Posts Tagged 'shortcrust pastry'

pear & almond tarts

these tarts were conceived of initially as an exercise in waste management. i had lots of shortcrust pastry, lots of hopes, and so many dreams. but more to the point i had the need to not do what i was meant to be doing – a need which always, invariably ends in baking. the french left was going to have to wait…because i was filled with a sudden, unexpected and extremely pressing sense of urgency to use up my chilled pastry. and i doubt the communards would disapprove of my pear and almond tarts. as it happened, the amount of pastry i had remaining only made for ten tartlets and as a result, i was left with a glut of frangipane mixture. so i was forced to turn that into a cake. mores the pity. it was more of a cake-tart. i spent some minutes looking at the almond mixture – trying to work out the science which would transform this from tart filling to cake, in and of itself. ‘what does it need?’, i asked out loud, much to the consternation of those around me trying to record audio (yes these cakes are the product of a very artistic, if occasionally fraught environs). it had butter, it had sugar, it had eggs, and it had ground almond substituting flour. all it lacked was air and, henceforth and forthwith, lift. so i took my almond mix and to it i added one whisked up egg white and a smattering of baking powder. and poured it into a cake tin. i also lined it with the roasted pears left over from the tartlets, which were, in turn, left over from the free-form pear and raspberry tart, which were loosely based on left overs from some teacakes, which lay in the house that jack built. so here they are – the tartlets and a tart cake. both were lovely and didnt taste like leftovers at all.


1/2 quantity shortcrust pastry – divided into ten tartlet tins – pre-baked, ready to rock

350g butter

350g sugar

350g ground almond

4 eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

4 pears roasted (in oven on 200 degrees with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar and a few knobs of butter. i used vanilla paste – and tossed the pears in the sugar and vanilla in a bowl before spreading them out on a baking tray to cook – until tender which is about 30 minutes)

couple handfuls of raspberries

preheat the oven to 190 degrees. make the almond mix. beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. add in the ground almonds, then the vanilla and beat to combine. then add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. what you have now is beyond description – its golden, sweet, textually mind blowing heaven. what you no longer have is self-restraint. so at this stage, take a moment to enjoy.

pour the almond mix into the tart cases – filling them almost to the top.

then press the fruit into each one. you can of course exercise your freedoms and use any fruit you choose. and you do not need to roast them first. i did for unrelated practical reasons but mainly on account of a total lack of direction – but they did seem to taste lovely roasted, their flavour concentrated and intensified and given the tarts are only in the oven for 20 minutes, it helped that they had already had some cooking. this again depends on their ripeness. mine were like rocks.

i also used some leftover frozen raspberries – so push them into the top. frozen is probably better because there didnt appear to be any bleeding…which is all you can ask of a raspberry in a cake.

put them into the oven for 20 minutes or until golden

and then there were more….

if you are mad enough to continue on in the belief that you are responsibly managing potential waste (by making another cake that had no where to go and nothing to do, thereby only adding one more step before it all goes to the bin) then take your leftover frangipane mixture. to it, fold in one egg white, which has been whisked to stiff peaks and give it a tsp of baking powder. mix together and then pour into a greased 21cm cake tin. arrange your leftover pears on top, which ever way you see fit and push them in gently to the cake mix

put into the oven, which yes, is still on but turned down to 180 degrees for 30-40minutes or until golden brown


passionfruit brulee tart

the finest hour. a passionfruit brulee tart in one hand and a white chocolate raspberry tart in the other – a bliss undermined only by a david cameron victory and a boy on fire for the cause. for this i used a lemon curd recipe i have come to know and love, for its simplicity, its arm-breaking whisking requirements, and its deliciousness. instead of lemon i used passion fruit. the bruleeing got quite dangerous for a good few seconds on account of a brulee-er with disregard for personal safety, a dodgy blow torch, and a baker who was in a hurry because “these tarts arent going to brulee themselves”. so tread carefully. i think these are spectacular. i informed many people of this fact…mainly loved ones who are so intimately related that they no longer see the need for gushing, ego-inflating praise and the task, therefore, is relegated to myself. i think they may well be shop-worthy. something you might only find in a place of creative consumption. unfortunately the entrepreneurial process is never one i understood. so instead, they were sent, with love, straight to suburbia…and were received in a place of domestic consumption. anyway, i dont need apple using, cafe latte sipping, bobo hipsters eating my tarts. i prefer to toil in anonymity for the time being… let these niche tarts go to their niche market and feed a hungry, strange but loving community.


