Oyster Tarts

Oyster Tarts
Wotchers!

A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro.

Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal.

After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in business was prohibited, so Thomas shortened each word to just two letters, and the Be-Ro brand was born.

To encourage the use of self-raising flour, the company staged exhibitions where visitors could taste freshly-baked scones, pastries and cakes. This proved so popular, and requests for the recipes so numerous, the Be-Ro Home Recipes book was created. Now in it’s 40th edition, the company claims that, at over 38 million copies, its recipe booklet “is arguably one of the best-selling cookery books ever.”

I’m not sure which edition my Be-Ro booklet is, as it’s undated, but from the appearance of the smiling lady on the front it definitely has a 1930s feeling; it’s pictured on the Be-Ro website, with a deep red cover.

These little tarts are a beautiful example of how the simplest ingredients can be given a subtle twist and appeal by both their appearance and the ease with which they are whipped up. In essence, these are a Bakewell Tart with cream, but a little tweak turns them into sweet ‘oysters’.

I’m not a fan of almond flavouring, so I’ve used lemon zest to brighten the almond sponge and used a seedless blackcurrant jam inside. Adding the jam after baking (unlike the method for Bakewell Tarts) circumvents cooking the jam for a second time, and so it retains its brightness of flavour as well as colour. The pastry is crisp and dry and a perfect contrast against the moist filling. I’ve opted for an unsweetened pastry, but feel free to use a sweetened one if you prefer.

You could customise these tarts by swapping the ground almonds for almost any other nut, and matching the jam accordingly. Here are a few that occurred to me.

  • Almond with orange zest, and orange curd as the filling.
  • Coconut and lime curd, with a little lime zest in the filling.
  • Hazelnuts or pecans, with a praline paste or Nutella in the filling.
  • Walnut and a little coffee icing

Have fun with them!

Oyster Tarts

Pastry
60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
ice-cold water

Filling
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 small lemon
85g ground almonds

To serve
200g cream cheese
200ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1-2tbs icing sugar, plus more to sprinkle
120g sharp jam

  • Put all the pastry ingredients except for the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out thinly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge to relax.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for the filling until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes to get as much air into the mix as possible.
  • Add the egg and whisk in thoroughly.
  • Fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
  • Grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut out 12 circles. Line the prepared tin with the pastry.Add about a tablespoon of filling to each tart. I use a small ice-cream scoop but 2 spoons will also work.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • Transfer the cooked tarts onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
  • Whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and cream together until firm. Gently stir through a little icing sugar to slightly sweeten.
  • When the tarts have cooled, slice off the top of the filling with a sharp knife and set aside.
  • Add a teaspoon of jam and either spoon or pipe a little of the cream mixture into each tart.
  • Set the ‘lids’ back on the tarts at a jaunty angle, so as to appear like a half-opened oyster.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Egg and Bacon Pies

bacon egg pie

Wotchers!

Sometimes the best-tasting food is also the simplest. This recipe was yet another from one of my many dusty W.I.pamphlets from the mid 20th century. It was so brief it barely qualified as a paragraph, let alone a recipe, so I’ve added some detail below to help things along. In essence, you can count the number of ingredients in this pie on one hand: pastry, egg, bacon, seasoning. The pie in the picture above also contains diced tomato, which I thought would add freshness; it did to a certain extent, but not to the degree I was hoping, and in fact, the ‘plain’ bacon and egg pie was tastier. Alas, my cross-section photo for this pie (see below) wasn’t as visually arresting as the one above, so I decided to lure you with the picture above, then set the record straight. You can choose whichever version appeals most.

Bacon & Egg Pie

Also, I’ve mentioned them before, but I just LOVE my small cake/tart tins I found at my local The Range (4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50). They have a small lip on the side, which makes them great for tarts or, in this case, for firmly attaching the pastry lids of pies. This is not a paid endorsement – I just think they are a bargain and am sharing.

You can be as pro-active or as lazy as you like with these pies – make everything from scratch or buy it in if you’re pressed for time. Personally, I like to hover, metaphorically, between the two: make the pastry for the base, but buy a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry for the top, onna count of life too short etc, etc. The cornflour shortcrust is dry and crisp, and the buttery, flaky, puff pastry is both delicious and a fantastic contrast. Once the pans are lined, sprinkle over a little cooked bacon, crack in a whole egg and add the lid and you’re done!

