You know, I love winter, but January takes the soggy biscuit doesn’t it? We’re recovering, revitalising. How am I supposed to feel cheerful and sprite, when all I ever see outside my window is grey. Grey clouds, grey sky. Grey, grey, grey.
I need a fragrant lift.
I want to wake up and smell…the lavender.
Which is why I made this beautifully floral almond tart, with home made blueberry jam, white chocolate and lavender.
If that doesn’t ping your senses in to gear on a dreary Sunday afternoon, I don’t know what will!
Almond tart with blueberry jam, white chocolate & lavender
For the pastry:
8oz plain flour
4oz butter (cold and cubed)
100ml cold water
pinch of salt
Place the flour and butter in a bowl and rub with your fingers until you get a fine crumbly mix. Add the pinch of salt whilst pouring in about half the water. Start to bind the dry mix together so you get a dough, adding as much liquid as you need. You may not need all of it. On a lightly floured surface, shape the pastry until it’s nice and smooth. It won’t take long, just a few minutes to bind properly. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
For the jam:
Do not fear, you can use shop bought jam if you like, but if you wish to make your own, here’s how.
Place a small plate in the fridge. In a large pan, heat 200g of blueberries with the juice of half a lemon. When softened, slightly mash the fruit for a little texture-not to a pulp, you still want a good handful of whole berries.
Add in 200g of jam sugar, mix and leave on low/moderate heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn up the heat once all the sugar has gone and leave it to bubble for about 2 minutes.
Put a little of the mix on to the chilled plate in the fridge and leave for another minute. Then, push the jam with your finger and if it ripples and has that jammy texture, you can pour the jam in to sterilised jars and leave in the fridge.
Take your pastry and roll in to a large circle on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. You want it quite thin so you have a crisp crunch on the tart.
Ever so slightly rub a round tart tin with a tiny amount of butter-just to really ensure it doesn’t stick. Gently place the pastry over the tin, making sure the pastry is pushed carefully in to the base so no air can sneak underneath. Cut off the excess that hangs over the edge, but leave a good 1/1.5cm overhang so we can trim it off last, and make sure our tart is pretty. Cover the base with baking paper and something like dried peas to weight the whole of the baking paper down. Blind bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the base seems to start cooking, at 180 degrees.
It’s crazy because I used to bake in a little cafe and as soon as the word pastry was mentioned, I’d immediately start sweating and lock myself in the bathroom until I was sure somebody else had taken on the task. But look at me now. I love it! Have no fear-just like Julia Child!
For the filling:
Whilst your pastry is making itself wonderful in the oven, you can make the filling.
2 eggs beaten
4oz ground almonds
Half a teaspoon of fine dried lavender
A handful of white chocolate drops (literally about 10)
A teaspoon of almond essence
Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add in the essence and beaten eggs, and fold in slightly. Then pour in the ground almonds and lavender and mix until beautifully thick. Fold in the chocolate last.
When the pastry is at the stage we described, cover the bottom with the jam and gently pour the almond mix on top, smoothing it out very delicately. Sprinkle flaked almonds on top and bake for another 15-20 minutes. It should be golden brown on top, and if you tap the side of the tin, the mixture should be firm.
When the tart is cool, melt a handful of white chocolate drops and lightly drizzle across the top. A trick I learnt was to shave the edges of the pastry off with a veg peeler. It gives the dessert a clean finish and you can pretend your a professional for a good few minutes!
Then it really is simple. Take a slice, close your eyes and get lost in the creamy, fruity and ever so delicately perfumed frangipani.
Take a look out the window.
I’m sure you’ll find that every cloud now has a lavender lining!