Honey plus a workhorse of a tart

Life is picking up pace after the leisurely months of lock-down.   This week has included the monthly Open Sight cooking session https://youtu.be/jRIznF2wFAY plus our first substantial harvest of honey.

The dribbles extracted late last summer and earlier this Spring were simply the overtures to the symphony of delectable stickiness that pervaded every surface.   The whole process had been pre-scripted and thought-through: honeycomb frames from the hives; removing the wax cell cappings; extracting honey in a sort of handraulic spin-dryer; filtering out odd bee legs, pollen and dust.  Of course, the best laid plans and all that went awry, and every surface was sticky.   Thank goodness for the vinegar advice following a recent icing sugar disaster: a couple of capfuls into the bucket for the fourth attempt to wash the floor worked.

Now we have a tank of glorious golden honey that has been settling for a couple of days.   It is good enough to eat now but conditioning for 30 minutes at 62C will help maintain the runny consistency.   The fabulous sous-vide water-bath is in action again.   It is proving invaluable for basic cooking, making yoghurt and, now, getting the honey ready for jars.   More of this saga next time.

Meanwhile, this is the savoury tart we blind cooks made together on-line recently.   It has endless uses and combinations.   I’ve slightly adapted the pastry from versions I learned in San Francisco and from the blessed Delia.   It has my special methods for baking that suit a blind cook or anyone else.

 

110g butter, frozen, grated and re-frozen.

220g plain flour, chilled in the fridge overnight.

1 teaspoon salt.

1 egg.

a little cold water.

 

4 leeks, finely sliced and washed.

4 eggs, beaten.

2 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche.

Salt and pepper.

 

(To prepare the butter: freeze the block then coarsely grate before placing in a bag or box and re-freezing.)

Mix the frozen butter into the chilled flour and salt, breaking down the butter to about the size of a grain of rice.

Beat the egg in about the same volume of water and gradually mix into the flour mix, adding a little more water, until the pastry comes together.

Chill the pastry for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry and line a large loose-bottomed tart tin.   Press the pastry into the corners and prick all over with a fork.

Line the pastry-filled tin with kitchen foil, pressing down in the corners and covering the edges.

Chill for 30 minutes.

Bake at 180C, Gas 4 for 12 minutes – this is “baking blind”.

Break the eggs for the filling into a bowl and beat.

Remove the foil, brush the base and internal sides of the pastry with some of the beaten egg and return to the oven for another 3 minutes.

Remove the pastry case and brush again with beaten egg.   Ideally, allow to cool and rest for an hour.

Meanwhile, cook the leeks in the microwave until soft and allow to cool.

Beat the crème fraîche and seasoning into the eggs.

Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the leeks and place in tart

Place the whole tart tin on a large piece of kitchen foil.

Fill the tart with the egg mixture.

Fold the foil over the tart to make a loose tent and bake for at least 40 minutes until the centre is just setting.   The foil catches any spills and protects the pastry from getting overcooked.

Allow to cool a little before serving warm.

 

This seems a long recipe but keeping some frozen and/or grated butter ready in the freezer makes it simple.   I also make the pastry and freeze it for using later and even freeze the pre-cooked tart cases too.   A little time on this preparation makes the final stages quick and easy.

There is no end to the fillings with the savoury custard but most need to be at least part-cooked e.g.   mushrooms with the leeks; smoked salmon or trout with chopped dill and a spoonful of horseradish sauce; asparagus and chopped ham; courgettes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, black olives.

The pastry case has other potential: fill with cooked apple puree, top with slices of eating apple plus a dusting of sugar and butter knobs before returning to the oven for about 20 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple tart with sweet shortcrust pastry.

My tree

My tree

This simple dessert sings with the clear, fresh flavour of Bramley cooking apples.

Imperial Metric Ingredient
16 ounces 450 grams Plain flour (chilled)
8 ounces 225 grams Butter (chilled)
2 ounces 50 grams Caster sugar
1   Medium Bramley apple for each individual tart
    Sugar for sweetening apple layers

Place the flour in to a large bowl.

Cut the butter in to small cubes and add to the flour.

Add the sugar.

Press the butter cubes flat – trying to use just the fingerprint pads of your fingers and thumbs.

Keep rubbing the mix together until it looks and feels like breadcrumbs.

Add the first cold water and mix with your hands – some of the mixture will start forming a dough while the rest stays as crumbs.

Keep adding water in small amounts until the dough starts to form a single ball.  Towards the end, just dipping your hands in water can stop you adding too much!

Form the dough in to two or three balls and chill in a plastic bag in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Peel the apples while the pastry chills.

Put a metal baking tray in the oven at maximum heat.

Roll out a portion of pastry for each tart as thinly as possible.

Fold each portion in to quarters, place over each foil case and then open out and ease down in to the base.

Trim the pastry to the edge of the case and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Cut the apples in to quarters and remove the cores before slicing as thinly as possible.

Place layers of the apple slices in the pastry cases, sprinkling with a little sugar after every couple of layers.

Fill the tarts as full as you can as the apple will sink a little while cooking.

Add a final sprinkle of sugar to the top.

Reduce the oven heat to gas Mark 7 (425 Fahrenheit; 220 Celsius)

Using oven gloves, put the tarts on the very hot tray and put in the oven.

After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to gas Mark 5 (375 Fahrenheit; 190 Celsius) for a final 10-15 minutes.

Check how the tarts are browning during the last few minutes and take them out if they are getting too dark or the apples feel as if they are getting crisp.

Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the tarts out of their cases.

Serve with custard, cream, ice-cream or just enjoy perfectly plain.

My tips:

The basic shortcrust recipe needs the weight of flour to be double the weight of butter and enough cold water to bind to a firm, but not sticky, dough.  The sweet version for desserts has just a touch of sugar – and caster gives a bit more texture.  It’s worth making more than you will need as the remainder can be popped in a plastic bag and stored in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a few weeks.

Putting the weighed flour in a plastic food bag overnight will chill it – and you can re-use the bag when chilling and storing the pastry.

A silicone rolling mat can make clearing up easier.

The apples may discolour if they are peeled and sliced too early – and, while putting them in water with a little lemon juice will stop them turning brown, the filling will be wetter.

Placing each filled tart back in the fridge while filling the next one keeps them chilled.

Foil cases are thin enough to help the tart cook well and cut down on washing-up.

The hot baking tray gives the best chance of the pastry bottom cooking well – though it may never be as crisp as the sides due to the juice from the apples.

Once cool, you can put the cooked tarts in their foil cases in a plastic bag and store in the fridge or freezer.

Bramley apple trees grow well in most back-gardens and will give masses of fruit for years.  The national apple collection is at Brogdale  http://brogdaleonline.co.uk/  or email fruit@brogdaleonline.co.uk

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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penny@bakingblind.com