crust

1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 to 4 drops almond extract
3 to 4 drops vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 drops almond extract
1 cup blanched sliced almonds

Cut butter into bits and let soften slightly. Mix flour and sugar in bowl. Cut butter into flour with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine almond and vanilla extracts with cold water in small bowl, then quickly stir mixture into flour. Gather dough into ball and flatten slightly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
Allow dough to stand at room temperature briefly until it is malleable. Roll out dough and press into 9-inch tart form with removable ring, reserving small amount. Press dough evenly over bottom and sides of pan, about 1/8-inch thick, and extend dough 1/8 inch above top of ring. Prick shell lightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Dough may be refrigerated 8 hours or frozen.
Partly bake tart shell at 400 degrees until shell begins to set and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove shell to cake rack and cool to room temperature. Patch any holes in shell by smoothing very small bit of reserved dough over tears.
The pastry I made for this tart came out perfect! I've had my share of failures when it comes to tart pastry. Once, when attempting an apple pie, the butter was too soft and the crust came out mealy like sand. Make sure your butter is chilled and you're using ice water! Work the dough as little as possible and chill it in a flat disk. I did have to patch up a few tears, but it stayed together nicely after the tart was baked. Practice tarts on your family and friends to get the hang of it.

Bring whipping cream, sugar, salt, Grand Marnier, kirsch and almond extract to full rolling boil in large, heavy saucepan. Cook until liquid bubbles thickly and has silky texture, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add almonds. Set aside 15 minutes to steep, then pour into prepared tart shell.
I didn't have Grand Marnier in the house, which was a shame because it's my favorite after dinner drink. I substituted the Mamajuana my sister brought back from the Dominican Republic--it's at least the 2nd or 3rd time it's come in handy as a sub for another liqueur on which I didn't feel like spending $40. It had a more caramel-y taste as opposed to GM's orange-y, but still complimentary to the Almond Tart. Oddly enough, I did have just a tablespoon of kirsch left, probably from making a cheese fondue.

Boiling creamy filling

Line floor of oven with aluminum foil and bake tart on center rack at 350 degrees 20 to 30 minutes. Filling will bubble up and may overflow, then settle and begin to caramelize. Rotate tart frequently during last 15 minutes of baking so top is even deep golden brown. Remove tart to cake rack and let cool to room temperature before cutting.
Bake little Tart, Bake!
Very hard to wait for the tart to cool before digging in.
It smelled WONDERFUL.
Only 1 piece?
a la mode optional. I preferred it plain.