It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.* I had everything I needed to make almost anything in the house. I couldn’t muster up even the slightest interest in cooking. When did this happen? I woke up a few mornings ago and after brushing my teeth stood in the kitchen thinking “Isn’t there anything here that doesn’t have to be cooked?” Huh? So not like me. No idea of why. Well, maybe I know. I had a bad week, cooking wise. I pulled out all the stops, buying the ingredients I needed for the recipes I had bookmarked, made sure I had the correct pots, pans and whatever else I needed. I arranged the week so plenty of time was available. It was downhill from there. Let me break it down for you. #1, disaster. #2, Meh, not good enough to talk about. #3, Great! But I forgot to take pictures. #4, I have no idea what that was in that pan. It overflowed and jacked my stove up, and the only thing in common that it had with the recipe was it was brown. Yeah. #5, Well I didn’t exactly get to #5. I got the stuff out, but the previous 4 had me shook, and I put it all away. I called for Thai take out and called it a day. Or week. Whichever, better to forget it all. So there you have it. I fell flat on my butt in the middle of the no cooking zone.
Late at night a day or so later, I was clicking my way through my favorite cooking blogs when my eye fell upon David Lebovitz’s post for an “Easy Jam Tart”. Looked good. Reading the recipe, it did look easy. After looking around a bit, it seemed all my favorite bloggers had made this recipe and all had been successful. In fact, the praise for the ease and simplicity of it was unanimous. Was this it? The one? Could this pull me out of the no cooking zone and back to my happy cooking self? I decided it was. All I needed was a sure thing to boost my confidence a bit. After a week like the one I had, can you blame me for being a bit wary of cooking? So, here’s the thing. They didn’t lie. It is that easy. It was really good. Sometimes you forget that baking (or cooking) doesn’t have to be complicated or hours on end involved. Sure, stretching your cooking chops is fun. Learning new methods and techniques is great. Occasionally you’re going to completely duff it. Just go back to simple. It will totally reset you. Make this. You can make this. Trust me, I’m a woman who knows how badly things can go in the kitchen. You can do this, you’re going to have fun doing it, and you’ll blush from all the compliments you’ll receive.
Before you start, you’re going to need an hour to rest the dough. So figure that into your time. Although it doesn’t call for buttering your tart pan, I did. I hate when things stick. You’re going to need a big jar of jam. You’ll use almost the whole thing. You can use any kind of jam that you like in any flavor you like, store-bought or home-made, whatever you have. I think it’s best the day you make it, but wrapped well after cooling, it will still be wonderful the next day. It actually makes a really good breakfast, think toast and jam, but better.
*Thank you, Charles Dickens
Easy Jam Tart
Adapted (barely) from David Lebovitz
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
1 tablespoon of water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups jam or marmalade
coarse raw sugar; known as cassonade, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for finishing the tart
1. Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and almond extract.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, water, and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients, just until the mixture just comes together.
3. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, (one piece will be 2/3 of dough, the other 1/3 of dough), pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for about an hour. Take the remaining dough and roll it into a log about 2-inch in diameter, wrap it and chill it, too
4. Preheat your oven to 375.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to room temperature slightly. With the heel of your hand, press the dough into the bottom and sides of a buttered removable bottom tart pan (one that’s 9″ or 10″ ) or springform pan, patting it evenly.
6. Spread the jam evenly over the dough.
7. Remove the log of dough from the refrigerator and slice in cookie-sized disks, then lay them over the jam. Top very generously with lots of coarse raw sugar, at least 2 tablespoons.
8. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.
Note: If you’re not fond of cornmeal in baked goods, use all flour and skip the water. I found at this altitude a bit of water was needed to help soften the cornmeal during the resting period.