Category Archives: Pudding

Summertime tart

I do pastry. I do bread, too. But I can’t do cakes – or rather there are a limited number of cakes which I can do, and which work well. But something like a Victoria sponge? Touch and go. However, pastry – no problems. So when I know people are coming round I don’t make a cake, I make a tart. Or perhaps I’d better call them flans, to avoid any sniggering at the back. Nope – tarts they are, and tarts they will remain. Or tartes, since the origin of mine is indisputably French.

tarte aux brugnonsThere is something about a slice of fruit tart served on bone china, with a healthy dollop of cream or Greek yoghurt. It somehow feels special, more special than a slice of Victoria sponge – given the nature of my sponge, this is not surprising, mind. So when I knew I had people coming round and spotted that the Co-op had suddenly received a consignment of white-fleshed nectarines and were selling them off cheaply for some reason (I’m not complaining), I felt the call.

So what about pastry? Is it phenomenally difficult? I don’t think so, but then there are people out there who wouldn’t believe that a grown woman could mess up a Victoria sponge. There are all sorts of stories about chilling your hands in cold water or – I kid you not – wiping ice cubes over the surface, and lots of people have unorthodox methods that work for them. You do need to keep pastry cool, of course, but my hands aren’t particularly chilly, my worktop is unbrushed by ice cubes and my pastry still works. Just chill it (man). As long as the pastry is a fine crispy shortcrust, it doesn’t really matter how it’s made.

Anyway, here goes, my fruit tart made with pâte brisée, a version of the classic French shortcrust which I have found works really well. In the UK, it’s usual to rub the fat into the flour first; in France you don’t. I go for the British way because I just hate breaking up raw egg with my fingers (eeeeuuh).

Nectarine tart with almonds
for a 23cm loose-bottomed tin

For the pastry:
50g butter, at room temperature
125g plain flour
I small egg

Make the pastry first, because it needs to chill for 30 minutes and will be baked blind, anyway. Put the butter into a large bowl and cut it into small pieces with a knife. Sieve the flour into the bowl and then rub the two together with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs – this always takes longer than you think. Then add the egg, break it up with a fork and mix it in well. The pastry will come together gradually into a soft dough but don’t knead it like bread, just press it together gently and add a little very cold water if necessary – but it probably won’t be. Form it into a ball, put it into a clean bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, 180 fan, gas 6 and grease a loose-bottomed quiche tin. Lightly flour the worktop and take the pastry out of the fridge. Warm it up in your hands a little to soften it, then carefully roll it out into a circle, changing direction and turning it over; keep the worktop floured while doing so. Lift the pastry up, over the rolling pin, and carefully drape it over the tin. Then gently manipulate it into the corners and folds of the tin (patch any gaps; dip a pastry brush in milk and stick a new piece of pastry on top). Trim off the excess, ready for baking the case blind. Prick the bottom of the pastry and line it with a generous circle of greaseproof paper, tip a load of dried pulses or baking beans on top of the paper and bake for 15 minutes. Set it aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper and let the case cool completely.

tarte 2For the filling:
80g butter
80g vanilla sugar
1 large egg, beaten
2 tsp Amaretto (optional)
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp flour
5 small nectarines

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, 180 fan, gas 6.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg, adding a little of the flour as you do so. Then stir in the Amaretto, ground almonds and the rest of the flour; mix everything together well. Put this mixture into the tart case and level it down. Cut the nectarines into slices and put them on top of the filling in a circular pattern, saving the smaller slices for the inner circles. Then sprinkle a little more sugar on top and bake the tart in the oven for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180/160/gas 4 and cook for another 20 minutes or so – check towards the end to make sure the fruit isn’t catching (a little caramelising is fine; burning is not, ho ho, don’t ask me how I know).

Serve warm (rather than hot) or cold. Cream or good Greek yoghurt served on the side is wonderful. Sigh.

Crumble time!