OK, yes, you should add a sprinkling of fresh parsley too.

And pepper. Of course pepper.

Well OBVIOUSLY crimping the edges is a good idea.

And yes, egg-yolk wash will give both colour and shine.

I’ll come in again.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as….

Oops! Wrong sketch.[1]

Once the pans are lined, sprinkle over a little cooked bacon and some fresh parsley, season with black pepper, crack in a whole egg, a little more parsley and pepper, add the lid, crimp the pastry edges, wash over with beaten egg and you’re DONE!

The quantities are up to you and however many you’re catering for. The suggestions below are for 4 individual pies. Any excess pastry, of either sort, can be frozen for later, as can the cooked pies, for up to a month.

Bacon and Egg Pies

1 batch cornflour shortcrust – scroll down on this page
1 roll puff pastry
100g lean bacon
4 large eggs
4-6 tablespoons of chopped, fresh parsley
coarse-ground black pepper
4 tomatoes – skinned, de-seeded and diced finely – optional

1 large yolk – for glazing

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the shortcrust pastry to a thickness of 5mm.
  • Grease and line your tart tins with the shortcrust pastry, making sure to ease the pastry into the bottom edge of the pan, not stretch it. Leave excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin and chill in the fridge until required.
  • Chop the bacon into small dice and cook until just done. No browning. Drain on kitchen roll.
  • Remove pies from fridge.
  • Scatter the bacon in the bottom of the pies.
  • Add a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a little back pepper. No need for salt, as the bacon is salty enough. Add the tomatoes if using.
  • Crack an egg into each pie. If you want the yolk to be dead centre, you could clear a space amongst the bacon, but it’s not really necessary.
  • Add more parsley and black pepper.
  • Cut four squares of puff pastry, large enough to cover the pies.
  • Brush the rims of the pies with water then lay over the puff pastry squares.
  • Press firmly around the edges, then trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife.
  • Crimp the edges of the pies for a decorative effect.
  • Whisk the yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush the pie tops liberally.
  • Cut three or four small vent holes, NOT in the middle – you don’t want to break the yolk inside.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is puffed and golden and the underside crisp.
  • Enjoy warm.

[1] NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Least of all my husband who read all of the above with a blank expression then said “I don’t get it.” *sigh*


Origami Pies

Filo Mince Pies

Wotchers!

The Festive Food recipe this week isn’t really a recipe, (What? No! Boo! Wot a swizz! We wuz robbed! etc.etc) it’s more of a ‘how to give a new twist to an old favourite’. After all, the Festive Season can be stressful enough without having to learn entirely new culinary creations. Its much easier on the cook to jazz up a firm family favourite with a little nifty pastry work and then be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the day itself. It’s an idea that everyone can adapt to their own festive requirements – pastry origami!

Behind the glamorous exterior, it’s basically a pie, or a tart, but a little pastry magic turns it into a thing of beauty. You can use any pastry you wish – the pictures here show the effects created by three different kinds of pastry. The top photograph shows mince pies made from filo pastry, the photograph below shows beetroot, walnut and goats cheese pies made with puff pastry, and most strikingly, the picture at the bottom shows the showstopping effects of combining shortcrust pastry coloured with freeze-dried beetroot and spinach powders (add 10-15g of powder to the flour in your favourite pastry recipe).

BeetrootPies

All three have been created using the same, simple method to wrap the pastry around the filling, with the photograph below perhaps showing most clearly the shaping of the pastries.

ColouredPastries

Nevertheless, I shall be breaking out my trademark diagrams to reveal the simple method behind this eye-catching design.

