17 July 2011

Chez Panisse Almond Tart

Please don't let the less than perfect appearance of my attempt of this lovely tart put you off, yours will be much prettier I promise! Read on for my excuses reasons :)

Since I've been on such a foodie love fest recently (cinnamon..lemons..coconut..) I was going to continue this theme and call or start this post with 'I love nuts', but luckily better judgement won through, suspect google searches might well have brought some interesting visitors to my blog!

Back to the topic in hand, this is the infamous 'Chez Panisse Almond Tart'. Possibly the most involved recipe I have yet attempted but by no means hard, you just have to watch over it like a doting parent making sure it doesn't misbehave too badly. If you have not come across this recipe before, it is the creation of the head pastry chef/co-owner of the Chez Panisse Restaurant in California at which the wonderful and inspirational David Lebovitz worked. It was their most popular dessert by far, but was essentially a pain in the butt to make on a larger scale and tricky to eat with a fork. PLEASE don't be put off, the end product more than makes up for it! David states 'it’s the most delicious thing I’ve probably ever had. And I’ve had a lot of things that were delicious', from him..thats incredibly high praise indeed

I actually really enjoyed making this once I realised the process wasn't as difficult as I expected. I have to say it didn't turn out QUITE as I wanted but that is purely because of my oven, or should I say lack of oven...this is my dirty little secret ive been keeping from you. We have an aga which is turned off in the summer, so Im ashamed to say all my baking in warmer months is done in a combination microwave oven *insert sad, embarrassed face* It looks like a normal microwave but has an oven function inbuilt which is handy but it tends to cook too fast around the edges compared to the centre - hence the overdone outside and underdone middle! But this should, if anything, reassure you - if I can produce a remotely yummy edible good then you can definitely do it! And yours will be much prettier than mine :)

Please click on any photo to enlarge
The 4th photo shows the shell mid-baking just before I pushed the sides up a bit more
You can see how much the filling bubbles in the last 2 photos, wasn't expecting that! Was hypnotising :) oh yes..and that is indeed my microwave oven, please ignore the fact it needs a good scrub!

Despite aesthetics (and probably a bit of a compromise on taste) I still enjoyed every. single. morsel. of this glorious tart. It is an almond lovers absolute dream - nutty, caramely, chewy goodness. Think pecan pie..but different...and better..on almond shaped steroids

Here is the recipe, David's instructions are pretty clear but I have rephrased and tried to elaborate in areas to make sure you get the bestttt possible results :) My main alteration was to use orange zest instead of the booze, if I had the Grand Marnier I would definitely use it though (and probably a bit more than stated!) I know it looks lengthy but if you scan it you will see it's pretty straight forward - dough, chill, press, chill, bake. Filling, pour, bake/tap, cool...stuff your face silly.

Chez Panisse Almond Tart
Adapted from David Lebovitz who got the recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere
Also seen at The Sweet Art and In Food I Trust
Makes a 9 (or 10) inch tart

For the Dough
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp caster sugar
1/2 cup (115g/4oz) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 Tbsp ice water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract

For the Filling
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (80g) sliced almonds (unblanched preferred)
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 tsp Grand Marnier or Amaretto

Mix together the flour and sugar for the dough in a food processor (or using a pastry blender)

Add the butter and pulse until no large chunks are visible and it is in very small pieces

Add the water and extracts, mix until the dough comes together and is smooth

Press into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly 

When ready, let dough come to room temperature and, using your hand, press the pastry into a 9 inch tart ring with removable base*. Save a little bit of dough for patch-up jobs incase of holes forming during baking. Put the shell in the freezer to chill

Preheat oven to 375F/190C and bake shell when ready for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown** 
Patch any little holes with leftover dough
(Leave oven on)

Line the rack under the one you plan to use with foil incase the filling bubbles over during baking

Heat the cream, sugar and salt in a large pot (at least 4qts), bring to the boil and contiue to cook until it starts to foam up

Remove from heat and stir in almonds, extract + liquor

Pour into the shell and even out almonds

Bake in oven for 30 minutes total - check every 10 mins and tap all across the surface of the bubbling tart with a rubber spatula to break it up, tapping less aggressively as the filling starts to set and not tapping at all once it starts to caramelise***

Remove the tart when the filling is a light golden, creamy coffee colour and there are no pockets of white filling

Let cool for a few minutes before loosening the edges with a knife/curved vegetable peeler and removing the ring by resting the base on a solid object and wiggling the ring off

Return the tart to a cooling rack and remove the base of the pan once completely cool (if difficult, set on top of a warm stove for a few seconds and try again)

Serve in small (pfft, ignore that) wedges with lashings of cream/ice-cream/topping of choice :)

*I do not have such a thing sadly, but used a 9 inch ceramic dish and would recommend throughly greasing whatever pan you use
It does not have to be perfect, but I think the most important thing is to get the dough as high up the sides as you can as it shrinks back during cooking
**David mentions you can push the half-baked dough back up the sides during baking. After 15 minutes I took the shell out and pushed the sides up a bit using my fingers (its hot..it burns..im silly)
***I tapped after 10, 20 and 25 minutes


  1. Could I just bring some tea over, so we could sit down with and enjoy this gorgeous nutty tart? ;-))

  2. @Angie's Recipes Of course you can Angie! Would be my pleasure :) There are only 2 pieces left shamefully, which is perfect but you better hurry! And if you fancy bringing around a bit of that unbaked mint/coconut cheesecake I wouldnt complain yaknow :) haha

  3. only 2 pieces left?? One for Angie and one for me, right??

