In spite of attending food conferences across the United States over the years – including a magical few days about 15 years ago during which 100 food writers were all billeted at wineries in the Napa Valley – I have never eaten at Chez Panisse.
I have, however, interviewed the unstoppable founder and still owner of this celebrated Berkeley restaurant. I have also met Lindsey Shere who worked there as a stellar pastry chef for many moons. In addition, I have tasted although, until now, not made her trademark dessert: a sweet, simple and spectacular Almond Tart that has graced the menu at Chez Panisse since it opened in 1971.
So, without further ado, here it is.
Lindsey Shere’s Almond Tart
This is delicious eaten as is or with a dollop of creme fraiche, vanilla yogurt and or some fresh berries.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp grated lemon zest
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut in pieces
1 tbsp water
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup whipping (35 per cent) cream
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp Grand Marnier
2 or 3 drops almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)
For pastry, combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in medium bowl; stir to combine. Add butter. Using pastry blender or finger tips, work into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and begins to hold together. With fork, stir in water and vanilla. Gather into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Press pastry evenly over bottom and up sides of 9-inch/23 cm tart pan with removable bottom and 1.5-inch/4-cm sides. (Reserve a small piece of pastry in case shell needs patching after baking.) Chill shell in pan in fridge or freezer about 30 minutes. Place pan on baking sheet and bake in oven until golden brown and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. (You do not need to place beans or weights on shell as pastry does not shrink much.)
Increase oven temperature to 400F.
For filling, in medium saucepan large enough for contents to triple in volume, stir together cream, sugar, Grand Marnier and almond extract. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to rolling boil and bubbles thickly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add almonds, stir to combine and let sit 15 minutes. Pour mixture (it will be quite liquid) into baked shell, ensuring almonds are evenly distributed. Bake in oven until filling is a rich caramel colour, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool tart in pan on wire rack, loosening sides of pan gently every minute or so for 5 to 10 minutes, or until filling is set. Carefully remove sides of pan; return tart to rack to cool.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.