But before I do, here are some suggestions for each pastry type

  • Filo Pastry – the finished pastries stay compact during cooking and neither shrink nor swell up as the other pastries do. The fact that it comes in ready-prepared sheets is an added stress reliever. Can be used for sweet or savoury recipes. For sweet recipes, add a sprinkle of sugar over the butter when laminating the sheets together. If you want to have one, decadent, luxurious mince pie, then this would be ideal. For savoury recipes, such as the beetroot and goats cheese pies above, make sure the filling is on the firm side, ideally one that can be shaped into a ball, that will just sit there quietly while you wrap the pastry around it. Ideal for a vegetarian starter or, if made larger, a main course – make the vegetarian in your life feel a bit special for their Christmas meal. You could even make the filling sausage meat for a new take on a sausage roll.
  • Puff Pastry – also comes in ready-made sheets, which is a big bonus. You can make 4 pastries from just a single sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, by gently rolling it a little thinner (3-4mm) and thus making it go a little further. Since this pastry does puff up quite a bit during cooking, it is more suited to make pies of main-course size.
  • Shortcrust pastry – can also be bought ready made, but when it’s so easy to make yourself, why would you? You don’t HAVE to colour it with vegetable powders – the design will make it special enough, and the design is much clearer and crisper with this type of pastry. In many ways, the easiest pastry to work with, so if you’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to Faff About™ with the other two types, then go with this. Great for both sweet and savoury, starter and main dishes.

Method

  1. Prepare your pastry – roll out the puff /shortcrust pastries and laminate 3 sheets of filo together with melted butter.
  2. Cut your pastry into squares. For a starter/dessert sized pie, 10cm is ideal. 12cm of puff pastry will rise to make a great main course pie.
  3. You will need 2 squares of pastry for each pie.
  4. For each individual pie, proceed as follows: Pastry folding instructions graphic
  5. By the time the last petal is formed, the filling has been completely enclosed and your pie will hold its shape beautifully.
  6. To enjoy later, open-freeze now and then store in the freezer in zip-lock bags.
  7. To cook, thaw, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on size) at 200°C, 180°C Fan.

Apple and Butternut Squash Pie

Apple Butternut Squash Pie

Wotchers!

Here’s an example of how a passing comment I read turns into something delicious – which I find even more enjoyable for it being over 250 years old!

William Ellis was a gentleman farmer in Hertfordshire for most of the early 18th century. He was passionate about agriculture and husbandry and wrote extensively about his life and experiences. His reputation seems to have suffered somewhat both during his lifetime and afterwards, as his efforts to make money by writing about his knowledge of country matters was looked down on by ‘true’ gentlemen. Nowadays, his work is regarded in much higher esteem.

Ellis’ The Country Housewife’s Family Companion (1750) is delightfully scatty, wandering off on digressions and anecdotes at every opportunity.The inspiration for this recipe came from the final paragraph of a section on puddings, vinegars and savoury pies (I told you it was scatty!).

The original mentions a mixture of pumpkin and apples, however, it wasn’t pumpkin season when I first read it, and what I had on hand was an early season butternut squash, so that is what I used. Paired with some fluffy Bramley apples and just the slightest amount of sugar, this pie is light and refreshing, moist enough to hold it’s shape, but not so soggy as to ruin the pastry. Since modern Bramley Apples are probably much juicier than those available in the 18th century, I have included a little cornflour to thicken any excess liquid.

When it comes to the pastry, you have several options – obvs! The first time I made this I used a butter puff pastry, top and bottom. This decadence worked deliciously against the, lets face it, rather spartan filling – but the sharpness of the apple, the sweetness of the squash and the flaky crispness of the buttery pastry were truly a delight to savour. You could extend this flaky buttery-ness by opting for filo pastry. Alternatively, as in the photo above, mix-and-match with a shortcrust pastry for the bottom and sides and a puff pastry lid. If you’re planning a deep dish pie, then this would be your best option, as the shortcrust will hold the sides up better than puff – a large, flat pie is ideal for using butter puff pastry.

Apple Butternut Pie with puff pastry

Apple and Butternut Squash Pie

Rather than have a list of vague quantities to cover all the pastry and pie size options, I’ve decided to go with the deep dish pie, as there are a couple of details that require a little attention in order to get the very best results.

