Let’s all learn a lesson, shall we? Here is why it is a terrible idea to bake a tart in the middle of the Australian summer… It’s too hot! Now, I know that that seems a defeatist attitude, but it wasn’t simply a case of being too stickily, disgustingly hot that the thought of doing anything seems ludicrous. No. The fact is, our old friend Pastry is a delicate little flower, and she simply cannot stand the heat, be it in or out of the kitchen. Immediately upon leaving the cool safety of the refrigerator, Pastry wilts and melts, largely due to the fact that she is mostly butter. Don’t get me wrong, though, the butter is one of my favourite things about her! If you can catch the butter between layers of flour and sugar, and you’re lucky, you will end up with a crisp, short and delicate shell for whatever lucky foodstuff you are hoping to contain. But, in the heat, it takes a lot to “get lucky” with lady Pastry. (I didn’t even plan that word play-it just happened!)
So, although my Bakewell tart has some issues with appearances, that is to say, it’s a bit of an eye-sore, it did indeed bake well. I guess they weren’t calling it that for nothing. After the initial disaster with the pastry where, upon finding I was lacking a pie or tart dish of anywhere near the correct proportions, I went with a square tin, it was fairly smooth sailing. I slapped my pastry into the tin, hastily patched up the sides as best I could, which was not very best, and then put it straight into the freezer. Tip No. 1 with Pastry – play it cool. After my fears of imminent disaster passed (10-15 minutes) I whipped the pastry out and slathered it with a layer of rasberry jam and a pile of frozen raspberries. Tip No. 2 – lavish gifts. After that, quickly back into the freezer while I made the frangipane mixture of almonds, eggs, sugar and butter, to go on top of the berries.
So again, I whipped the pastry out of the freezer and poured over the frangine mixture, and then again, because I was taking no chances at this point, back into the freezer. Tip No. 3 – Smother her, no amount of delicious filling is enough. Finally, after a brief but sweltering wait in my brick oven of a kitchen, I slid the tart quickly out of the freezer into the oven, fingers crossed. And voila! After about 20 minutes there she was, a little too browned around the edges, due to my hasty and unnatractive patchworks, but nonetheless intact. Now, the final test, how would she taste? Any rewards for my efforts at appeasing her whims?
Oh yes. The rewards were a crisp and buttery crust, that was light and not too sweet. A dense, marzipan scented filling, studded with sweet, tart raspberries, and a ripple of sticky raspberry jam. I can see why they call it Bakewell tart. Even after all that it still managed to come out a winner. Might I reccomend other fruits as well? The first that I contemplated was an apricot jam layer on the bottom, with apricot halves nestled into the top of the tart, maybe a sprinkling of flaked almonds as well. You could also use peaches, nectarines, plums are really good, cherries, blueberries…All summer fruits are fairly well suited to this tart. Figs, too. Ahh, summer fruits, they are the best thing about summer. If only they came in winter.
Shortcrust Pastry adapted from Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
125g salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 large egg yolks, preferably free-range or organic
a splash of milk or water You can make your pastry by hand, but I seriously reccomend, at least in summer, that you do it with a mixer or processer. The butter simply melts too quickly for hands to be a good choice. If making by hand, sieve the flour, icing sugar and salt from a height into a large mixing bowl. I have previously used a processor, a KitchenAid, and a cheapo, handheld mixer and I have to say the handheld worked the best for me. Whatever way you do it, start with your flower, sugar and butter in the bowl and in as few motions as possible try and work the butter and pastry into a crumb-like texture. It’s ok, good even, if you have bigger pieces of butter here and there. Add in your egg yolks, and then mix, or pulse again, quickly to try and obtain a mix that will hold together if you pick up a piece and squeeze it. You may need to add a splash of water of milk. Once it can hold together, squeeze it into a ball. Don’t work it too much at this stage – you want to keep it crumbly and short. Sprinkle a little flour over the pastry, then wrap it in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge to rest for 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
For the Bakewell component:
This is a Sugar Hit adaptation from several recipes.
2 big spoons of raspberry jam
150g frozen raspberries, or a couple of big handfuls
3 eggs, again organic or free range
125g ground almonds
125g butter, melted
125g caster sugar
This part is easy peasy. You roll out your pastry and stick it into your pie dish, of about 20cms. Back into the freezer for a while, then out and on with the jam, followed by the berries and then back into the freezer. Once it’s in, you simply, crack your eggs into a mixing bowl, and whisk together. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix, and then pour over the raspberries in your tart shell! Easy! (Keep in mind that you could add other flavours to this. A little rum with your apricots, some vanilla for your peaches, some orange zest with figs, anything!) At this point, in summer, I stuck mine back in the freezer for a while, pre-heated the oven to 200C fan forced, and then slid the tart in for about 35 minutes. Gorgeous!