Caramelized Almond Tart

 I was not completely aware of the famed tart that I attempted, until I had already pulled it out of the oven and cut a slice.  I was given a tart pan for my birthday last month, and to test out the pan, I was tricked into making a recipe that I may not have otherwise attempted.  Mom tossed the recipe on my counter top, and said, "try this one".  She did not mention that it is not an easy recipe, nor that famous pastry chefs all over the country have recreated this beautiful dessert.  

So not knowing what I was getting into, I just began by following the directions. Since there was a full page and a half of directions, I went slowly.    First I put together the tart pastry:

1 stick butter

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 drops of almond extract
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix until blended. Add the butter in small slices and mix with your hands or in a food processor until it begins to come together. Add the extracts and water and process until it gathers up in a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it until you are ready to use it. Then take it out and bring it to room temperature.  It came together easily, and then I put it in the fridge for just 30 minutes.

When the pastry was ready, I pressed it into a 9-inch tart form with a removable ring.  (There is no need to roll this pastry, as it is easier to just press it with your hands.)  The key is making sure that there are no holes, and no thick areas- this is one of the hardest parts because if you make an area too thin, it will crack and break, leaving a hole for the filling to escape. Refrigerate the pastry in the tart pan for about an hour. 

Then bake the tart in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until it begins to set and brown. Remove the tart to a rack and cool it to room temperature.

  Now time to make the filling!

1 cup unpeeled raw sliced almonds
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other liquor)
2 drops vanilla extract

 In a heavy saucepan, I mixed together first the cream and the sugar, then the salt, liquor and extract.  Bring the mixture up to a slight boil for about 30 seconds, then cook the mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the texture is smooth, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add in the almonds and cool the mixture slightly before pouring it into the tart shell.

Place a piece of foil in the oven underneath your tart pan, as this tart can tend to bubble over and the foil will catch any mess. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. 

The filling should bubble up during most of the cooking time, and at the end it will begin to caramelize. If you do not see your tart bubbling, tap it with your spatula and turn the tart in the oven to help distribute the heat.  When the filling is golden, remove the tart to a cake rack and let cool to room temperature before cutting.


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