Birthdays come at us once a year. We yearn impatiently, in our younger years, for our special day. With our family and friends close at hand, we look forward to celebrating the day we came into this world. The one day where we get all the attention and no one thinks twice about it, because it’s our day. It’s the day where we are entitled to all sorts of privileges. Presents, balloons, games, food, and of course cake await us. We manage to sit through all the conversation from relatives we hardly see, but few times a year. We force down food, just because we know we have to eat something. Tearing apart wrapping paper after wrapping paper, admiring our gifts but secretly only thinking about the best part of the night. The part that comes at the very end, after all the food has been eaten, all the games have been played, and all the presents have been opened. As we get older the impatience soon fades into dread and we can’t seem to get excited anymore. With each passing birthday, it reminds us that we’re getting older. But in the back of our minds, one thing definitely still excites us; cake. They sing to us, in total darkness, with just the gleam of the candles dancing around, illuminating this special scene. We make our wish, the one that truly counts. Blow out the candles, and then with a sigh of relief, as if someone out there in this universe heard our cries, the first slice is made. And just as the knife is about to go in for the second slice, you stop the designated cutter, and say “What, are you afraid it’s going to run out? How about a bigger piece? A little bigger. A little more. There you go.” And as this massive piece of cake is placed in front of you, it slips your mind that you’ve just, not moments ago, devoured a whole meal. And for that one moment in time you forget about everything and everyone. Everything you worry about, goes out the window. Carbs, fats, and calories don’t matter. There’s no place for them in your party. As you eat your slice of cake, your in a euphoric place. A trance. One that is not only delightful but divine. What is it about birthday cakes that make us feel this way? Perhaps its all the attention we get on our birthday. Perhaps its the fact that we’re surrounded by those we love. Maybe its the idea of feeling happy. Whatever it is, you eat your cake slowly and blissfully, wishing, no, hoping that it wont end anytime soon. Good thing we get a whole cake; its alright to have another piece. In fact I encourage it. After all, it’s our birthday, and we could eat more if we want to.
It was my soon-to-be-brother-in-law’s birthday and I was faced with a tough dilemma. The man doesn’t like cake. After I found out, fainted, and came to, I started brainstorming. We need to have some sort of something. After all, birthday cake is the main part of celebrating birthdays. I knew that he loved fruit so I came up with a concept of making a tart. Well with this new concept, all sorts of ideas came to mind. However a new dilemma also arose. Most fresh fruit tarts have a custard in the middle, well, he has a phobia for white creamy things. So a vanilla pastry cream was out of the question. I found a recipe for an almond shortbready type tart. After a few needed alterations I came up with the perfect tart. Just the right centerpiece for a birthday party, with all the bells, whistles, oohs and ahhs, still present. Well, what are we waiting for?
For the crust:
We first need to grind up some almonds. Place them in a food processor.
Pulse a few times until the nuts resemble a flour-like consistency. Almost like an almond flour.
Now we cream the butter.
Place a stick of butter, at room temperature, in a mixing bowl.
Cream, beat and whip.
Pour in the granulated sugar, and continue to cream.
Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.
Now add in the egg.
Mix well. Scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, every so often.
Only one kitchen equipment can handle such an important task. Where all others fail, only one can prevail.
Yea, he’s a bowl scraper downer from way back.
Now for the dry ingredients.
Mix them all together in a small bowl.
Add the dry ingredients, slowly to the creamed butter mixture.
Mix until the flour is well incorporated, and the mixture is slightly sticky when touched.
Next step is very important, so pay close attention. This could make or break your tart.
Lean in close.
Shh…..I’m going to let you in on a secret.
For a rich, buttery and flakey crust…..
It is important to chill the dough before we form it.
Now that’s our little secret. Don’t go around telling people about it.
Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
Wrap it up and place it in the fridge for at least half and hour.
And now for the almondy, shortbready filling.
First things first. Place the milk in a small sauce pot.
Add vanilla extract.
Whisk together and allow the milk to heat through and simmer.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together until thick and pale in color.
Once the egg mixture is thick and pale, the milk should be simmering warm by then.
Slowly, and I do mean slowly, in a steady stream, add the milk while you whisk rapidly.
Make sure to add it slowly because you don’t want to scramble the eggs, by pouring in the hot milk all at once.
Just slowly and whisk rapidly.
When the milk and eggs are completely combined, add it back to the pot.
Place it back on the stove, over a medium heat.
Continue whisking until the custard has thickened and bubbled.
Once the custard has thickened pour it into a mixing bowl.
Add in some of the homemade almond flour.
Also throw in some regular AP flour.
Turn on the mix on medium high and whip together.
Next, add in softened cream cheese.
Whip again until everything is well combined.
Let’s leave this for a second, and work on the crust.
Pull out the chilled dough, and grab a tart pan.
Make sure your tart pan is buttered or sprayed. It makes it easier to cut out the pieces.
Place the dough into the pan, and using your hands work it into the entire tart pan.
Push the dough onto the sides as well, as evenly as possible.
And now we’re ready to fill.
Remember our almond filling?
Of course you do, how could you forget?
Just in case you have forgotten…
Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
Spread it out evenly with a spatula or spoon.
Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown and the center is set and firm.
Once baked, remove from oven and place on a rack. Allow to cool completely.
Once the tart has cooled, remove the sides, by placing your hand under and pushing the edges down.
And now for the fruit topping.
Wash all your berries, I used strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. I also sliced a few kiwis.
You can arrange the fruit nicely in a pattern….
Or you can just throw them all together on top.
The rustic look works for me. So I just tossed the berries on top and arranged the kiwi.
The tart is almost done.
It needs a little something extra.
A nice shiny glaze.
In a small sauce pot combine a little apricot preserve and water. Stir and bring to a simmer.
Brush the fruit completely with the glaze.
And now we’re finished.
Next time you want a light and elegant dessert, why not make a fruit tart? Its simple and refreshing. You’ll impress all your guests and the best part is that you’ll feel good eating it!
Whip out those birthday candles, and light them up. This year, the birthday tarts are taking over.
Almond Fruit Tart
Taken and adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
For the Crust:
- 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 3/4 Cup Almonds, ground
- 1 stick unsalted Butter, softened
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 1/4 cup Sugar
For the Filling:
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup almonds, ground
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
- 5 tablespoons apricot jam
- 4 cups assorted berries and kiwi
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and ground almonds with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm (can place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.)
For the filling: In a small sauce pan, stir in milk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. Whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Add hot milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Place thickened milk mixture in a mixing bowl. Beat in ground almonds, flour and cream cheese. Spread into tart crust. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until golden brown and set. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Unmold.
Arrange berries on top. In a small saucepan heat through the apricot jam and water. Brush the top of the berries with the glaze.
Serve right away or chill in the fridge. Enjoy!