1 quantity short crust pastry – this should be divided into mini tart tins. it will make about 18 pastry cases.

220ml passionfruit juice (10-15 passionfruits) – for the curd. plus 3 or 4 for the tart top.

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

4 egg yolks

180g unsalted butter in cubes

first, de-pulp the passionfruit. this takes a while but is a delicious exercise. i put the passionfruit through a strainer – to extract only the juice…because 15 passionfruit make for a lot of black seeds and i thought it might overwhelm the mix. but as i did so i decided, some seeds couldnt hurt. in fact, they played a vital semiotic role here. and they are an important part of the beauty of the passion fruit – so i put some (not all) back into the mix to achieve a lightly speckled effect and to achieve my intended 220ml of juice.

then to make the passionfruit curd. exactly the same as lemon curd. put all the ingredients, leaving out half the butter in a saucepan.

…looks bad but my god it is good. turn on to medium heat and whisk constantly as you cook out the curd. once it gets to boiling point (large alarming bubbles will form) continue whisking for a minute and remove it from the heat. take it off the heat and put in the remaining butter. whisk until it has all melted and then strain it through a sieve. cover with gladwrap and let it cool down before refrigerating it for 6-8hours. better yet, overnight.

during this overnight period i became concerned. as is my want. and i couldnt sleep for fear that my passionfruit curd (invented by my noggins as a theme and variations on a lemon curd) would not have the intensity of flavour i was searching for. i realised that using the same quantity of passionfruit juice as i had lemon juice was not going to cut it. because the lemon has a much sharper edge to it than the passionfruit. especially when drowned in a quantity of dairy products, the mere sight of which, would probably kill a lactose intolerant. so i bought a couple of extra passion fruits and decided to use them, un-adulterated, unfettered, untouched by dairy like contaminants.

so heres what i did. i took my pre-baked tart case. filled it up about a quarter of the way with the chilled curd.

then i spooned over one or two teaspoons of the passionfruit juice.

and finally filled the rest up with the passion fruit curd. ready to brulee. rock and roll.

so get your blow torch. not the piece of shit from a hardware store at a market. sprinkle the top with sugar and get ready to caramelise minds. when bruleeing it is important to keep adding sugar as you go…it needs to be quite a thick layer for it to work well.

do not do this if you are prone to catching on fire. do not light your blow torch when you are completely covered in gas. do not go up in flames. this things i believe.

lemon meringue tarts

…and then there were more. the life of a bobo, in between academic pursuits, stuck between boredom and fulfillment and forever somewhere in between the gutter and the stars, is no walk in the park. transience and aimlessness can make a girl do strange things. 20 tart tins being the most poignant manifestation of such interminable ennui. it is, happily, also the most practical. and then there are more…including but not exclusive to: mrs peabody, this blog, days of research on the ground, hour upon hour toiling in the field of pastry, pastry sampling, pastry dreams, pastry chilled and pastry blind baked, questions such as ‘how can i get passionfruit into a pre-baked tart case?’, and ‘is it day four or five of my starter’s feeding schedule?’, ‘is currency an acceptable substitute for baking beans?’ and ultimately ‘is this my life?’. apparently it is. and as a tough canadian cookie once said to me “suck it up princess.” so not only do i suck it up, i embrace it. all of it. wholeheartedly. if it takes a fragmented subjectivity to create a lemon meringue tart as exquisite as this…then bring on the alienation. these tarts were quite surprisingly easy…so i suggest you try them. the hardest bit was letting them go, setting them free into the mouths of my sprawling eating community (to whom i am very grateful and without whom i wouldnt be here today) and to say goodbye to the children of a great pastry bonanza. but as they say ‘partir c’est mourir un peu’. so i let them go, and in some way, in fact in so many ways, let some of myself go too.


1 quantity short crust pastry – this should be divided into mini tart tins. it will make about 18 pastry cases.

