Bakewell tart

A comforting quartet of frangipane, almonds, jam and pastry from Comptoir Gourmand

We thought, at first, it was a fairly safe choice: bakewell tart. A sweet, comforting quartet of frangipane, flaked almonds and a whisper of jam in a pastry case. No sooner was it mentioned however, then the great controversy set in.

What about icing? The glace cherry? Do you even have jam? Do you have something else in its absence? Should the frangipane be made with almonds, or with almond essence? What pastry is used?

We'd opened a can of worms—or glace cherries, if you're so inclined—and they needed sorting. Off to Comptoir Gourmand we headed, in search of answers to both our questions, and our sugar cravings. Lorna from Comptoir Gourmand helped all she could, though too was flummoxed.

Barely-there dusting
For one thing, there was no icing on the stall’s bakewell offering, a non-negotiable feature of the tarts she enjoyed at home. “My mum used to put fondant icing all over the top,” she recalls, “but I actually prefer this. It’s not quite so sweet.” In its place, icing sugar lies softly, in a barely-there dusting.

Gone is the cherry of Mr Kipling fame—no great loss, some might say, but many think otherwise. Gone too is the cyanide tang of almond essence: this frangipane is the real deal. “The chefs are French here, so they apply French techniques,” Lorna says, as she cuts a slice. The pastry testifies as much, slicing almost clean then crumbling with warm, buttery tenderness at the end.

The essentials, of course, are all there with bells on: warmly nutty, spongey gooeyness topped with fine shavings of more almonds. A case of shortcrust pastry, homemade a la française. A smidgen of raspberry jam—“English of course,” says Lorna, “and quality. They wouldn’t have anything less”—which adds the requisite tang and zestiness to the squidge of the cake.

Afternoon tea
“You can always tell when someone is going to choose bakewell tart. They are generally a bit older, and they come late afternoon. I can spot them a mile off,” Lorna smiles. “One will choose the cherry and almond tart and one will choose bakewell tart for their afternoon tea.”

The choice suggests impeccable taste, and a loyalty to Friday feeling’s suggestions (we did the cherry and almond tart earlier in the year) that is touching. Whatever your prejudices or preferences, Comptoir Gourmand’s bakewell is a treat.