Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lamb ragu, and an almond tart for YOU!

Enough sewing already. Sometimes a girl's gotta eat. And sometimes when she eat,s she cooks a three-course meal for her friends from her new Mario Batali cookbook. And if she and the rest of the eaters are lucky, they end their eating with a big piece of dessert. This dessert is a Crostata alle Mandorle, also known as an almond tart. It combines almond, apricot jam and chocolate, and that is why it is good.

I asked my friend Lauren as we ate the tart if she thought it might count as healthy, since it is packed full of almonds, and (raw) almonds are one of those high fiber, high protein super foods. She responded "No, and you wanna know how I know that?...Because this tastes GOOD." She is right. Things that tastes good like this tart are probably never as healthy as your mid-morning snack of 6 raw almonds. That would just be too good to be true.

It was fun to make, because 1) I got to knead the tart dough, which is such a luxury. I am used to dough that should be touched as little as possible to prevent toughness, which always gives me anxiety (Think "Ahhhh! did I overwork the dough, have I ruined the dessert?!? Gahhh!!!). And 2) because I got to beat egg whites with sugar until glossy stiff peaks. It was beautiful, a wonderful texture, and tasted good. I don't get to beat egg whites often.

The recipe involves using both a food processor AND the stand mixer, so it is a bit heavy on counter space and dishes, but other than that I found it very simple. I sliced it very warm, and it did not hold together as firmly as I imagine a tart should, but after cooling it seemed to have a more solid body. The jam is a bit acidic, which balances some of the sweet, and little bits of chocolate throughout add a nice, satisfying cocoa fix that we all look for in a desert, without being too rich. I fully expect to add this to the dessert files to be made again, preferably after a hearty lamb ragu.

Almond Tart: Crostata alle Mandorle
from Mario Batali's

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground toasted almonds, plus 2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, plus 3 egg whites, plus 1 egg beaten
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and set aside.

Toss together the flour, 1/2 cup almonds, and sugar. Cut the butter into the dry mixture until it is the consistency of fine bread crumbs. Add 1 egg and a pinch of salt and mix well, kneading slightly. Form the pastry into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Line the tart pan with the dough, letting it hang over by 1-inch. Trim the edges, reserving the scraps and rolling them into a ball. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the tart pan with waxed paper and load the inside with beans. Bake in the oven until the dough has firmed but is still pale about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Beat the egg whites until they are thick and glossy. Spread the apricot jam in an even layer inside the tart crust. Fold the remaining almonds and the chocolate into the whipped egg whites and spread this mixture over the apricot jam. Bake 30 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

This is the ultimate juxtaposition. Four pounds of broccoli being washed for dinner, while I beat in a cup of sugar into egg whites. At least we ate a semi-balanced meal.

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