…for the lemon curd

220ml lemon juice (6 lemons)

zest of 4 lemons

200g caster suar

4 eggs

4 egg yolks

180g unsalted butter in cubes

…for the meringue

120g caster sugar

2 egg whites

first make the lemon curd. put all the ingredients, leaving out half the butter in a saucepan. turn on to medium heat and whisk constantly as you cook out the curd. once it gets to boiling point (large alarming bubbles will form) continue whisking crazily for a minute and remove it from the heat. take it off the heat and put in the remaining butter. whisk until it has all melted and then strain it through a sieve. cover with gladwrap and let it cool down before refrigerating it for 6-8hours. better yet, overnight.

preheat the oven to 200 degrees. spoon the chilled lemon curd into the tart cases – filling them about three quarters of the way up. leave these in the fridge while you make the meringue. with your KITCHEN AID.

first spread the sugar over an oven tray covered in baking paper. put into the oven for 5 minutes (make sure the sugar doesnt dissolve). remove and turn the oven down to 150degrees.

just before you take the sugar out, begin whisking your egg whites until they start to get frothy. then pour the hot sugar onto the whites, whisking all the time. keep whisking for 15 minutes until the meringue is firm and shiny.

remove the tarts with the lemon curd from the fridge and get ready for the whackness

put the meringue into a piping bag and pipe onto the tarts.

then put in the oven for about 2-3 minutes until very lightly brown.

some feedback so far…

“tart but refreshing, im sure” -fran drescher (the nanny)

“im giving it two stars…and did i ever tell you about the time i peed on fellini” – david strattan

“oh david. you can’t. oh really david. well five stars from me. i was deeply moved” – margaret pomeranz

“can we have a lie down now” – friend in need

“do we have to eat them all” – scared onlooker

“what do you know about tarts, you ignorant little pipsqueak” – ms svars (english teacher/life coach)

“seriously conceptually flawed” – academic “superior”

“i like tarts, me” – farkinell

….should you like to comment on anything you have seen here, or should you have any questions, quandries, digestive complaints, suggestions, or just looking for an ear to bend, please drop us a line in your nearest comment box.

raspberry and white chocolate tarts

it sounds sickly sweet. it sounds unsophisticated. its a play on a very prolific muffin. but in terms of my own creative production it represents an apex. an aesthetic apex. and a rather elegant solution to a glut of tart tins. it was a long lazy day when i happened upon 20 tartlet tins. this incident was closely followed by a catering request. i cant help but wonder how intimately the two were linked. i suspect the latter was an attempt by a primary eater to offset the results of the former. in any (pastry) case, suddenly 20 tarts had to be made. this therefore is the first of a number of tarts which will appear in this space. i have given a recipe for shortcrust pastry. instead of using one large tin, roll this chilled pastry out, cut out circles, and put the pastry into 20 mini tart tins. or use a muffin tray. probably two. this recipe for the filling will make about 10 (max.). for the other 10, use your imagination if you have one. if not, do as i did and refer yourself to a reference book like ottolenghi. i would like to add, not because of any coercive influence, that these tarts were made with BBC worldservice on in the background. the soothing british voices, the calm english panic about the rise of indias economy, the human interest story about little madeleine who disappeared in portugal three years ago, and the exquisite interview technique of the bbc journalist who asked the pertinent question of her parents “are you ever able to laugh?”, provided an intellectual and emotional space in which these tarts were so lovingly and tenderly made. i think they speak for themselves. and they are made in memory of little madeleine. as well as for snow and berry who taught me the true meaning of raspberry and white chocolate.


1 quantity short crust pastry – this should be divided into mini tart tins. it will make about 18 pastry cases.

180g white chocolate (very finely chopped)

20g butter – cubed. very little ones obviously.