Almost everyone loves a pudding and now that the nights are getting cooler and mist is accumulating in the dune slacks overnight, it’s time for apple crumble.

Oh, enough with the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ stuff. It’s time for apple crumble because my three ancient apple trees have gone into massive overproduction this year. People I know will soon be running away from me – if they stand still for five seconds I’ll be forcing them to take plastic bags filled with fruit, and they remember previous years. (Some have actually requested apples. They know not what they do. But they are about to find out.)

BlackberryAnd then there are the blackberries. The earliest are ready, fat and full of juice. I’ve some in my garden – they got missed in the Great Weeding – and only have to walk five minutes round the corner to get more. Blackberry and apple crumble is a traditional favourite, but I do get bored picking the seeds out of my teeth (ever the lady). I also think apple crumble can be a bit, er, basic – that’s fine, but I decided to come up with a more alcoholic adult version nonetheless.

I love playing with the concept of the crumble. I’ve done savoury ones; I’ve made the crumble from almonds and walnuts and oats and all sorts of other things; out of season I’ve crumbled whatever fruit is on special offer in Aldi; I’ve added interesting spices. But this one worked best when the topping was simple and traditional. Of course it’s good with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt or double cream or ice cream or custard, but that’s not much help if you fall into the category – as I do – of the lactose intolerant. Hence the coulis. That and avoiding the whole seed/teeth/public embarrassment problem.

Apple crumble with blackberry coulis
(Serves 4, using a 20cm baking dish at least 5cm deep; a soufflé dish is ideal – but see below re servings…)

50g wholemeal flour
50g porridge oats
3 tbsp unrefined sugar
50g butter, chopped
half a tsp cinnamon
800g – 1kg cooking apples
2 tbsp Calvados or brandy
1 tbsp sugar

For the coulis
300g blackberries
a little water
2 heaped tsp vanilla sugar (according to taste – plain caster sugar can be used instead)

Make the coulis first. Rinse the blackberries to dislodge any wildlife and put them in a pan. Add a very little water – not even enough to cover them – and a teaspoon of the vanilla sugar. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring. Once the blackberries are soft and beginning to disintegrate, remove from the heat and mash them slightly. Then pass them through a sieve, preferably a nylon one, into a bowl – push as much pulp through as possible and discard what remains in the sieve. Pour the contents of the bowl into a non-stick pan – there will probably be about 300-400ml, depending on the juiciness of the blackberries. Taste the liquid and add another teaspoon of vanilla sugar if necessary. Bring the juice to the boil, stirring constantly, and reduce the liquid by half (don’t be tempted to walk away because it will boil over, quite suddenly, if you do). When it’s reduced, pour it into a jug and put it to one side to cool.

Then it’s time to make the crumble itself. There are two ways – by hand or in a food processor (I’m a recent convert to the latter). By hand, the butter should be warm; otherwise, cold from the fridge. Put the flour, oats, sugar, butter and cinnamon (if using) into a bowl or the food processor. If processing, pulse until all the ingredients are well mixed. If purist, gradually work the butter into the other ingredients with your hands until you have a fine crumb and all the butter is incorporated. Set the crumble to one side while you prepare the apples.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / 160 degrees fan / gas 4. Peel the apples, halve them and remove the cores, then chop them up and put them in the bottom of the baking dish, packing them down; they should come to within about 1.5cm of the top. Pour the Calvados over them, then scatter the sugar over the surface. Finally top with the crumble mixture, spreading it evenly over the surface and pressing it down with the back of the spoon. Bake the crumble in the oven for 45 minutes.

Serve – hot, warm or cold – with the gorgeous purple coulis poured over it. The coulis can be warmed up, but in practice it takes on a lot of warmth from a hot helping of crumble…

Sigh. OK, now I’m hungry.

Ah, yes, one final note – as I’ve discovered, this may well be enough to serve four – but if men are involved you may find it serves two, possibly three if you run, get there first and beat the competition off with a ladle. Hmm.