Orange Blossom Tart

Orange Blossom Tart


Here’s a wonderfully aromatic and delicious dessert that I have adapted from a recipe that appears in Hannah Glasse’s “The art of cookery, made plain and easy”. It must have been popular, because Hannah gives no fewer than four recipes for Orange Pudding, each slightly different. Copyright infringement back then being rife, it is highly likely that Hannah is not the original author of this recipe, but I have yet to find an older version with these particular ingredients.

Hannah calls this a pudding – and indeed it is certainly something that you might eat after lunch or dinner, but it is in fact what we would term a tart, and I can honestly say it is unlike any tart I’ve ever tasted before, for the very best of reasons.

The most striking aspect is the flavour – a mixture of Seville orange, orange flower water, rosewater and white wine. Rather surprisingly, the word that popped into my head when breathing in its aroma was ice-cream – and that was before it was cooked! Once cooked and chilled, the flavours mingle together and taste extraordinary – the only way I can think to describe it is like plunging your face into a bunch of fresh flowers – but in a good way! This isn’t soapy/perfumed – it’s light and fresh and rounded. None of the flavours overpower, it’s just fantastically floral.

One of the challenges when adapting old recipes, is that specific quantities are sometimes a bit of a challenge. This recipe is a good example, because amongst other things it calls for “the crumb of a halfpenny loaf”. Although food prices were relatively stable before the industrial revolution, wheat, and by extension bread, was especially subject to price fluctuations due to harvest yield. So much so, specific laws were created concerning the manufacture and sale of the various types of bread (The Assize of Bread) and books of tables drawn up specifying the size of loaves depending on the cost of wheat.

Even with the Assize of Bread tables to hand, it’s still not clear which loaf the crumb should come from: white, wheaten or household. Household bread was the coarsest, and therefore unlikely, I reasoned, to have been used for such a delicate dessert. That left either white or wheaten and at just over 6oz and 9oz for a penny loaf, the difference in the quantity of crumb was going to be significant. The only solution was to make two tarts, and try each to see if one quantity was more suited than the other.

The photograph at the top shows the result. The slice on the left was cut from a tart made with 150g fresh white breadcrumbs. The slice on the right from a tart made with just 100g. Personally, I prefer the one on the left – the texture is like baked cheesecake, but not heavy and cloying. The slice on the right has a much softer consistency – if you’re a fan of baked custards, then this is the one for you. For an even more delicate texture, you could even try with just 50g of breadcrumbs – do let me know if you try this!

This is a wonderful springtime tart and I really hope you’ll give it a try.

Orange Blossom Tart

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
225g plain flour
140g butter
60g cornflour
85g caster sugar
1 large egg
grated zest of 1 lemon
ice cold water
egg-white for glazing

  • Put all the ingredients except the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add some ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the pastry forms a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Grease a 22cm fluted, deep, loose-bottom tart tin – a lemon meringue tin if you have one, is ideal.
  • Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and place on a floured surface.
  • Roll out thinly (7-8mm) and line the prepared tin, gently easing the pastry into the sides.
  • Let the excess pastry hang over the sides of the tin for now.
  • Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork and put the lined tin back into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the tart from the fridge and trim the excess pastry. Don’t remove too much – allow 3-4cm to overhand the side of the tin – this keeps the pastry from shrinking back into the tin and can be trimmed after cooking.
  • Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beads/beans/rice.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, then remove the parchment and beads and bake for another 5-6 minutes until the pastry is cooked through.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with lightly beaten egg-white and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This seems like a faff, but it will ensure you pastry is both cooked AND resistant to the wetness of the filling until it is cooked. *lying* I deliberately undercooked the pastry on the left in the photo to demonstrate.

150g fresh white breadcrumbs
250ml double cream
75g caster sugar
5 large egg yolks
60ml white wine [1]
1 tablespoon orange flower water [2]
1 teaspoon rose water [2]
zest and juice of a Seville orange [3]
70g clarified butter – melted

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside to let the flavours mingle. It will have the consistency of porridge.
  • When the pastry base is finally cooked, turn the oven down to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Cover the top edges of the pastry with tin foil, to prevent them from burning.
  • Pour the filling into the cooked pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. There should be a slight joggle to the middle of the tart, but nothing too fluid.
  • Set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
  • When cold, trim off the excess pastry, remove from the tin and place on a serving plate.
  • Eat slightly warm or at room temperature. Alternatively (and my own personal preference) chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

[1] The original recipe called for sack, a fortified wine similar to sweet sherry. You could use sherry, madeira even marsala if you like. Whilst I love the flavours of all three, I thought them a little rich for this recipe, so I chose a regular white wine. A sweet and aromatic dessert wine would also be delightful.

[2]Both of these fragrances are available in the baking aisle at the supermarket. They also tend to vary greatly in strength and aroma according to which brand you use. The original recipe called for equal quantities of both, but the rosewater I use is rather strong. In contrast, the orange flower water that I use is rather lightly perfumed, so I used slightly more. if you use different brands, my advice is to use just 1 teaspoon at a time and taste as you go until you’re happy with the flavourings.

[3] If, like me, you made Seville orange ice cubes with the zest and juice back in January, then all you need is one cube. If not, then use the zest only of a sweet orange, together with the zest of either a lemon or lime for added sharpness.