90ml cream

40g raspberries

6tsp raspberry jam

first mash up the raspberries through a sieve to remove the pips. what this will give you is raspberry coulis. you may have to do this twice if you have a penchant for pureed raspberry and have absolutely no self control so perhaps should amend this to be 80g of raspberries for those restraint-challenged

then chop up the chocolate and butter and put into a heat proof bowl

in a small saucepan heat the cream over medium heat. just as it gets to boiling point remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and butter. stir with a spatula until all the chocolate has melted and you have a very sexy ganache on your hands

quickly spoon in a teaspoon of raspberry jam into the base of each tart case. (quick because the ganache will set and then it will all, very quickly, fall apart).

pour the chocolate in, over the jam. dont lick the spoon too much…remember what you are licking (refer to ingredients.) it will only end in a stomach ache.

fill the tarts to the rim

then put a small teaspoon of coulis into the centre and with a pointy implement (i used a very groovy cocktail umbrella. it was orange and i think came from the seventies) swirl the coulis around and make it look like something you cannot believe you made. put them into the fridge to set and i think, remove them 15 minutes before serving. i cant say for sure because here, there is no chilling and no serving. just eating.

they are very rich. and potentially sickly but the raspberry elevates it all…as only raspberry can. they are beautiful and if you have 20 mini tart tins and 6 hours free i suggest you make them.

chocolate espresso tarts

this post might have been entitled ‘whatever gets you through the day’…but i thought that a bit obfuscated and nothing about this chocolate tart should be unclear. one day, not unrecently, i happened upon a chocolate tart. i am generally of the belief that chocolate is chocolate and therefore not to be used in any way other than consumed in its purest form. but this tart seemed to defy that truth, as well as fly in the face of so many others (ie. dont eat chocolate before noon and dont buy more than one tart from one place more than once of a day). it had a layer of something resembling ground almond on its base. what it was exactly remained unclear to me. it had some kind of chocolate ganache on top. and it was dusted with a cocoa powder which didnt make me sneeze. (is this how we measure pastry? by its affect on the sinuses?) it looked like this:

it became a mission of sorts. i wanted to recreate it. how hard could it be? turns out, that all depends on the level of perfectionism involved and your own competence. for the ground almond – i guessed it be something like sugar, ground almond and butter, equal parts. and the top was a ganache. it took all the powers of my brain and my ever diminishing taste buds to work it out. 6 tarts later i realised i was as close as i was going to get to an understanding of its properties as well as to a serious heart condition.


150g dark chocolate (broken up in bits. obviously the best method is whacking the block against a hard surface. this method gets rid of any unwanted aggression and tension early on which might otherwise spill over into your cooking at a later, more critical stage – ie. when you put them into an oven which has not had its racks organised properly at the outset and you drop your bundle, of which you only ever have a tenuous grasp anyway, as well as the oven tray full of tarts which were made with bile and not love because you didnt take the preemtive step of banging the life out of your chocolate initially)

100g butter diced

1 egg

1 egg yolk

30g caster sugar

2 tsp instant espresso

12 prebaked tart cases

cocoa powder for dusting

…for ground almond filling

100g butter

100g sugar

100g ground alomnds

preheat oven to 170 degrees. break up your chocolate and put into a heat proof bowl with the butter and set aside for a moment. in a separate bowl combine butter, sugar and ground almonds and blend to combine. then set this aside. if you are lacking in common sense, an understanding of your own digestive capacity, and ultimately self-restraint, i suggest you try this before setting it aside. its really something.

melt butter and chocolate over a pot of boiling water. some say you can melt butter and chocolate in a microwave as long as its on defrost and you stop it every couple of minutes to stir gently. rose gray said that you must never touch chocolate as it melts because it goes grainy. nigella endorses the microwave but then shes lost the plot. if you asked tamsin day lewis she’d probably be horrified by the thought…but shes another nutjob who’s always been a little off her tree. i guess the best answer is, if you believe in the sacralisation of chocolate, do it over a pot of water, never stirring, remaining very still, in silent prayer. if you have a tendency toward the profane then put it in the microwave…ive never had any problems (specifically relating to chocolate and a microwave). once melted stir in the espresso until its dissolved.

whisk your egg and sugar until pale and fluffy and doubled in volume. at this point id put in a few drops of vanilla – extract or paste.

pour melted chocolate into the egg and sugar mixture to make a pollock-esque canvas for your photographer.

to assemble…first spread layer of the ground almond mixture into the base of prebaked tart cases. then pour over chocolate mixture. fill them to the top.

put them into the oven for 5 minutes.

let them cool completely and then dust with cocoa powder. (i would suggest that cadbury bournville cocoa powder is entirely unacceptable. it tastes like shit. and so going to find good dutch cocoa is not a task reserved strictly for crazed food fetishists. its for people who eat food. because all of them will know, if they dont already, that to dust cadbury’s cocoa onto an exquisite creation such as this would be a travesty. my irreverence and the my proximity to an under-stocked urban supermarket meant i learnt this hard way.)

