Last week, Ben and I ate our first ice cream of the season, sitting on a bench wearing sandals and shorts and listening to the noise of the neighborhood as people emerged from their winter hibernation, spilling onto the sidewalks and making up rather quickly for the long quiet of winter. It feels as though winter has ended–just like that! I’ve already worn several sundresses and sipped a couple glasses of cold white wine.
With all of this comes a longing for one of my favorite parts of spring and summer in the Midwest: the overflowing stalls of the farmers markets and the glorious produce therein. The fact that these remain far off sets me straight; it is not springtime, not quite, nor summer, surely. Yet I want to stain my fingers with fresh strawberries and pop round blueberries into my mouth and let peach juices run down the lengths of my arms and fill bowls with cherry pits, exposing the number of ruby red globes I’ve consumed. I am dreaming of crunchy crumble topping and fluffy cobbler biscuits encasing whichever fruit is freshest, cakes with pockets of jammy berries and tart dough wrapped around brightly hued fillings. Ice cream, of course, adorns all of these.
My imagination runs wild. It cannot be controlled.
But yet, I must wait. Patience is a virtue, they say, and so I am making my very best effort. Of course, the exercise of this virtue can be quite challenging, and sometime I wonder if “they” really took that into account whilst coining their sweet little idioms. And so, for times like the in between, when patience and produce are hard to come by, I offer you this simple jam tart.
I first made a version of this tart two years ago, prompted by the fact that Deb’s impatience so closely resembled my own, and my goodness, is it ever wonderful. The recipe comes from the great David Lebovitz, a man I firmly trust in the realm of all things pastry. I started thinking about it again recently and could not get it out of my head until I went to the library, picked up David’s book and baked the tart again last week. Now, I am very fond of tarts, particularly the rustic and simple variety, and I love throwing a bit of cornmeal into most anything. I also have quite the penchant for toast with jam, and as Deb smartly points out, this tart bears a notable resemblance to that gustatory marvel. And I’ve made it no secret that I deeply appreciate baked things that can be enjoyed at any hour of the day. All of that considered, it comes as no surprise that this tart is right up my alley. And it’s delicious and simple and pretty to boot. I’m actually not sure why you’re still reading. You should be in the kitchen by now, checking to see how much jam you have in that jar lingering on your refrigerator door.
So if you are, as I am, having a hard time exercising patience as you await spring produce, the growing season, budding flowers, consistent warmth or perhaps just the next season of your life, I say, make the jam tart. When you take a bite, crisp from big crystals of sugar sprinkled atop, nutty from cornmeal, bursting with the sweetness of the jam between the crusts, I think you’ll find that elusive patience a bit less hard to come by.
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert
The original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups (450 grams) of jam, which seems to me like quite a lot. I used 1 1/4 cups (350 grams) this time. Use an amount within that range, according to your own preference and/or cupboard contents. Choose a good jam, one that you like on its own, as the flavor and texture will be prominent. I recommend, per my usual bent, something natural and without artificial sweeteners. A homemade or locally made favorite would be lovely. This time around, I used black raspberry, which was delicious.
Additionally, if you don’t have corn flour on hand, swap in all-purpose for the full amount, and if you don’t have a pan with removable sides, that’s fine; just be aware that you might have a bit of trouble removing the slices. The optional egg white wash was an added step from Deb, to give credit where it is due. Finally, take note of the refrigeration time in the recipe and plan accordingly. I have an unfortunate habit of missing that kind of instruction and ending up in a horrible rush.
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (65 g) corn flour
1/2 cup (65 g) cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces/130 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg, divided
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 – 1 3/4 cups (350 – 450 g) jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons (30 g) coarse-crystal or granulated sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
With a hand or stand mixer, beat together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk and almond extract; beat until combined. Gradually, add the flour mixture, beating until the dough just comes together.
Transfer about one-third of the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Shape it into a log about 1 to 2 inches (2 1/2 to 5 cm) in diameter; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Transfer the remaining dough to a buttered 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan with a removable bottom or a springform pan of the same size. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. If using a tart pan, press the dough up its sides, to the rim, and set the pan on a baking sheet; if using a springform pan, press the dough about 3/4 inch (2 cm) up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm, at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Spread the jam or marmalade evenly over the chilled dough. Cut the log of dough into disks approximately 1/4 inch (about 1/2 cm) thick. Place the circles of dough in an even layer over the jam, forming a top crust. If desired, whisk the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water until frothy and brush across the top of the tart. Sprinkle the tart evenly with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake until the top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool.
Remove the sides of the pan, slice and enjoy! Wrapped tightly, the tart will keep nicely for up to 3 days.
Yield: about 8 servings
Recipes for the in between:
1. Monday: Simplest Jam Tart