It's always tough coming back from a vacation. You have to do dishes. You have to take out the trash. You have to go to work. You have to clean up your messes. Plus, there's the post-vacation blues to deal with.
I was looking forward to coming home because Vancouver in the summer is really gorgeous - sunny, green, hot but not too hot. Nope. Raining. Raining and weirdly humid and hot. And it's been like this for about a week so far! What's going on?!
It's odd weather. It's warm but it's raining. How do I dress for that? The other day when I went down the road to get groceries, I wore shorts and my gumboots. Weird looks were given. But the weather called for it!
Despite the strange and frustrating weather, I adjusted to home life pretty quickly. Don't get me wrong, I miss driving around the Tuscan countryside and eating delicious pasta for every meal, but home is good, too. It's nice to sleep in my own bed again. It's nice to see my kitty cat again. And, most of all, it's nice to bake again.
While I was away, I ate a lot of desserts. And gelato. And chocolate. Pretty much the same as I do back home, but these were made by other people. In York, England, I went to Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant. All in all, it was an amazing meal that even rivalled food in Italy. The dessert, though not Italian, was a raspberry almond tart. It was unreal.
I had never had an almond tart before then, so I guess I don't have much to compare it to, but I know a good dessert when I taste it. The sweet almond meal was offset by the tartness of the strawberries and the sliced almonds on top lent a nice crunch to the tart. So, I put that on my list of 'to make' desserts. Two other desserts were added to that list and subsequently made when I got back, but you'll see those later.
If you've followed this blog for long enough, you may have noticed that I have a thing for tarts. I don't really do pies, though I really love pies. I just find tarts to be simpler, neater, prettier, and much more versatile. You can change the crust, the filling, the garnish. You can make layered tarts, fruit tart, custard tarts, or combinations of those. Tarts are my thing.
Raspberry Almond Tart
Recipe adapted from Food of France
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
small pinch of salt
150 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup icing (powdered) sugar
2 free range organic eggs, beaten
Raspberry Almond Cream
250 g unsalted butter, softened
250 g (2 cups) icing sugar, sifted
230 g (2 1/4 cups) almond meal/almond flour
40 g (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
5 free range organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g fresh raspberries, washed and dried
1/3 cup sliced almonds, more or less to your preference
First, make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt directly onto a work surface or into a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry knife or use your fingers. The pieces of butter should be the size of peas. Add the sugar and mix together.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the eggs in. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs until you cannot mix with a fork anymore. Using your hands, gently knead the dough until it comes together to make a smooth and slightly sticky dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
Take the pastry out of the fridge. Dust a work surface with flour. Roll out the dough to line a 9-inch tart tin, making sure the edges are higher than the tart tin, as the pastry shrinks while baking. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line the tart with crumpled parchment paper and fill with pie weights (dried beans/rice) and blind bake the tart shell for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and the parchment paper and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until the pastry is cooked but still very pale. Let it cool completely.
For the almond cream, beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar, almond meal, and flour and beat well. Combine the vanilla extract and the eggs in separate bowl and beat lightly. Gradually add the egg mixture to the almond mixture, beating until fully incorporated.
Pour the almond cream into the cooled tart. The almond cream recipe makes a little more than you need for the tart, but it can be refrigerated for 24 hours and used again. Arrange the raspberries over the top of the almond cream. There is no need to push them down as the almond cream will rise while baking and the raspberries will sink in a little bit. Scatter the sliced almonds over the raspberries.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the tart for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Dust with icing sugar just before serving if you wish.