300g butternut squash – peeled and chopped, or shredded on a mandolin
300g Bramley Apples – peeled, cored and chopped, or shredded on a mandolin
3tbs caster sugar [1]
2tbs cornflour
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry
1 batch sweet cornflour shortcrust pastry – from here

egg-white for brushing

milk and caster sugar for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll out the pastry and line a 24cm tart tin.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork to prevent blistering.
  • Line the pastry with baking parchment and weigh it down with rice, dried peas or baking beans.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and weights.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with lightly beaten egg-white and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  • Set pie aside and raise the heat of the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Toss the apple and squash together.
  • Mix the sugar and cornflour together and sprinkle over the filling and toss again.
  • Add the filling to the blind-baked pastry case and press down firmly – there will be some shrinkage during cooking, especially when using Bramley Apples, and you want to try and minimise any possibility of a huge gap opening up between the pastry lid and the filling.
  • If your butternut squash is rather mature, and doesn’t seem very moist, add 2-3 tbs water over the filling before you add the pastry lid.
  • Damp the edges of the pie and lay the sheet of puff pastry over the top. Press together firmly and crimp the edges.
  • Trim the excess pastry.
  • Cut a 1.5-2cm steam vent in the centre of the pie – I find a plain, metal piping nozzle is the best/neatest way to achieve this. This will also help indicate whether the pie is cooked, as the filling will be visible through the hole and a shred or two extracted and tasted if necessary.
  • Decorate with pastry scraps as appropriate.
  • Brush the whole lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Put the pie onto a baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170°C, 150°C Fan and bake until the filling is cooked, 35-45 minutes more. NB The juice will be visible bubbling through the vent hole when cooked. If the lid is browning too much, cover it with a sheet of either foil or baking parchment.
  • Remove cooked pie from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Eat warm or cold.

[1] This is the very minimum amount to still achieve a sweet pie. If your apples are especially sharp, add more sugar, but remember, the sugar will also draw out the juice from the apples, so add a little more cornflour as well to compensate.


Quince Cheesecake

Quince Cheesecake

Wotchers!

Something very different for you all this week, that I discovered on my shiny, SHINY new favourite recipe source – Coquinaria – an online resource of Dutch Medieval recipes.

Now is the season for Quince and whilst I love their fragrance perfuming the house, and the two-for-one recipe combination of ruby Quince Jelly and aromatic Quince Paste (membrillo) that you can make from just one batch of fruit, I’ve made them both for the past five years. I was looking for something different to use these fabulous fruits and this is the treasure I found.

It comes from the Manuscript UB Gent 476, which dates from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and which corresponds roughly to the end of the Wars of the Roses and the start of the Tudor reign in England and Wales.

As far as tweaking the recipe goes, I’ve added a pastry crust and a decorated pastry lid, sprinkled with nib sugar. Reasoning that fruit nowadays is probably much larger and better formed than that of five hundred years ago, I halved the number of quince required to just three and also cut down on the butter, egg-yolks and sugar – it’s practically health food! 😉

Actually, just a further word about the ingredients – you can treat the curd/almonds/raisins/egg quantities given as the midpoint on a sliding scale, depending on how you want your cheesecake to turn out. If you reduce them all to 60g and just use 2 yolks, then the flavour of the quince really comes through sharp and strong, and the texture is quite light. If you increase them all to 120g and add an extra yolk, then it’s very rich and complex, with no one flavour dominating, and a much firmer texture. The quantities given strike a nice balance, I think, but experiment!

Peering over my shoulder at the Middle Dutch original text, my husband commented that an accurate translation of the title would be something along the lines of Weird/Peculiar/Eccentric Tart, but that’s not going to get anyone excited, so I’ve opted for a name both tempting and recognisable.

Quince Cheesecake

For the pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

Filling
3 large-ish quince
85g curd cheese – drained
85g ground almonds
85g raisins
3 tablespoons white sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 large yolks
60g clarified unsalted butter – melted