    I'm going to try this one and don't make excuses for a perfect tart. It's supposed to look home made - that's how we know it's gonna be good. :)

  4. You know, you are entirely inspirational. You desire to cook delicious and wonderful dishes is so heartfelt that it shows in our attempts to create something in a microwave oven. I really am impressed with your tenacity. The tart is really yum looking. I love the story around it and need to check into David Lebowitz's site more often. Good Job Sahsa!

  5. @Maureen Im afraid there is only 1 piece left now...you may have to fight it out! :) Bake off? I get to devour the entries and pick a winner? im liking that idea! I hope you do give it a try as it really is veryvery lovely, thank you for your kind words too, made me feel much better about not posting something perfect!

    @Sarah (Snippets of Thyme) Sarah thats so sweet of you to say, Im not sure I deserve such a compliment but it means so very much, thank you :) David Lebovitz has some great recipes im dying to try, you should indeed check them out!

  6. This does sound really good. Definately adding this to the recipes I need to try box.

  7. Hi Sasha,
    This is a lovely tart, one I'm sure I would love to try. Will have to come back here often.

  8. Well I think it looks great, microwave or not. I've read about this tart before, thanks for bringing it back to my mind!

  9. Hello Sasha,

    This Tart looks beautiful, no need to excuse!
    The brown edges seem to be perfectly caramelized, I would never have thought you can bake this delicious way in a microwave- but you can do it!

    Today I will take some time to create a little place for myself, keep your fingers crossed.

    Keep you updated,


  10. I think you are too hard on yourself- I have baked in a microwave oven and know the pain- so it really isn't your fault! I have the book on Alice Water's life and Chez Pannise and thanks to you I remember now that I had bookmarked quite a few recipes in it! Thank you for bringing it all back to me!

  11. Looks to be a delicious tart. I wouldn't have thought it was baked in a microwave.

    I shouldn't worry about not using an oven in hotter weather, we don't do too much baking at all in summer over here!

  12. Your tart looks gorgeous, actually! Especially after the fact that you baked it in a toaster oven. Almond flavored tarts are delicious and if I get the nerve, I'll definitely try this. :)

  13. Thank you all for taking the time to comment, I cannot tell you how much it means!

    Nadine, you are the best! Well the microwave does has a pretty decent oven function but it can be extremely frustrating i have to say, especially with cakes and tarts where the centre is more concealed as it were, but where theres an uncontrollable baking urge there is always a way! :)
    My fingers are indeed crossed and I cant wait to hear from you again!

    @Shumaila It is possible isnt it but I find it doesnt always give the results I desire (whats the phrase, 'a bad workman blames his tools' or something like that!) Thank you lots for your kind words though and I would love to see what other recipes from the restaurant you try :)

    @Sinful Sundays From the look of your amazing baking skills (that flag cake! awesome!) you would have no problem at all with this and you should definitely give it a go :)

  14. I am so impressed that you did this in the microwave!! I wonder if you have a different type of microwave in Europe from what we have here in the states? I had no idea a microwave could even function as an oven.

  15. @Barefeet In The Kitchen Thank you! It is a bit disappointing that i dont always get the results i would really like but id rather give it a shot than not! Well im not sure about the microwave...let me go check the make! Its a panasonic, an old one weve had forever and just looks like any old microwave, except theres a convection oven button and also a setting for grilling things too (can put metal in on these settings). Its pretty nifty! I have to say im not sure ive seen them about lots, i suppose most people dont have a need for them!

  16. Wow...you made this in a microwave oven?! Impressive! This looks and sounds delicious. I am bookmarking this! :D

  17. I love almond tart and yours looks divine. Great job.

    I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

  18. This tart looks sensational. I'm a huge fan of tarts and it's great to see a new recipe!

  19. I love the look of this tart and am impressed at anyone baking in a microwave, not an easy task. Rather jealous you have an aga even if it only runs in winter.

  20. @sweetpeaskitchen.com Thank you! It really was veryvery yummy, worryingly so when you are on your 3rd piece of the day!

    @Faith That means a lot Faith, thank you, I hope you have a lovely week also :)

    @El Thanks El! Im still dreaming about your crostada :) Anything pastry is a hit with me!

    @peasepudding Aga's are wonderful, we have a really old heating system in our house so without the aga keeping us toasty it would be horrible! Thank you for stopping by :)

  21. The tart looks fabulous, and delish! Thanks for linking back to me and sending me this link because I've officially discovered a new blog!
    Happy baking!
    -Amrita :)

  22. What a beautiful tart and I am in awe that you produced this in a microwave. Well done! I have to say Btw, I may be Canadian but my grandfather was born in Wales. (Cardiff, I believe.)

  23. Almond! Swoon! I cannot resist anything almond.

  24. I've been dying to make this tart for ages - now it goes to top of my list! Gorgeous.

  25. @Amrita No problem Amrita, in fact it should be me thanking you! And thank you for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment :)

    @Jennifer Thats such a coincidence Jennifer, I am currently chatting with another food blogger by email whos grandfather was Welsh and she now lives in Canada too! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment

    @Pattie @ Olla-Podrida Me too Pattie, seriously where anything almond is concerned I have zero self-control :)

    @Poires au Chocolat Glad to see I aided your baking decisions! I highly recommend it as it does taste fabulous, and I know yours will look much prettier than mine :)