About a decade ago I traveled to Italy to take a cooking class. Of the many things I brought home from that trip, none is more cherished than my recipe for Italian jam tart.
This is one of those treasured recipes where the sum is greater than the parts! The list of ingredients is short and basic. For that first tart I made, the secret was a beautiful jar of homemade fig jam scented with lemon zest and almonds. I was incredulous that something so easy to make could taste so good. The crust is so wonderful, a cross between pie dough and a sugar cookie.
As I learned in Italy, the real secret to the tart is using the best quality jam you can find. I look for jam made with only a bit of sugar, and I prefer fig, apricot, cherry, strawberry and raspberry. The thing I love about switching up the jams is that you can add extracts and seasonings to match your jams. When I make a fig jam tart, I add a touch of cardamom to the crust; when I make cherry, I use almond extract instead of orange blossom. You can even make the crust chocolate with the addition of 1â 2 cup of cocoa powder. The list of variations goes on and on.
For Valentine's Day, try making a strawberry jam tart and drizzling it with a little melted chocolate when it comes out of the oven. It's a twist on chocolate-covered strawberries!
Italian Jam Tart
Start to finish: 1 hour
13 tablespoons (1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1â 2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1â 4 teaspoon orange blossom water or vanilla extract
11â 2 cups all-purpose flour
1â 8 teaspoon sea salt
Generous 1â 2 cup (about 6.5 ounces) fig, apricot, cherry or berry jam
Heat the oven to 350 F. Position an oven rack in the center of oven.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is very light in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the orange water or extract and blend well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix by hand just until the dough is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Measure out a scant 1â 2 cup of the dough and smooth it out on a small plate, then place the plate in the freezer.
Meanwhile, press the remaining dough evenly into and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. If the dough is too soft to work with, chill it briefly. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Once the tart has chilled, spread the jam evenly in it, starting from the center and leaving a border of about 1â 2 inch around the edges. The jam should be thinly spread and not resemble a filled pie. Remove the reserved dough from the freezer and crumble it into small pieces over the jam.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Remove the tart from the sides of the pan and cut into wedges.