I managed to drag myself away from binge watching the penultimate series of Vampire Diaries for long enough on Saturday to actually bake something, which is a result. I didn’t get round to doing the dishes, or hoovering, or whatever other chore I was supposed to be doing. But baking always takes priority, right?
You probably have never even heard of a Congress Tart, but it’s the West Country version of a Bakewell Tart, I guess. These little guys are made of all the best things – tangy raspberry jam, sweet pseudo frangipane, and crisp sweet shortcrust pastry. Plus, sprinkle some toasty flaked almonds on top if you fancy. Or be all traditional (and a bit Easter) and make a little pastry cross, just like my Grandma used to.
These tarts are quite possibly one of the first things I ever baked, back in the early 90s. My Grandmother used to make them all the time, as well as these delicious coconut buns that my Mum reminded me about when I called her the other week – yep, coconut buns are obviously on their way soon.
Anyway, back to Grandma.
My Grandma is basically the whole reason I know how to bake. All that ‘natural talent’ people think I have was actually learnt in my Grandma’s country kitchen. She didn’t have a stand mixer or an electric whisk, but she still managed to create amazing sweet treats that would bake me under the table if she were still here today.
The original recipe for these Congress Tarts is lost the sands of time, I think. But, with a little help from my BFF Google and some baking experience, I’ve managed to cobble something together. And it seems to have passed the Katie test, which I think means we’re on to a winner.
Now, don’t be scared by pastry. Pastry is second only to brownies in my list of utter baking failures, so when I say that this sweet shortcrust is totally do-able, then please believe me. Your life is going to be a whole lot easier if you have a food processor, because you want your butter cold. Cold butter is the secret to great pastry, period.
If you don’t have a food processor to get all that chilled butter into the flour, then you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and rub it in, the old fashioned way. But sometimes doing things the old fashioned way just feels right.
Make sure to refrigerate the pastry for an hour or so before using, to help keep the butter as chilled as possible. And you are going to need plenty of flour on your worktop and rolling pin, because this pastry can be a little sticky. But, the fact that we are making tiny little tarts makes transferring the pastry disks from the worktop to the cupcake cases so much easier.
If you do make a mistake, and your pastry splits, then this pastry is pretty forgiving when it comes to patching up holes 🙂
Assembling the Congress Tarts is just a case of spooning some good quality raspberry jam into the bottom of the little pastry cases, and then carefully topping with a heaped teaspoon full of the almond filling. Seedless or seeded jam? It’s totally up to you. But I’m all about the seeds.
I’ve got such a soft spot for the little pastry crosses that sit on top of some of these little tarts, but go mad with flaked almonds, cute pastry shapes, or maybe even a fresh raspberry pushed into the top. Give it a try, and let me know how you get on.
- 225g (1½ cups) plain or all-purpose flour
- 75g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoom) caster (US granulated) sugar
- 110g (½ cup) unsalted butter, cold
- 1 large egg
- 12 level teaspoons raspberry jam or conserve
- 75g (2/3 cup) ground almonds
- 75g (½ cup) plain or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 75g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster (US granulated) sugar
- 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and add the cubed butter. Blitz the mixture until the butter has been completely incorporated into the flour, and then add the egg and blitz again until combined. If you do not have a food processor, you can rub the butter into the flour and sugar by hand, although this is a little time consuming. Gently knead the pastry together into a ball, and then wrap in clingfilm or plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for an hour.
- Once the dough has been chilled, preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F (160°C fan). Place the dough on a generously floured surface and roll out using a rolling pin. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter, and place them in a 12-hole cupcake tray - there's no need to grease the tray. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F (160°C fan).
- Place a teaspoon of raspberry jam into the bottom of each of the pastry cases, and then set aside.
- Place the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix together. Ensure that the butter is very soft before adding to the almond flour mix - put the butter in the microwave for 10 seconds if necessary. Add the butter to the almond flour, and beat well using an electric mixer or wooden spoon. Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg, egg yolk, and almond extract to the mixture and beat well until a paste forms.
- Place one heaped teaspoon of the almond mixture on top of the jam in each of the pastry cases. Being very gentle, spread the almond mixture so that the jam is completely covered, adding a little extra of the almond mixture if necessary.
- Using some of the leftover pastry, cut out little strips and place them on top of each of the tarts in a cross shape. Alternatively, cover the top of each of the tarts with flaked almonds. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the tray halfway through baking to ensure an even bake.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and place the tray on a wire rack to cool completely.
- These tarts will stay good for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container.