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A Bakewell tart is an English teacake named after the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England. The dessert dates back to the 1860s and features a combination of a pastry shell, jam, and almond-flavored sponge or custard. Bakewell tarts are often called Bakewell puddings, but the two desserts are essentially the same.
The legend behind the Bakewell tart is believed to be a myth, but remains a popular explanation nonetheless. According to the story, a customer ordered a strawberry tart from Mrs. Greaves, landlady and cook of the White Horse Inn in Bakewell. The landlady, being busy, ordered a new cooking assistant to prepare the dessert. Instead of blending the strawberry jam into the filling, the cook forgot them and at the last minute spread the jam onto the bottom of the pastry shell and covered it with the cream filling.
Local history also claims that the Bakewell tart has a secret ingredient known only to one person. Before her death, Mrs. Greaves supposedly left mysterious instructions to a local man named Mr. Radford, who in turn passed the recipe onto a Mr. Bloomer. Coincidentally, the Bloomer family runs a bakery in Bakewell that sells Bakewell tarts and puddings.
To make a traditional Bakewell tart, roll out pastry dough and place it in a greased pie tin or use a pre-made pastry shell available at grocery stores. Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam on the bottom of the shell. Cream ¼ cup (4 ounces or .10 kg) of butter with four tablespoons of sugar and add a few drops of almond extract. Mixing constantly, add three egg whites and one egg yolk one at a time, blending each in completely. Spoon this mixture into the pastry or pie shell and sprinkle with ground almonds.
Bake your tart at 360° Fahrenheit (182° Celsius) for about 50 minutes. You may serve a Bakewell tart hot from the oven, with ice cream on top, or chill for a summer dessert. Typical variations involve adding maraschino cherries to the top, or replacing the strawberry jam and almonds with your favorite flavors. Common combinations include raspberry jam and hazelnuts or apricot jam and macadamia nuts.
If you are making your own pastry, consider dividing the dough into tartlet pans to make individual sized desserts. Because it has relatively few ingredients and is easy to make, a Bakewell tart is an excellent recipe to use for cooking lessons or to make with the help of children. You might even consider having party guests help prepare a Bakewell tart as part of a child’s birthday tea-party. Even for an adult dinner, a Bakewell tart is an easy, inexpensive and tasty dessert, perfect when served with coffee or tea.
You'll often see Bakewells topped with white icing (and half a glace cherry if the little individual ones). On large pies, pipe lines of brown icing on top of the white and drag a knife gently across in alternate directions to drag the brown icing into a slight zig-zag.