I heart your tart

The Internet connection at work died for several hours today. That was when I realized that absolutely every single one of my tasks requires the use of the World Wide Web. At first the break was comical. The hallways erupted with alarm, a domino chain of irritation, as neighbors of the shared office space scampered through the hallway: "Is it on for you?" "What about your phones?" "Howaboutnow?"

It's hard to look busy when there's really nothing to do. Like the others, I too became frustrated, refreshing my homepage every three seconds, or so, sighing often, growing sleepy. Everyone would be happier, I thought, if the owners mollified us with ice cream. Others seemed to think a rent deduction would be a better fix.

Ice cream never came, and it was over three hours before the Internet did.

A good employee would have jumped right into her duties, scurrying to make up for lost time. I know that my priority upon the Internet's return should have been straight to the website I was in the midst of updating when the big crash occurred, but I couldn't lure myself from the temptation of my regular distract-me visits. I'm glad I couldn't. I found something I liked, something that assuaged me, and was (in my book) much better than ice cream.

This part-polenta, part-delectable jam tart is, I am convinced, what I have unknowingly been needing. You see, I've had a crush on cornmeal for, well, more than several years now. But our relationship only blossomed into the lovely inspiring partnership that is now in December.

December was our reintroduction. Polenta and rice were the go-to grains on the farm, and, after mornings of polenta oatmeal, a night of polenta gnocchi, and a surprise polenta cake, I was undeniably smitten.

I met the polenta cake one weekend at the arts fair in the town by the farm. A British woman was selling crumbly lemony squares from a basket. A friend bravely asked for the recipe. I've been dreaming of it ever since.

I spent Sunday sifting through other recipes I've collected since, none sounding as appealing as they did when I first collected them. Deb, over at Smitten Kitchen, must have read my mind. This rustic, perfect-in-its-imperfection tart offers just what I was looking for, and combines everything that I love. Easy and satisfying, perfect for winter, or now, when fresh berry fillings aren't an option. I've fallen in love again, or, as my brother said so appreciatively, I heart your tart.

Easy Jam Tart with Cornmeal
Adapted from Ready for Dessert and inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Reminiscent of a linzer tart cookie, this only improves with age. My dough was a bit dry and crumbly at first. I added a bit of lemon juice to make it workable. My photographs don't do it's deliciousness justice.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
9 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, whole
1 egg, separated
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 1/3 to 1 3/4 cups jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons coarse-crystal or granulated sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, a food processor, or even just a hand mixer, mix together the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk (keep the egg white from the second egg on hand for later) and almond extract and beat until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.

Transfer about one-third of the dough to a lightly floured counter and shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate (or freeze if you're in a rush) until needed.

Transfer the remaining dough to a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom. If using a tart pan, press the dough up the sides to the rim of the pan and set the tart pan on a baking sheet. If using a springform pan, press the dough about 3/4-inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm, at least one hour. (In the freezer, the dough was firm in 30 minutes.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the jam or marmalade evenly over the dough in the pan. Cut the chilled dough into very thin discs with a sharp paring knife. Arrange them slightly overlapped in concentric circles over the jam to form a top crust. Whisk the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water until frothy; brush evenly over tart lid and then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons coarse sugar. Bake until the top crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

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