It's my birthday today. I won't tell you how old I am, but I will tell you why I have chosen to celebrate my special day with a tart instead of some lavish, creamy birthday cake.
It is a very simple little thing, a Bakewell tart, and there's not much to it really: just pastry, jam and almond cream. But a piece of Bakewell tart and a cup of tea just epitomises England to me. I'm a simple soul, and the simple things in life are not to be sniffed at. We can all get carried away with complicating things, but you really can't go wrong with a nice tart. Added to which it comes from Derbyshire, so not a million miles away from my neck of the woods. There actually is a place there called Bakewell and a little tea house called the Bakewell Pudding Shop with a lovely green wooden frontage where you can sample this marvellous English invention.
According to cookery legend, the Bakewell tart was first made in 1820. Like so many great dishes, it was an accident. The landlady of the White Horse pub in Bakewell asked her cook to make a jam tart. But the cook, instead of stirring the egg-and-almond paste into the pastry, spread it over the top of the jam. Once cooked, the paste set similar to an egg custard in texture and the result was a triumph. It became a staple dish at the inn and went into the English culinary history books.
If you can't make it to Derbyshire, then try the recipe here. But don't forget to make yourself a nice cup of tea to go with it. And happy birthday to me ...
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2 1/2 cups butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
METHOD 1.In a food processor, cream together the sugar, butter and salt on slow speed. 2. Add eggs one at a time and mix well between additions. 3. Add the first amount of flour and mix until combined. 4. Add the second amount of flour and mix until combined. Do not overmix. 5. Leave to chill until dough is firm. 6. When firm, roll out to 4mm thick and line six 10cm tart shells. 7. Leave to rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
2 cups raspberries
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
METHOD 1. Mix all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil while stirring. 2. Boil until it reaches 106°C (use a candy thermometer). 3. Pour into a container and leave to set overnight. 4. Spread a layer of the cold jam 4mm thick into the unbaked tart shells.
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
METHOD 1.Mix almond flour, butter and sugar until combined. 2. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. 3. Add flour and mix just until combined. 4. Spread a layer of the almond cream on top of the jam 1cm thick. 5. Bake at 180°C until the top of the tart browns (about 20 minutes). 6. Leave to cool then glaze the top with fondant (standard white icing), which can be bought from any good grocer.
SERVES 6 10cm tarts