I go to restaurants and I pay money for food and with that money comes expectations. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I sigh disappointingly at a split hollandaise on my plate. Or dry chicken. Undercooked bread. Overcooked steak. Underseasoned vegetables. Greasy sauce. Wilted salad leaves. These are the things that upset me the most.
I’m not the type that would lose my temper, smash my plate on the ground and demand at the top of my voice that the waiter send me a revised version of the dish. I just get overwhelmed with disappointment.
It’s always a treat for me to eat out, doesn’t matter where it is, when it is or who it’s with. I don’t like the idea of going to a restaurant just because I can’t be bothered to cook and it’s a quick and easy option. It’s disrespectful to the restaurant, and I try not to frequent restaurants that cater to that need (#snob #sorry). In that case I’d rather buy a ready meal or order takeout. I do my research and I make sure it’s a reputable restaurant with a minimal risk of disappointment everywhere I go. Restaurants are an experience which one pays a lot of money for, and by that I mean a lot compared to what one would spend if they were to cook at home. Over half of the restaurant experience is based upon the food, and I want it to be good. If you screw up once, don’t serve it to me and just make another batch. If you screw up more often than that then take it off the menu.
But in the midst of all the bad things that can happen in restaurants, you know what makes me really happy? A really good tart shell. I mean a wonderfully thin one that’s crisp, short, sweet and so so buttery. Encounters with such pastries brighten my mood every time.
I’ve made a wonderful tart shell here. It’s a pâte sucrée, so the butter and sugar are creamed together rather than rubbed in. The dough is easier to work with, doesn’t fall apart like a pâte brisée. It’s almost cookie-like crunchy rather than flaky. Do try to make your own pastry here. You don’t have to use my recipe, use your own favorite recipe. But if you’re really busy, I won’t judge you if you buy a premade one, I promise, as long as it is baked well with no soggy bottom.
The filling also makes it a wonderful pie of course. It’s adapted from Food52, an Italian recipe. Rich, sweet, dense, lovely.
Adapted form Food52
a pinch of salt
125g unpeeled almonds
225g unsalted butter, softened
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 tbsp rum
100g roughly chopped blanched almonds
Make the tart shell
Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy. Add a pinch of salt and then beat in the egg and the egg yolk. Beat in the flour just until combined. Knead briefly until smooth. Flatten into a disc and wrap in cling film. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven for 190C. Roll out the pastry to about 0.5mm thick and prick all over with a fork. Gently it over the pie tin, press down on the corners and leave about 3-4cm of overhang around the edges. Cut off a large piece of parchment paper or tin foil and use it to line the pie. Snug the lining right up against the edges and sides of the pie. Pour in some baking beans or dried beans or dry rice, enough to cover the base, and bake for about 15 minutes.
Then remove the lining and the baking beans and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is just starting to color. When the pastry cools down, gently cut off the overhanging bits with a knife so you’re left with a neat edge.
Turn the oven down to 180C.
In a food processor, blitz the unpeeled almonds with the sugar until it’s finely grounded like sad. Pour into a bowl and, using electric beaters or a mixer, whip in the butter until pale and creamy. Beat in the egg, the yolk, and the rum until well combined. Then stir through the chopped nuts.
Pour into the blind-baked tart shell and smooth over the top. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until the filling is set, the top is dry to the touch. Leave to cool before serving.