Cost: £3-4, serves 8
We had a lovely dinner at our vicar’s house last night, and brought dessert, tied precariously with parachute cords to the back of my bike. We’ve had some success with this in the past – a traybake seems to rattle along quite comfortably, but the other day the pavlova we set out with had turned into Eton Mess when we arrived at our host’s house. Luckily, despite my terrible cycling, the dessert arrived in one piece.
Anyway, one of my favourite desserts is a fruit tart – a thin shell of pastry, ideally with no soggy bottom, filled generously with squidgy pastry cream and topped with whatever fruit is in season. Which in February requires a bit of imagination, but luckily the bowl shops along Seven Sisters Road (where a large bowl of fruit or veg costs a pound, but the selection depends on their supply that day) had blood oranges and some forced rhubarb that glowed pink like sticks of rock.
Recipe: Winter Fruit Tart
Serves 8 in a 25cm diameter tin
The ginger pastry is based on the Key Lime Pie made by Ryan Chong on the Great British Bake Off, with the quantities and methods adjusted, and the pastry cream is a fairly standard recipe which I’ve used before on this blog. The whole thing takes a couple of hours to make, but only because of the time it takes things to chill and cool – active cooking time is less than an hour, so it suits if you have a free morning/afternoon and people to chat to or other tasks to move between at the same time.
200g plain flour
40g icing sugar
120g salted butter (or unsalted and a pinch of salt)
2 egg yolks
about 3-4 Tbsp ice water
1. Cube the butter and add it with the flour, ginger and salt if using into bowl of a food processor with the blade fitted. Leave the bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes whilst you prepare the next step.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks (save the whites in a clean sandwich bag, tied and left in a cup in the fridge. Two whites could be used to make meringue or a small batch of macarons) and the icy water and leave in the fridge.
3. Whilst everything is chilling, butter the sides and base of your tart tin. I think the easiest way is to wrap some cling film around your fingers and smear some spreadable butter/margarine as required.
4. Retrieve the chilled ingredients and pulse the butter and flour briefly until the texture is similar to porridge oats, with the butter reduced to small pieces. Add the egg yolks and pulse some more – the mixture should look like sand.
5. Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing well in between. When the texture turns from sand to gravel, stop adding water and pulse a bit more – the mixture should coalesce quite rapidly and form a ball. Remove from the processor and wrap in cling film. Press the pastry into a rough disc about an inch thick and leave at the back of the fridge to chill whilst you make the pastry cream (see below).
6. After about half an hour (although you can leave it longer, up to overnight), roll the pastry out to fit the tin (there should be a fair amount of overhang) between two layers of cling film to prevent sticking. The cling film also makes it easier to lift it into the tin. Sometimes if the pastry is rolled out very thinly and there is a large overhang, I double the crust back over the sides to make a thicker edge, but with these quantities it shouldn’t be necessary – quickly running the rolling pin over the top slices off the excess. Return to the fridge whilst you preheat the oven to 200C (fan) with a baking sheet inside to heat up (baking the tart on a hot sheet slightly improves the crispness of the base).
7. When the oven is ready, prick the base all over with a fork and line the base and sides of the tin with foil and fill with dry rice or beans (kept specifically for this purpose) to bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and if the pastry has puffed, press it down with a fork. Turn the heat down to 180C and return the pastry to the oven for another 8 minutes, checking every minute after that until the pastry is light gold. Cool on a rack.
250ml milk (ideally whole – if you have any cream that needs using up, this can be substituted for some of the milk)
3 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
15g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla
1. Measure/weigh 250ml of the milk into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula
2. Meanwhile, in the measuring jug used for the egg yolks in the pastry, sift the flour and add the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks. Whisk on a high speed until pale and mousse-like in texture.
3. When the milk is forming small bubbles at the edges and steaming gently (do not let it fully boil), add a tiny bit of the milk to the egg yolks and whisk in well – go slowly here to ensure emulsifies smoothly rather than curdling. Carry on whisking the milk into the eggs on a slow speed until fully combined, then return all of the custard to the pan, scraping out the jug with the spatula.
4. On a low heat, stir with the spatula, keeping the mixture moving. The custard at the edges of the saucepan will start to become more solid; keep scraping these so that the custard cooks evenly. The mixture will thicken considerably – don’t be too worried about it boiling, as the starch will keep it stable. It it gets a bit lumpy, use a hand whisk to beat out the lumps. If it begins to look very lumpy, pour it back into the jug and whizz the lumps out with your hand whisk before returning to the pan. When the mixture is very thick, keeping its shape from the whisking, pour the pastry cream back into the jug and add the vanilla. Give it a final blast with the hand whisk to zap any remaining lumps and lay some cling film over the surface as you leave the pastry cream to cool.
As the pastry cream cools, prepare your fruit. I trimmed the rhubarb and poached it in a frying pan (in a single layer – to control the cooking more easily and avoid them turning into mush) with a few tablespoons of water and a few of sugar. The oranges were peeled with a very sharp knife, taking out the pith as well, and sliced thinly, seeds removed, and each tie-dyed disc quartered.
When the pastry and pastry cream and both cooled, the former is filled with the latter and the fruit arranged on top. To further enhance the wintry flavours, a globe of preserved ginger in syrup was chopped finely and scattered over the fruit. The tart could be finished with a glaze – maybe mixing the rosy juice from the oranges and slick of poaching liquid with some syrup from the ginger jar, and heating it with some arrowroot – maybe next time!