Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dried Fruit and Nut Tart

Happy belated Tu Bishvat! I am kind of late to the party but only post wise! This past week we celebrated Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees. Some of us celebrated with the traditional eating of dried fruit, some even had seders, and many went out to plant trees. I think I may have sufficed with some dried fruit but I can't remember. I definitely made it up on Shabbat, though. My friend A hosted me for lunch and asked me to bring a Tu Bishvat related dessert. Anything fruit related really would have been okay but seeing as the connection between this holiday and dried fruit is so strong, I knew I would have to go that route. The solution? The dreaded fruitcake. I was ready to go down that route and have a bunch of people hate me for choosing that (in my head, I don't see what the fuss is, it sounds perfectly delicious despite its repuation.. in any case, I made peanut butter cookies as a back up) when I remembered that there was a dried fruit related recipe in Flo Braker's wonderful book Baking for All Occasions. I flipped open the book to discover that my (freaky) memory for recipes hadn't let me down and there indeed was a recipe for Autumn Dried Fruit- Nut Tart. It may not be autumn around these parts, heck, it's practically summer (it's meant to be winter!), but that didn't stop me from making this tart, especially since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. Well, most of them. I tweaked the rest. The tart calls for a sort of jam to be made by cooking some dried fruit together with water, alcohol and orange juice. That is spread onto the bottom of a blind baked tart shell and then topped with a frangipane-like topping and then baked to perfection. The result? Well, by the looks of it this tart won't win any contests on looks alone- the crust is beige as is the baked almond topping. Nonetheless, this tart is delicious. Subtly nutty and cookie like with a layer of yummy jam in the middle, I likened this to a hamentashen, but different. I was a big fan and it went pretty quickly. I used dried peaches and pears because I didn't have any apricots and omitted the whole nuts from that layer. I also swapped out a different recipe for the crust for one I thought was easier to make and work with. I thought the almond mixture was very subtle and by the time it hit me that I should have added a touch of almond extract to it to heighten the flavor, it was already in the oven. Whoops. I guess there's always next year.
Autumn Dried Fruit Nut Tart
adapted from Baking for All Occasions

1 recipe tart pastry

1 cup dried peaches and pears, or use all apricots or all peaches cut into thin strips
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp orange liqueur
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 stick plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar
3/4 cup ground natural almonds
1 large egg
Drop of almond extract, optional

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and have ready a nine inch tart pan. Roll out your pastry and fit into the tart pan. Chill in the freezer for about twenty minutes. Partially bake for about twenty minutes. Remove from the oven carefully and allow to cool while you prepare the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 350.
In a small saucepan, combine the dried fruit and water. Let soak for about half an hour. Add the liqueur and orange juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Towards the last minutes of cooking, stir in the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir to bring it together into a smooth, thick paste. Spread the fruit mixture over the bottom of the tart crust. Set aside while you prepare nut filling.
In a small bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, and nuts until smooth. Add the egg and mix just until blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the fruit mixture.
Bake until the top feels set about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

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