Decoration
Apple jelly or apricot glaze
nibbed sugar

  • For the pastry
    • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
    • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
    • Divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
    • Take the smaller of the two pieces of pastry from the fridge and roll out until it it large enough to cover your intended tart tin. I used a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin. This piece of pastry will be for the decorative lid. Don’t roll the pastry too thin, or the lid might curl up during baking – no thinner than 5mm. Slide the pastry onto some baking parchment.
    • Take the tart tin you’re going to use and lay it upside-down onto your pastry. LIGHTLY score around it with the tip of a sharp knife. This will give you an outline for your decorations.
    • Using a knife, or mini cutters if you have them, cut a design into the pastry lid. Don’t make the cutouts either too large or too close together – you still need to transfer it onto the top of the tart and whilst a lacy design is, without doubt, breathtaking, getting it from your work surface onto the tart would be a nightmare.
    • Cover the lid with cling film and return it to the fridge to rest/chill while you prepare the filling.
  • For the filling
    • Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
    • Remove the fluff from the quince by rubbing them over with a clean cloth.
    • Gently lower the quince – whole – into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little to a gentle simmer.
    • Simmer – uncovered – for 20-30 minutes until the fruit are tender (test with a cocktail stick). The motion of the hot water should have the fruit gently tumbling as they simmer, so they should cook evenly. The skins will split, but that’s fine, as long as the boiling isn’t too rough, they won’t fall apart.
    • Lift the poached fruit out of the water and set onto a sieve to drain/cool.
    • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin – it’ll peel off easily, like tomato skins – and cut away from the core all of the cooked and softened buttery-yellow flesh. The cores are larger than, say, an apple core, with the flesh closest to the core becoming quite gritty – you want to avoid using this gritty part.
    • Mash/blend all the cooked quince to a smooth puree. I got over 450g from just three quince. If your fruit isn’t as bountiful, consider scaling down the rest of the filling ingredients.
    • Add the drained curd, ground almonds, sugar and spices and mix thoroughly.
    • Taste and adjust sweetness/spices if necessary.
    • Stir in the yolks, raisins and the melted, clarified butter.
  • To assemble the tart
    • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
    • Remove the larger piece of pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 4-5mm.
    • Line your tart tin and use a fork to poke holes over the pastry at the bottom. Make sure there is enough pastry to hang over the edges of the tin.
    • Line with baking parchment and beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
    • Remove parchment/beads and reduce oven temperature to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
    • Pour the filling into the partly-baked case and smooth over.
    • Dampen the edges of the tart and slide the decorated tart lid onto the tart.
    • Press the edges together firmly, crimp as desired, then trim the excess pastry.
    • Brush the tart lid with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
    • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set and the pastry has browned.
    • Brush the pastry lid with warmed jelly/glaze and sprinkle with nibbed sugar. I spent time fishing sugar nibs out of the lattice holes, but there’s no need to be so precious about it 😉

Goathland Treacle Tart

Goathland Treacle Tart

Wotchers!

I’m a big fan of British recipes as you may know – and I think we should do everything that we can to preserve them, especially the hidden gems that are regional specialties.

Goathland is a tiny village – population less than 500 – tucked away in the North York Moors National Park, just south-west of Whitby. It looks an absolutely delightful place, and Harry Potter fans will recognise Goathland Station as doubling for Hogsmeade (the station nearest Hogwarts) as well as Aidensfield from the popular TV series Heartbeat.

In the 1930s, Mrs Arthur Webb was commissioned by the BBC to visit farms throughout the UK “in order to secure something that was characteristic of its cooking and preparation of food.” In much the same way a her contemporary, Dorothy Hartley, would – Mrs Webb tramped around the countryside conversing with farmers wives and watching them cook in their own kitchens, frequently with awe and respect.

I looked at the fireplace. I watched the flames travelling under the oven.
“How do you manage to keep the heat going – you burn coal, of course?”
“Oh no” the answer came swiftly; “I never trust coal or anything else than wood for my baking. I understand wood better and I know exactly what heat it will give.”
“Do you ever have failures?”
“Failures? Of course not. I know exactly what I want and I make it.”
“Well, how do you manage to arrive at such delicious pies as these?” and I pointed to the laden table. “Do you weigh the ingredients?”
“Never. I could not spare the time. I just know how much the flour, butter, lard, milk, water and eggs will make.”

Luckily for us, Mrs Webb was able to jot down the ingredients for this fantastic tart, which I have only tweaked very slightly in converting to metric measurements and adding cooking times/temperatures. I’m curious to know which farm in this peaceful area was the origin of such a flavour-packed bake.

As you can see from the photograph. it bears little resemblance to the traditional British, tooth-achingly sweet, open-topped Treacle Tart made with golden syrup and fresh breadcrumbs. Whilst still containing breadcrumbs, the filling for this double-crust tart is packed with fruit both fresh and dried, actually contains treacle, and is much closer in taste to a traditional mincemeat, although blessedly fat-free. Along with the dried fruit and spices, the filling is given some fresh zing with chopped apple and lemon zest/juice. The dry breadcrumbs absorb any apple juice during cooking, resulting in a tart with a firm, fruity filling, no soggy bottom, and packing a huge wallop of flavour. The lack of fat in the filling means that the taste is bright and fresh and never cloying or overly rich.

I’ve chosen to wrap this in my favourite cornflour shortcrust, as its dry crispness when baked is the perfect foil against which the filling can really shine.

Sidebar: Mrs Webb’s notes tell us merely to “cover with another pastry” – which is all well and good, but pays little attention to the presentation which is, after all, usually the first thing that tempts us with a dish. I’ve made a conscious decision to try to present dishes, no matter how humble their ingredients, in the most appetising and eye-catching way. If I may paraphrase the great William Morris “Serve nothing from your oven that you do not know to be delicious or believe to be beautiful.”

Goathland Treacle Tart top

Which is all well and good, except that when it comes to decorating, I usually have the patience and finesse of a potato. But I also have a little imagination, so I created the above decoration for the tart lid, in the best traditions of housewives across the years, with what I had to hand: namely, a teaspoon, an apple corer and a skewer.

pastry
The pastry was crimped by laying the pastry lid as per the above diagram, so that the edges lay vertically against the sides of the tin. Insert the handle of a teaspoon between the outer edge of the pastry and the tin and your finger and thumb against the inside of the pastry. Press inwards with the spoon handle as you pinch the two pieces of pastry together. I had intended only to hand-crimp the tart edges, but the imprint of the teaspoon handle has made a pretty design, so I’m going to run with it. *lying* I totally meant to do that.

The pattern was made firstly by gently pressing an apple-corer into the lid – enough to mark, but not enough to cut all the way through the pastry (see pic below).

pastry corer pattern

Then I used a wooden skewer to poke holes in lines from the centre ring to each of the surrounding rings (see pic below).

pastry corer pattern 2

I then added a line of holes between each of these lines. No, no pic for this. Even though I know it’s my MS Paint Skills that bring you flocking to the blog – in droves! – I got bored drawing the dots one by one, so you’ll have to wing it. 😀

If you’re in any doubt whether or not to try this tart – and I really hope you will – let me just say that I’m seriously considering using this as my mince pie recipe this year.

Just sayin’.

Goathland Treacle Tart

Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
ice cold water

  • Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 4-5mm and use it to line a greased 18cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

Filling

60g dry breadcrumbs [1]
60g currants
60g sultanas
30g candied orange peel – diced
30g candied lemon peel – diced
1 small cooking apple – peeled, cored and chopped/grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground mixed spice
30ml treacle
30ml milk

  • Mix the breadcrumbs, dried fruit, candied peel, spices and lemon zest in a bowl.
  • Warm the treacle by placing the open can in a saucepan of water over a low heat. As it warms, it becomes less viscous and easier to pour.
  • Pour out the required amount of treacle and mix with the lemon juice, then add the milk afterwards. NB Don’t mix the lemon juice with the milk first, otherwise it will curdle.
  • Add the liquids and the chopped apple to the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Add the filling to the chilled pastry case and smooth over.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid.
  • Wet the edges of the pastry with water, and lay the pastry lid onto the filling. Ease the edges together as per the diagram above. Make sure there’s no air trapped underneath the lid – in the oven this air will expand in the heat and may cause the lid to lift away from the filling.
  • Use the back of a knife (so as not to scratch your non-stick tin) to trim away the excess pastry, then crimp the edges as described above.
  • Decorate as desired.
  • Brush with beaten egg, or with milk and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar. (I used just egg).
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning the tin around after 20 minutes to ensure it colours evenly.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • After cooling for 10 minutes, if you’ve used a loose-bottomed tin, the tart can be gently removed  and served, or set onto a wire rack until cold.

[1] These must be really dry. Definitely not fresh. If you have none to hand, nor any stale bread, make breadcrumbs of 3 slices of bread and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry (without browning) in a 120°C 100°C Fan oven for 20-30 minutes.


Maple Syrup Cheesecake

Maple Syrup Cheesecake

Wotchers!

This recipe was a spur-of-the-moment thing which came about after watching one of my favourite foodie shows, You Gotta Eat Here, with my daughter.

It’s the Canadian version of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but with a much more personable host (comedian John Catucci). The basic premise is that 2-3 popular eateries are visited per episode, and at each the owners demonstrate up to three of their most popular dishes. In this particular episode, waffles were made at one of the establishents, and served with a maple-syrup sauce. My daughter enjoyed the program and asked if she could have waffles for tea, so I whipped up a batch, complete with sauce. She loved the waffles, but didn’t care for the sauce. I, however, thought the sauce was amazing and also thought it could be awesome as a cheesecake. Using no additional sweetening, the maple syrup really is the star of the show, with the vanilla and orange rounding out the flavour beautifully without being intrusive.

I’ve used an enriched but unsweetened shortcrust pastry, containing ground almonds, because I like the contrast between the dry crispness of the pastry and the richness of the filling. It’s an adaptation of a 17th century recipe for ‘royal paste’. Use your own favourite if you prefer. I also wanted to see if it was possible to bake a light-textured cheesecake without using a waterbath and without spoiling the delicate flavourings. The method I ended up employing was a little longer and at a lower temperature than usual, but I was delighted with the results – no cracks and a wonderfully light texture. I ate the slice seen in the picture above, and had to get my husband to lock the remainder in his car for his lucky work colleagues on Monday. It’s that good.

Maple syrup has managed to achieve superfood status, containing amongst other things, beneficial antioxidants and minerals, and having fewer calories per ml than honey. Just 60ml apparently contains 100% of our daily Manganese requirement – best excuse EVAR to eat 1/4 of this pie in one go! 😀

Maple Syrup Cheesecake

For the pastry
180g plain flour
60g ground almonds
120g unsalted butter
1 large egg
zest of 1 orange
almond milk to mix

beaten egg to glaze

  • Put everything except the almond milk into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the motor running, gradually add the almond milk, pausing between additions to let it be absorbed.
  • When the mixture comes together into a ball, tip it out and knead smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
  • Remove pastry from the fridge and roll out to about 5mm thick.
  • Line the prepared tin, easing the pastry into the sides of the tin.
  • Shape and crimp the edges, trimming off any excess.
  • Return to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the pastry-lined tin from the fridge and line it with baking parchment.
  • Fill with rice or baking beads to weight it down and bake for ten minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and take out both the parchment and weights.
  • Bake the now empty pastry case for a further five minutes.
  • Remove the pastry case from the oven and brush the inside of the pastry with beaten egg.
  • Bake for 2 more minutes. This will ensure the pastry is both mostly cooked and also seal it against the moisture of the filling.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C, 140°C Fan.

Filling
600g cream cheese at room temperature
zest of 2 oranges
2 tsp vanilla extract
250ml maple syrup
3 large eggs

  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the mixture carefully into the pre-baked pastry case and smooth the top.
  • Place the filled tart onto a baking sheet.
  • Using a length of cooking foil folded into 4, loosely wrap the tart, folding over the top lightly so that the sides and edges of the pastry are protected from the direct heat of the oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Open the oven and slide a flat sheet of foil over the top of the tart. This is to keep the surface of the filling from becoming too dark. Don’t fold it closely over the tart, as this will trap moisture inside.
  • Bake for another 30 minutes and check the consistency. The centre third of the filling should wobble slightly when the tin is jiggled. You might need to bake it a little longer if there was a lot of moisture in your cheese/eggs/syrup.
  • When you’re satisfied with the consistency, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside to cool for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Overcooking and/or sudden cooling can lead to the cheesecake forming cracks, but using this method, I managed to avoid both.
  • When completely cooled, remove from the tin and chill. If placing in the fridge, cover with cling film to prevent the cheesecake from drying out.
  • It needs no garnish, just enjoy it as is.