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Another Jam Tart for Springtime

Fregolotta | Delightful Crumb

Many years ago, early in this blog’s life, I wrote a series of posts that I called the in betweencalling out the peculiarity of this time between winter and spring. I hold to my evaluation (though I’m embarrassed as anyone to look back at old writing, my youth laid bare on the page for all to read!). These intermediary weeks are strange not just for the ways that the weather can swing back and forth but also for the fact that we arrive at this moment EXTREMELY READY for spring: for rhubarb and berries and bare legs and vacation and all of the glorious green produce. And it’s here—kind of. Momentarily. Maybe.

Life, too, no? I am certainly in some kind of season myself right now, which may or may not be an in-between time—that, of course, depends on what’s next—but at the least, it has been a season of waiting and of listening, trying to discern through the haze, and most assuredly not doing. Perhaps the pause‚ whether seasonal or in life, reminds us to reflect. There’s a line I love in Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion in which the central character captures how reflection itself can be cyclical: “It’s weird,” she said, “the way sometimes you’re in your life, but other times you’re looking back at it like a spectator. It kind of goes back and forth, back and forth.”

We don’t like uncertainty, of course. A recent episode of Invisibilia offers the reminder that this is no fluke. We’re biologically predisposed to be uncomfortable with uncertainty; otherwise, we’d never make any decisions! So at least it’s natural. And while I feel quite ready for some answers, perhaps their refusal to emerge means this particular in-between season isn’t quite over.

And so, pending answers and snap peas and strawberries, I wait—and I bake. Yet in the absence of berries and with the scarcity of rhubarb in these parts, what are we to do? There’s chocolate, yes, and citrus, too. But we’ve been relying on these all winter long. Jam is the answer, my friends!

I posted about a different jam tart in the aforementioned seven-year-old post, compliments of the great David Lebovitz, which remains an excellent choice. I made it at just this time last year, in fact. That jam tart is positively stuffed with jam, with a cornmeal crumb and the option for fancy latticework. But today, I have another tart. And in case you think a person doesn’t need two jam tarts, I am here to tell you that a person does. Or, at least, I do. This one has just a swipe of jam, is fantastically easy to pull together and yields something more akin to a cookie, in the best of ways. It makes a lovely weekend pick-me-up and would be right at home at a dinner party, too. Make the whipped cream—because really, why not?—and have patience. Spring will come. It always does.

Fregolotta – Italian Jam Shortbread Tart

Minimally adapted from Kristen Miglore and Food52’s Genius Desserts (recipe from Cindy Mushet)

Serves 8 to 10

In the tart pictured here, I used apricot jam and chopped almonds. But the template is flexible—use any preserve you like, preferably something not too sweet, and whatever type of nut you have on hand. The original recipe says that you can also freeze the unbaked tart for up to one month. Bake from frozen and note that it might take a couple of extra minutes in the oven.

Fregolotta | Delightful Crumb

3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (100 g) cane sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 (190 g) all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup (80 g) jam

1/3 cup (30 g) chopped or sliced raw almonds

For yogurt whipped cream (optional):

1 cup (235 g) cold heavy cream

1/2 cup (115 g) plain yogurt (Greek or not, any fat content)

Pinch of sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the center. If you plan to make whipped cream, put the bowl and whisk(s) in the freezer until you need them.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond extract and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds more. (You can also do this with a handheld mixer, which will just take a bit more time.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add this to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on low speed until the dough is well combined, about 30 seconds. Measure out 1/2 cup (130 g) of the dough and pat it flat on a small plate; put this in the freezer to chill while you complete the next steps.

Using your fingers, press the remaining dough into a 9- or 9 1/2-inch tart pan in an even layer, pressing it slightly up the sides at the edges. Use a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the jam in an even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edges.

Remove the reserved dough from the freezer and crumble it into small pieces over the layer of jam. Sprinkle the almonds over top.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until the topping is evenly golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the whipped cream. Go for your usual version, or add yogurt for a fun variation. Combine the cream and yogurt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a big pinch of sugar. Beat until the cream just begins to thicken, then finish by hand, stopping when you have soft peaks.

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack before serving—preferably with whipped cream. Store the tart covered in plastic wrap at room temperature.