Gabriella first got the idea for making jam tarts after watching our friend Angiolette make an impromptu crostata for us one morning when we were visiting her soon after our arrival in Arezzo. The following is a recipe Gabriella adapted from one she found after doing a quick web search. With gratitude to David Lebovitz for posting his excellent creation on-line (http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/07/jam-tart/), we present this very simple, very delicious, no-fail recipe for you. Gabriella has been using it liberally for occasions like the celebration of San Giuseppe (see posting on “Adventures in Miscommunication”), gatherings with our school, and meals with friends. Keeping a batch of the dough in the freezer makes it especially easy to prepare an attractive and tasty dessert in no time at all.
9 Tablespoons (110 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 cup brandy
1½ cups (190 grams) flour
½ cup (70 grams) stone-ground cornmeal (or polenta)
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1¾ cups (450 grams) jam (any type you prefer or have on hand)
Coarse raw sugar (cassonade, turbinado, demerara) for topping (about 2 Tablespoons)
Optional: lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, ground almonds
Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, almond extract and brandy (and lemon zest, if you desire). In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, nutmeg and baking powder (and other spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, and ground almonds if you desire). Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, just until the mixture comes together.
Use 2/3 of the dough to pat into a disk. Wrap in wax paper (or plastic) and chill for at least 2 hours. Use the remaining 1/3 dough to roll into a log about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Wrap and chill also for at least 2 hours. If you are not going to use the dough right away you can freeze it for later use.
Remove the disk of dough from the fridge and allow it to come to approximately room temperature (about 10 to 15 minutes - just long enough to get the dough pliable). With heel of the hand, press dough into the bottom and sides of an unbuttered tart pan. (Using muffin tins to make tartlets also works well). Spread jam evenly over dough (the jam will bubble up as the tart bakes, so do not be overly generous with the filling).
Remove the log of dough from fridge, slice into cookie-sized disks, about ¼ inch thick, and then lay them over the jam decoratively. Decorate with sliced almonds if you desire. Top with at least 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
Bake at about 375 degrees Fahrenheit (about 180 degrees Celsius) for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy.