Sweet Sunday: Tarting it up

My husband loves a good tart. Of the pastry variety, naturally. And today’s offering, to finish off a laid-back Sunday lunch for two, was of the Bakewell ilk.

You can’t beat a good thick layer of raspberry jam, sitting snugly on top of a golden pastry base, before being smothered in frangipane and topped with ribbons of glace icing and flaked almonds.

My mother’s pastry recipe (which was, in turn, passed down to her by her grandmother) has stood me in good stead, and indeed it has fared well for my mother and her mother before that too – and aside from the very occasional miss – it’s proven to be a hit.

Whether it’s a sweet or savoury tart, this recipe is one that will befit any occasion. I hope it transcends throughout the generations of bakers in your family in much the same way as it has in ours.

Nanny Jones’ Perfect Pastry

225g plain flour

100g cold butter, cubed

Pinch salt

Cold water 

2 tablespoons sugar (if making a sweet base)

Place the flour and salt into a bowl and give it a brief mix. Using your fingertips, gently rub the butter into the flour until it resembled breadcrumbs and no large clumps of fat remain. (It’s best if you have cold hands for this – and try not to rub using your palms as this is the warmest part). If you’re making a sweet pastry, now add the sugar.

Taking a tablespoon or so of water at a time, start mixing the liquid into the mix until it starts to come together to form a dough – be conservative at first as it’s always easier to add water than it is to remove it!

When the pastry forms a soft but not sticky ball, wrap in cling film or greaseproof paper and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.

When ready to use, roll out on to a floured surface to the desired shape and size, then line your tin with the pastry, using a little of the excess rolled up into a ball to push the pastry into the corners (This helps to avoid your fingers or nails making rips or holes!)

Leave a little overhanging, say 1cm or so, then trim off the excess (don’t be tempted to throw this away though – use it up making jam tarts, or pop it in the freezer for another day!). Chill for a further 30 minutes, as this will help avoid shrinkage when you bake.

If filling with something hot, prick the bottom and pour in the hot filling, then bake the tart for the time required of the recipe. If, on the other hand, you’re baking the pastry ahead, or are filling it with something cold, you’ll need to blind bake.

To do this, simply prick the bottom with a fork, pop a piece of baking paper on top and fill with baking beans (if you don’t have these, you can use lentils or rice, or even the crusts of some bread – essentially anything that won’t ‘cook’ but will be weighty enough to hold the pastry base down).

I tend to blind bake on 180 degrees (160 fan, gas 5) for 10 minutes. Then I remove the baking beans and grease proof paper and finish it off for another 5. Naturally, your oven may vary, so my best advice is to check it regularly so as to avoid an uneven colour…or worse…burnt edges.

Then fill and either chill, or bake, according to what the recipe demands.

Now it’s time to enjoy a nice piece of tart. Of the pastry variety, naturally.

Bakewell Tart made with Nanny Jones' Perfect Pastry

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