This Almond Tart recipe was originally inspired by 2 very different motivational factors. The first being the traditional style of baking by Hildegard von Bingen and the second being a need to use up a collection of old packets of almonds, ground, whole and/or flaked that were occupying my kitchen baking cupboard. It has the feel of a frangipan and it is made with the same french pastry base that is typically used to create a classic frangipan tart, but in rather more rustic looking than any frangipan tart that you would find in a french patiserrie.
Hildegard von Bingen was a nun of the middle ages who was famous for recognising the healing properties of natural products and incorporating this into her baking and cooking. In the middle ages spelt was likely the most important grain used in cooking and baking, and in these pre-industrialisation times, the spelt flour used was unrefined and wholegrain, many breads and most cake recipes from Hildgard von Bingen are indeed based on whole grain spelt flour. Hildegard von Bingen was notorius for living by her own principles and the fact that she lived until the age of 82 in a time when the average life expectancy for a woman was only 35, is testament to the health protecting properties of her nature-based nutritional cooking.
So here I have used the classic French sweet pastry, Pate Sucree, to make a pastry base shell, there are many recipes available for this, I have had always had nice results using the recipe from Mary Berry so that it the one that I also use to make this Almond tart.
The filling is not based on any definitive Hildegard von Bingen recipe but is more my own take on this particular style of baking. I have used whole spelt flour, whole spelt flakes, ground and chopped almonds, raw sugar to form a sponge-like filling with, of course, eggs and butter. Its nice and easy to put together and I could easily imagine embellishing this tart further with extra baked in ingredients such as cranberries, apricots, or raisins, or indeed to top of the tart with caramelised nuts or fresh berries. All of which would compliment perfectly the rich nutty flavour of this basic wholesome almond tart.
100g softened butter
3 free-range eggyolks
200g all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
180g raw sugar
30g agave syrup
1 pinch salt
100g ground unblanched almonds
80g roughly chopped almonds
100g whole spelt flour
50g spelt or oat flakes
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 tablespoons of apricot or plum jam
Ground or flaked almonds
To make the pastry
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until well combined, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time until fully incorporated into the mixture.
- Mix in the flour until the mixture comes together as a ball of dough.
- Tip the pastry out onto a floured work surface and knead briefly until smooth.
- Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. Alternatively, it can be frozen for use at a later date.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180degrees C and prepare your pie dish for baking by greasing it well with butter.
- Once rested, remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a very well floured work surface to a thickness of about 4-5mm. With the help of your rolling pin transfer the rolled out pastry to your buttered pie dish. Gently press out the pastry to cover the dish properly and fill in any gaps of messy edges. Place a piece of parchment paper ontop of the pastry and fill with a layer of dried beans. Blind bake the pastry base for 5-7 minutes until it just starts to take on some colour.
To make the filling
- Cream together the sugar and butter, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked pie crust and bake at 180 degrees for 30 minuttes or until nicely browned and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Allow to cool slightly for 5 minutes in the baking dish, then remove and cool further on a wire rack.
- To finish, warm the apricot or plum jam and brush this all over the tart. Then sprinkle the outer edge with ground raw almonds, or decorate with flaked almonds if you have those.