I first met this delightful pastry in a coffee shop in Queensland, Australia. Staring at me through the glass in a cabinet was a square of buttery pastry supporting a thin layer of jam, topped with a generous layer of frangipane and finished off with sliced almonds. When I asked for its name, I was told “Bakewell Slice.”
My slice came on a plate with a fork. And my first bite told me this was special. The pastry, buttery and crisp, blended perfectly with the jam and almond filling. If you love almonds and almond pastries, run to the kitchen to bake this.
The term “slice” in Australia may refer to just about any sweet treat that is cut into squares or square-like shapes. A Bakewell slice is a multilayered pastry that’s a variation of the round Bakewell tart. The difference between the two is the kind of pan the pastry’s baked in.
Bakewell tarts or slices originated in England and migrated to the southern hemisphere many years ago. The many variations hinge on the type of jam spread on the baked short pastry. What seems to be always present is almonds: almond extract, a frangipane of ground almonds, eggs, butter and sugar, and a topping of sliced almonds.
My Australian food blogger friend, Marcellina Cantatore, kindly provided me with her recipe for Bakewell tart, and I’ve modified it slightly to bake in a 9-inch square pan as Bakewell slice. The pastry is rich, so serve moderate portions with hot tea or coffee.
Makes 9 squares or 18 bars
In a 9-inch square baking pan, the slice is about 1-inch-thick. Cut into small bars for hand-held treats. Serve squares on plates with forks. The pastry stays fresh for a few days at room temperature. Bakewell slice may be made ahead and frozen for up to one month.
8 ounces (2 cups sifted) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 equal pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1 cup or a bit more of a firm jam such as raspberry, fig, cherry, blueberry or any other that you like
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 ounces (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) superfine or granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 ounces (1 cup) almond meal or almond flour
4 ounces (1 cup) sliced almonds
For the pastry, adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan with a square of aluminum foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.
If not weighing the flour, sift about 3 cups onto a sheet of wax paper. Spoon the flour lightly into a 1-cup dry measure, fill it to overflowing, and sweep of the excess with a straight edge. Transfer the flour to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Repeat to measure the second cup of flour and add it to the processor bowl. Add the sugar and salt and process 5 seconds.
Add the cold butter pieces to the food processor, and pulse the machine five or six times to cut the butter into smaller pieces.
Combine the yolks, almond extract, and 2 tablespoons ice water with a fork in a small cup. Start pulsing the food processor as you add the yolk-y liquid through the feed tube. Pulse rapidly about 10 times (or more) to make a moist, clumpy dough. You don’t want the dough to gather into one ball. If the dough seems too dry, pulse in the third tablespoon of ice water.
Put the clumps of dough into the prepared pan and press firmly to make an even compact layer. Prick all over with a fork at 1-inch intervals and place the pan in the oven. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is a pale golden brown with darker brown edges. Remove from the oven but don’t turn the oven off.
When the crust is cool, spoon and spread the jam in a thin layer onto it.
For the frangipane topping, beat the butter and sugar together for a few minutes with an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy. One at a time, beat in each egg until thoroughly incorporated. On low speed, beat in the almond extract and almond meal (or almond flour if that's what you're using). The frangipane will be soft but it will hold its shape in a spoon. Place the frangipane in dollops all over the jam and spread to make an even layer that covers the jam completely. Sprinkle evenly with the sliced almonds and return the pan to the oven.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes until the frangipane is lightly browned and the almond slices are toasted. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Lift the whole cooled pastry out of the pan by the foil edges and carefully peel away the foil. Cut into portions and serve on plates with forks.