Holiday Entertaining

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)

December  4, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A last-minute pantry tart that looks much fancier than it is -- a silver bullet year-round, and just what you need for the holidays.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52

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During the holidays, more than ever, we need more things that give the illusion of fanciness, without effort or strife. 

Like tastefully wrapped gifts and centerpieces that look as if they were dropped there by forest elves, this jam tart -- whose components are sitting in your pantry right now -- is one of those things.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52

It comes from Chez Panisse alum Cindy Mushet's Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style. In Veneto, it's called fregolotta but, as Mushet says, it's "really more like a big cookie." 

She's not kidding. The dough is one simple shortbread that you use for both the crust and the topping (which will make you wonder why you'd ever make them separately). In between is a shiny layer of jam, and on top, a flutter of sliced almonds. 

More: You'll like this tart too. It's like cheesecake, but with labneh.

You can make the entire thing in about an hour, including clean-up, and yet somehow it comes out looking like a Byzantine mosaic.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52

Lori Galvin, the Cookbook Editor at America's Test Kitchen, who introduced me to this recipe, likes it in small wedges with tart whipped cream, so it feels even fancier. "Whenever I serve it to someone new, they ask for the recipe," she told me. "Never fails."

Here's how to make it, start to finish:

Cream your butter and sugar, then add almond extract, then flour (this looks like plenty of cookies and cakes you know, so far).

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52  Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52  Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52  Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52

Flatten 1/2 cup of the dough onto a plate and put in the freezer while you do everything else. This will be your crumble.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52.

Pat the rest of the dough into a tart pan in a flat-ish layer. 

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52.  Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52.

Spread jam around the top, leaving a pretty border area. It won't look like enough to go around, but it will be just right to seep into the cookie, and glue all its bedazzling on top.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52.

Crumble on your now-frozen dough reserves, plus nuts.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta) on Food52.

Bake till it's golden and buttery and crumbly and the goo of the jam has melted into sticky painted glass. Cool a little, eat. Or make it ahead and tuck it away, if that's more your style. Baked, it keeps well for 3 to 4 days. Unbaked and frozen, you've got a whole month.

Even though it's perfect for holidays, you should entrench this in your repertory year-round. As long as you have butter, sugar, and flour, you can use whatever jams and nuts are in your pantry. Try pine nuts, walnuts, pecans; cherry in summer, marmalade in winter, rhubarb in spring, or mix them up at will -- it's just jam and sundries, unbound by season or time.

Holidays, you can't bring us down now -- not with this tart on our side.

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)

Cindy Mushet's Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)

Adapted slightly from Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style (Scribner, 2000)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup not too sweet apricot jam (or other jam of your choice)
1/3 cup sliced natural almonds

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Tara November 25, 2015
I just made this for Thanksgiving. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but it was easy and looks beautiful. I did find that my crumble and almonds covered up my jam, and once cool, looked a little dull. I decided to warm some apricot jam and brush it over the tart after it cooled to give it a little sheen.
Ann April 25, 2015
Jim P. April 25, 2015
8 tablespoons to one stick of butter. 12 tablespoons is 1 1/2 sticks of butter.
Jim P. February 14, 2015
Prior to going in the oven:
Jim P. February 14, 2015
I made this an hour ago for my Valentine and she pronounced it tops! Very easy to make.
Beauty F. August 4, 2014
looks delicious!
Mariana A. August 4, 2014
I believe I need to make more dough for the bottom; after dividing it up I did not have enough to go up the rim; I spread my with the back of a tablespoon & was smooth as silk spread; using my fingers was making it soft; I probably will make a double portion for a larger tart pan next time. Very appealing taste wise & visually.
Beef W. January 20, 2014
Followed the recipe closely until I didn't. Used maple sugar (ebay) salted Pistachios (Costco) dry cherries. Wonderfully easy recipe that allows me to have it in the oven in about 35 minutes. Thank you Food 52.
Adrianne G. May 8, 2014
maple sugar in place of sugar or in place of the jam?
[email protected] December 19, 2013
I made this. It was fab. This is exactly what I love about Italian cooking: it's made from nothing. I had everything in the house including some jam that no one would touch because it was the bottom of the jar (you all know how that goes). Perfection.
Susie M. December 18, 2013
Made the shortbread for a Sip and See and it was wonderful! I soaked my almonds in Amaretto first thing before mixing the crust and the flavor was amazing. Big hit!
Herschelian December 18, 2013
Made this two nights ago for daughter and son-i-l; they loved it. I used a red mixed berry jam, and was slightly more generous with the amount; simply delicious with a blob of whipped cream. Two-year old grandson also thought it was rather good!!!
Am now going to try it using Christmas mincemeat instead of the jam, think it will work well.
[email protected] December 19, 2013
I was thinking mincemeat too!
Susie M. December 16, 2013
I made this for a Sip 'n See for our newest family addition and first soaked my almond slivers in amaretto while I prepared the shortbread. The almonds tasted amazing! This was one of the hits of the party.
Erni December 10, 2013
This looks yummy! Seems easy enough. I have a family who loves shortbread. This is perfect!
Nancy D. December 9, 2013
Gorgeous, thanks! Am wondering if it could be made gluten free with almond meal rather than flour. Would probably be good to mix with some rice, millet, or quinoa flour for adhesion aspect while maintainig a light touch. Nancy D
lizvigoda December 9, 2013
I've made a version of this from the Barefoot Contessa and it came out great. But then I also made my own version which consists of slicing two medium apples and tossing them with 1/3 cup sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon and using that in place of the jam and it's FABULOUS!
[email protected] December 19, 2013
I have to try this too. Sounds delish.
MarthaP December 8, 2013
This sounds so delicious but what is "tart" whipped cream?
Kristen M. December 8, 2013
Good question! This would just be unsweetened whipped cream with something tart like creme fraiche or yogurt added to it. This is a great example:
durun99 December 8, 2013
Thanks for the recipe. We just made and polished off most of one of these tarts. So easy and delicious.
April December 8, 2013
This tart tastes wonderful! It is so easy to make! Made it with raspberry jam. I have a very happy tummy right now. :). Thank you for the recipe.
cindy December 8, 2013
I've made a similar recipe on an 11x15" pan and cut into large triangles. It is my go to Xmas baking.
suzgab December 8, 2013
how large of a tart pan? forgive me if it's already listed.
suzgab December 8, 2013
ok-I went to full recipe and found my answer-9 to 9.5"
Debbi S. December 8, 2013
You guys at food 52 are genius! Wonderful delicious recipes shown in props we can buy! I dislike places that show great props that only the food stylist has! Thank you!