I participate in a monthly pie-making blog event called "You Want Pies With That?". Each month, a theme is chosen and members make a pie following the theme. Then, by popular vote, a favorite pie is chosen and the winner chooses the following month's theme.
This month's theme was "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and we were to base our pie on a famous person.
For my famous person, I chose Benjamin Franklin. I've always wondered what it would be like if I could bring Ben to our time (you know, with the time machine I'm stowing in the shed out back). I wonder if he would be delighted or disgusted at the changes that have transpired since he lived, 200 plus years ago. Probably a little of both.
I figured I'd do a little research, so I read a few books about Ben. I was hoping to find out if, by chance, he had a favorite dessert. As luck would have it, Ben wasn't very particular about what he ate. According to "Ben Franklin, America's Original Entrepreneur" (where author Blaine McCormick was nice enough to translate Franklin's autobiography "for modern times" so folks like me could make heads or tails out of 1700's English), Franklin says,
"As a result of my upbringing, I maintain few opinions as to matters of food and remain so unobservant of my meals that I can barely remember what I ate within a few hours of mealtime."
Cool! I figure that means if I bake a pie when Ben visits me (remember, the time machine?), the sky's the limit! He won't remember what I made tomorrow anyway.
But I might as well try something really fabulous. Maybe it would be that one dessert he would remember. Maybe he would say to himself, "you know, I don't care much about food, but there was that one time... those... those, raspberry almond tartlets... yes, that was it."
Raspberry Almond Tartlets
from The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri, reprinted with permission
Nick says: Hiding a couple of raspberries under the almond filling prevents them from shriveling while these tartlets are baking, and provides a pleasant surprise when you bite into one. You can adapt this to other types of fruit, such as blueberries, sour cherries, or finely diced plums or mango (use preserves of the same flavor as the fruit - for mango, use apricot). Just be sure to use only a small amount of fruit or else the juices will boil out from under the almond filling while the tartlets are baking.
24 tartlet crusts, unbaked, made from Sweet Tart Dough or Nut Tart Dough with almonds, in tartlet pans set on a jelly-roll pan.
4 ounces (100 grams/about 1/2 cup) canned almond paste, cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
24 to 48 fresh raspberries, depending on their size
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces/50 grams) sliced almonds
Confectioners' sugar for finishing
1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
2. For the almond filling, combine the almond paste, sugar, and egg yolk in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.
Pulse to mix until smooth. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the vanilla, butter, and the egg and pulse again to mix - you might have to stop and scrape again to get everything to mix together smoothly. Once the mixture is smooth, add the flour, pulse, scrape, and pulse several times more until the filling is perfectly smooth.
3. Remove the bowl from the food processor and lift out the blade. Use a spatula to clean off any filling stuck to it, and let the filling fall back into the bowl.
4. Put a dab of the preserves (about 1/4 teaspoon) in the bottom of each tartlet crust. Follow with a raspberry or two, depending on their size - the berries should not protrude near the top of the crust or there won't be enough room for the almond filling.
5. Using a small offset metal spatula, evenly spread 1 scant teaspoon of the filling per tartlet (a bit of the berry might poke through).
6. Top the filling in each tartlet with a pinch or two of the sliced almonds, covering the filling entirely.
7. Bake the tartlets until the dough is baked through and the filling is set and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the tartlets in the pans on a rack. Remove them from the pans while they are still slightly warm, inverting the pans one at a time onto the palm of your hand - they unmold more easily when slightly warm than when completely cooled.
8. Immediately before serving, dust the tartlets with confectioners sugar.
SERVING: These are a good after-dinner pastry to serve with coffee, or are excellent at teatime.
STORAGE: Keep the tartlets loosely covered with plastic wrap at room temperature on the day they are baked. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost, reheat at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 5 minutes, and cool before serving.
Baking notes: I somehow forgot to pick up raspberries at the store, so I used frozen. I thawed them slightly. They seemed to work just fine. I baked maybe 5 minutes longer.
I used mini muffin pans and fit 2 teaspoons of filling per tartlet.
P.S. these really were fabulous. I'm quite certain Ben would have remembered these.