plum and almond tart

i was struck by a thought recently, as i reached for yet another almond, is there an excess of nut-related, specifically almond-related, material on this site? i was worried that perhaps the repetition, other than getting boring, might indicate a lack of imagination. but according to nietzsches aphorism, ‘if one has character one also has ones typical experience which recurs again and again’; mine therefore, is the almond. and this tart has nothing to do with the mundane. this tart, in all its simplicity is truly world shattering. and i know because everyone who laid teeth to it has said as much. its the tart that makes love and makes friends. its the best advice you can get, in any situation. it will truly blow your hair back.


500g plums (preferably dark skinned but whatever you can get in your ill-seasoned hemisphere)

300g butter

300g sugar

300g ground almonds

3 large organic eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 quantity shortcrust pastry

preheat the oven to 150 degrees. then prepare your plums. cut in half and remove the stones…(they dont go down well…especially if you intend on offloading this tart to an old dithering man – it will cause all kinds of unnecessary hassles)

then in a bowl beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

then add the ground almonds and mix to combine. and finally add the eggs one at a time and beat.

pour the almond filling into the pre-baked tart shell and smooth over. (the mixture this recipe makes is too much for the tart. i realise i should have adjusted the quantities accordingly but a low self estimation makes me wary about doing such things and makes me think the excess was the fault of some mistake i made…but i can tell you with absolute confidence that if it seems like you have too much, dont try fit it all on. you will only end up with an buttery-sugary explosion inside your oven. or, if you are, like myself, wracked with self-doubt and persist in using it all because, after all, “why would the recipe lie”, then at least put a tray at the bottom of the oven onto which mess can safely fall.)

finally, arrange your plums, cut-side up however you wish.

put this into an oven for 45 minutes. (or up to two hours if it all goes plum shaped). remove and cool on a wire rack. there arent many guarantees here. you have to hope and pray it all goes according to the river cafe’s divine plan. but when it does there will be euphoria on the palate, people will flip their beaks…there may even be a few tears of elation. so try it…i urge you.

short crust pastry

not a fun task per se. and consequently, a very boring post. best done in a food processor – should you have one. if not you can use your hands. and by hands i mean fingertips because pastry needs to be kept cold AT ALL TIMES*. i found this shortcrust recipe in the river cafe cookbook and it has never ever failed. the grating of the pastry is, i think, a stroke of technical genius and it makes an otherwise laborious task lighter. it has a similar effect on the pastry.


350g plain flour

pinch of salt

125g cold unsalted butter in cubes

100g icing sugar

3 large egg yolks (4 if 3 just doesnt cut it…usually it doesnt)

first pulse the flour and butter until it resembles coarse bread crumbs

then add the icing sugar and the eggs, one at a time and pulse again. the dough should immediately leave the sides of the bowl. put this into a ball, wrap in glad wrap and put in the fridge for an hour.

remove from the fridge and with the largest-hole bit of a cheese grater, grate the pastry into a 28cm loose bottomed (think we’re all heading that way) tart tin.

press with fingertips into the sides and base until even all over. then prick the base with a fork and put back in the fridge to set for another half an hour. then pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

remove the tart from the fridge and line with baking paper. pour on some weights – whatever you have. ive been known to use monies..fifty cent pieces work a treat. rice works just as well. and put into the oven for 10 minutes.

remove from the oven and remove the weights. return to the oven and bake for another ten minutes until golden. set aside to cool completely until ready to fill it with whatever takes your fancy.

* i apologise for that danny katz-esque twitch. i have for a long time now, had a deep seated aversion to the use of capital letters to convey emphasis. if your vocabulary is not strong enough to make a point emphatically then i have always been of the belief that you shouldnt write and to use capital letters in such a way only draws attention to the fact. that rant though probably reveals a moralism and an intellectual snobbery unwelcome on this blog so i will refrain from going on and yet, perversely, make my point all at once

nb. this blog is about to get very pastry heavy. not unlike its author. so this is not filler – this is the calm before the epic tart storm. so stay with me.