Tag Archives: Tart

Wanted: one egg, for an almond plum tart

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The egg went AWOL while I made a plum almond tart.

The egg rolled under a bunch of herbs, apparently under the impression we were playing hide and seek. It didn’t make a sound while I whizzed the almond mixture together, or while I pressed it into a tart base. It was only after the tart became gloriously golden and puffed in the oven that the egg peeked around some parsley leaves with a discreet Jeeves-like cough.

Oh hello baker, did you want me 40 minutes ago?

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We didn’t take the almond tart to a picnic (I made some muffins instead, wholemeal, with banana-date jam, chocolate chips, peanut butter). But it seemed a pity to have a tart go to waste, so with suitably gallic shrugs, we dug into it that night.

The tart was … surprisingly good. Loose, moist, messy crumbs clinging to sweet, tart, squishy plums. A marriage of shortbread and almond torte. A concoction of ground roasted almonds, raw sugar, cocoa nibs, cardamom, rose water and lime zest.

I’m not advocating that you leave the egg out of pastry from now on, but I may have found a new favourite crumble topping.

I made the tart again last night with pluots, and remembered to add the egg (woot!). The resulting tart looked much more like an almond torte or a simple frangipane, and still had those deep dimples where the plums / pluots sank into the almond mixture. Work colleagues ate all of it within 2-3 hours – so I don’t have a photo of the real tart (and didn’t get a slice myself, hrmph), but I think that means the tart was a success.

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Fig-honey-caramel

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Sometimes, we need very few words to explain. This may be one of those times.

Fig. Honey. Caramel.

I made the fig-raspberry tartlets again, with a few tweaks and in longform. While the tart was baking, I had fig and cardamon poaching liquid sitting in the pan, and a jar of blackbutt honey on the bench. The two came together, simmered, boiled, turned a deeper golden caramel, and fig-honey-caramel was born.

It was the essence of figs and honey. Drizzle the caramel on the sesame-almond tart pastry, drip it onto the tart filling. Watch the caramel form a Jackson Pollock-esque pattern on bits of pastry, before running into sticky, semi translucent pools on nestling fig.

Place the tart under the grill for a minute or so, until the caramel bubbles up. Drop a few sprigs of rosemary on top, so its woody savoury smell mingles with the honey overnight.

My slight obsession with figs continues.

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Lazy sophistication in a goats curd, fig and walnut tart

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Sometimes, a recipe says to me, ‘Make me, now, don’t wait.’

And I don’t wait. (Really, who would dare say no to a talking recipe?)

I had one of those moments when I saw a goats cheese, walnut, dried figs single crust pie on Johnny’s blog, Feed the Piglet. I recently discovered his blog, and it had me at hello. Those recipes for home made stock, beautifully laid tables complete with tall-stemmed glassware. As someone who often grabs a hasty lunch in the CBD, those tall-stemmed glassware, architectural potato stacks and parsley soup speak of holidays, weekends and fabulous feasts.

When I saw the recipe, I sat there looking at the computer screen for a good few minutes, trying to imagine the mingling of sweet and savoury, soft and crumbly. There was a roux made with home made stock, goats cheese, walnuts, dried figs and plumped-up prunes, all in a made-from-scratch shortcrust pastry case. It was intrigue at first sight.

So I went ahead and made the pie, or a lazy person’s version of. There was goats curd instead of goats cheese, no roux (the stock had run away with the risotto earlier in the week), and puff pastry instead of home made shortcrust. Then, the finished product looked more like frivolous tarts than sturdy serious pies, probably because I made them in mini pie dishes, and the puff pastry was a bit frou frou. 

Nonetheless, the finished tarts were things of beauty, despite my shortcuts and the slapdash rustic presentation (it was the best kind of Sydney winter’s morning, with such an achingly blue, cloudless sky, I couldn’t stay indoors for too long). The sweet, soft figs were set off by the tangy goats curd and the savoury walnuts. I added some roasted apples to the filling mix, and they provided a softer, tart-sweetness that melted into the goats curd filling.

The word that came to mind was sophisticated. There was nothing superficial about the flavours, they pulled you in and demanded that you think about and savour every bite.

And if my slapdash version was good, just think what Johnny’s original would be like.

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Heavenly ambrosia: quince jam and Hungarian short bread

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Bottom: First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on, then read the names of the actors, and so grow to a point.
Quince: Marry, our play is, The most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.

Midsummer night’s dream, Act 1, Scene 2

Quince. That un-beautiful, knobbly, hard, yellow fruit that appears in fruit shops each autumn. And goes through an almost magical transformation in the kitchen: when cooked, the fruit turns soft, then becomes pink-tinged, then red-tinged; pureed, and cooked over a leisurely stove, the fruit paste becomes a rich, translucent, jewel-like red.

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All this time, a heavenly perfume fills the house. The smell is a kind of perfume that evokes the Arabian Nights, the fabled quality of rose water and vanilla, with such a come-hither, heady, honeyed sweetness. A smell that we could almost taste

We made quince paste on the weekend, in a slow cooker. And the quince paste became the show-stopping star of this Hungarian short bread.

Don’t get me wrong, the Hungarian short bread was sweet, rich, soft-crumbly, airy-light. There was no hint of toughness or overworked dough. This was due to the unusual method of grating frozen dough into the pan rather than rolling out the dough. I have used this method before, for this stunning yet stunningly simple apricot and chocolate tart (link to UKTV website). If you don’t mind granted dough scattered all around the tart pan and on the bench, this pastry is fool proof, and seriously good.

And the Hungarian short bread couldn’t be simpler. Grate frozen dough. Spread quince paste. Grate more frozen dough. Bake. Dust in a snowstorm of icing sugar when the tart is just out of the oven. Cool (barely) and eat.

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Good things come in threes: fig jam, tart, ‘taschen

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This started with a surfeit of dried figs in the pantry. How this happened, I don’t know. One day, we woke up with dried figs coming out of our ears.

After I wrote the last sentence, it looked like a sentence that could have come from a fable in the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Like:

On 23 February 2013, Gander woke up with a ticklish feeling in her ear. She remembered the moment 478 years ago, when a fig was squashed underfoot in a moment of childish frenzy, and the fig, lying bleeding in the dirt, said to her “may you have figs come out of your ears from the day you become a woman.” Gander had travelled far and wide, always away from places where figs grew in the wild, or hung in garlands under heavy porticos.
[a hundred pages and centuries of history later] and that morning, Gander looked into the mirror and saw figs, nestled in garlands above and next to her earlobe, with the tips of more dried figs visible in the shadows where her nape is veiled by lustrous dark hair.

What actually happened that morning – I looked into the pantry and saw dried figs and more dried figs nestling among dried apricots. No magic realism in sight.

Fig jam

I looked at the dried figs, they looked at me. The first and only thought that occurred to me was fig jam.

Figs, dried apricots, orange juice, with cinnamon and a smidge of vanilla. No added sugar. Poached in a slow cooker with barely enough water for more than two hours. During this time, the figs and apricots were plump, infused with each others’ flavours, and then were cooked down again until the mixture is just on the verge of drying out and caramelising. Then, the mixture was blitzed in a food processor until they turn into a thick, dark, shiny and smooth paste.

This isn’t your usual jam, where the first and last thing to hit your palate is sugar. When we tasted this jam, we tasted the fruit first, and noticed their sweetness afterwards. It was sweet enough, not cloyingly sweet. What lingered and made us come back for another spoonful was the play between the flavours of figs, apricots and oranges.

Recipe at the end of the post.

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