17 Comments on “Orange Blossom Tart”

  1. I bet the Brown Brothers orange muscat & flora would be cracking with this!

  2. Urvashi says:

    Funny. I experimented with these for pastry week!

  3. mswalsh says:

    It sounds absolutely delicious – the other time I’ve heard of orange blossom water being used was by the Hairy Bikers – bubbly water, lime & elderflower cordial, Orange blossom water – now it seems I’ve something lovely to have on a summer picnic – Yum!

    Thank You!

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers mswalsh! I’ve had apple juice and elderflower – that’s really delicate – and gooseberries with elderflower are amazing! M-A 😀

  4. Janey says:

    That sounds lovely and the filling so, ‘one bowl’ simple! I have made an orange tart beofre and added a little orange zest to the pastry too!

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Janey! I thought about using orange zest, but didn’t want it to overpower the other flavours. Orange pastry is fab with mince pies! 😀 M-A

  5. indexellis says:

    I’ll definitely be trying this one out. The problem is that I love both a baked cheesecake and a baked custard, so might just have to try both versions!

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers indexellis! Sounds like a capital idea! Both tarts keep well in the fridge for several days – so don’t feel obliged to share 😉 M-A

  6. Morkandmindy says:

    MA, what a intriguing tart. The flavours remind me of fiora di Sicilia.

    I wonder what flower waters you use? The English Provender rosewater is rather weak to my taste, it just about has the potency cosmetic rosewater tonic. Not great. Any tips? I’m trying to find a Turkish one.

    I’ve yet to find orange blossom water in my area save the ethnic grocers, and there, I’m not sure which to buy. I’ve been informed anything Lebanese is worth investigating. I’d rather not return to Provender brand for this. Which do you use?

    The tart itself looks overly rich and dense to my taste. I wonder if the cream and butter could be cut for some buttermilk or yoghurt, and to lighten, a whipped egg white could be folded in… Does it have the density of your average treacle tart?

    Also, to approximate Seville orange, an everyday fragrant orange cut with the juice of lemon or lime is far closer in my opinion.

    I’ll have to update once I’ve found a source of OB water. This tart is speakings an early summer lingo and al fresco dining. 😉

    Oh, on another note, I’ve been meaning to ask a bona fide Dutch person where in this wonderful world can I find a recipe for those delightfully good (but naturally processed) ‘Dutch’ Almond Fingers one finds in the supermarkets. Not sure you will know which I mean, but they’re a slim pastry looking slice that’s more a come crumbly cake with the texture of lebkuchen, finished with a half almond on top. The ingredients list soya bean and apricot kernels among many. Now, I’m wildly guessing this is the factory equivalent for ground almonds. Now I do make something approximating this Almond Slice, made with semolina but that’s more a butter almond semolina cake that dries out quicker than paint. It must be a dutch secret.

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers morkandmindy! Thank you for your detailed comment.

      The tart may appear dense, but looks are deceiving. Do try it before deciding it needs tweaking. Even the version made with 150g of breadcrumbs is much lighter than a treacle tart.

      In response to your queries, if you scroll down to the bottom of the instructions, you will see three footnotes – I have included links to the flavourings that I use. Orange Flower Water is available in Sainsbury’s – although my local one seems to no longer stock the English Provender brand.

      From the pictures of the biscuit you mentioned, the authentic Dutch version seems to be Gevulde Spekulaas – which is usually baked as a tray bake. I’ve found an online recipe for you HERE – scroll down to ‘stuffed biscuit’. The spices mentioned will be the spekulaas mix which you can find on my blog HERE.
      Have fun! M-A 😀

  7. Morkandmindy says:


    I feel silly, and must look like some net virgin, because I missed the underlined links, doh! Must be the Bank Holiday effect!

    I see you do rate the English Provender brand of OFW, I will have to give it a go. The tart reads unique enough to try. I never make subs the first time (for authenticity’s sake) so I will be sure to taste what you intend. It’s amazing that after all these years of baking, I’ve opened myself up to tarts and pastry (I’m a certified bread nut, every other baked item usually just fills a sweet hole) and I simply cannot get enough of pies. Especially these unusual, or recherche ones closed to the West simply due to its initial novelty factor. There’s not enough recipes out there for all the little pastries of the world in print. Such a shame, so I’m glad you offer something unique, anything but another frangipane/custard with fruit.

    As for link to those almond delicacies, all my gratitude for your efforts. I will give it a go out of sheer interest despite the fact it doesn’t truly resemble the ones I buy, like those found here: Truly, I hate falling in the deep depths of love with a supermarket product full of factory substitutions and finding myself addicted. Now one is set on the long path of discovering its recipe. Fine if one comes close to approximating it, not so fine should it remain ever elusive…! I cannot believe you do not know these little almond slices, they’re slightly a bit divine. Not quite as divine as the stroopwafel (sorry if these are indeed Belgian and not Dutch.) but, all the same, little stars in their own right.

    I look forward to you next tart/pie/pastry offering. Your blog always offers something unique. 🙂

  8. Seonaid says:

    Sounds tasty! I wish you could taste things over the internet!

  9. Bridget says:

    MAB you are genius! Wish the current crop of GBBO were as historically passionate and knowledgeable as you.

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