Bake Off Technical; Pastry Week – Bakewell Tart

After the disaster that was the pointless lacy pancakes, I was relieved to see that Pastry Week’s technical was something manageable. Thankfully the hideousness of laminated dough (I can’t do it) was confined to Danish pastries for the signature challenge, whilst the showstopper was something else I would NEVER try, filo pastry. Eccentric barmy aunt Val was the one to leave, whilst my favourite (and it seems, many people’s least…I have no idea why. Probably because of her non-RP accent) Candice won star baker. But you all knew this anyway, so on to the important stuff.

Most of us Brits love a Bakewell tart, be it the real McCoy from the town in the Derbyshire Dales or the mass-produced small kind topped with fondant and a glacé cherry.  There is no actual evidence it originated in Bakewell, but it is a close relative of Bakewell pudding, which did come from the town. Anyway, I am a fan of them and have never made them before, the closest being Nigella Lawson’s raspberry Bakewell slices from her Kitchen book.

The recipe, thankfully, is by Mary Berry, who despite my not being a huge fan of, definitely prefer hers over the intolerable Paul Hollywood’s.  It seemed fairly straightforward, though she also asks for a thick glacé icing topping, feathered with pink. This caused some controversy (don’t you just love people’s ability on social media to get whipped up into a frenzy about food?) as of course, the traditional tart is uniced, merely garnished with flaked almonds atop the frangipane filling.

It called for a sweet shortcrust, raspberry jam (the same one as for the Viennese whirls) and of course the frangipane (a sponge made with ground almonds instead of flour, for those who don’t know what it is. An underrated confection in my book. I should make it more. Especially given my fondness for stone fruit which is of course from the same botanical family as the almond), as well as this aforementioned icing.

First problem I encountered was the tart tin. The bottom to my nonstick flan had gone walkies and, also, was possibly too big, being over the 23cm/9inches specified. So I had to plump for a china flan dish, which looked to be about that size (don’t ask me how I guessed but yeah, we’re going into X-rated territory). I had no qualms about serving the tart to my guinea pigs (work colleagues) out of the dish. Not taking any chances, I buttered and floured the thing and got on with it.

The jam turned out better than with the whirls, having timed it religiously and it was now cooling and setting patiently as I heaved out my Kenwood to mix up the pastry (sorry but gadgets win and plus you are meant to handle pastry as little as possible). Fairly easily done, no drama, and it was sent to the fridge to chill for half an hour.

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No big sheets of jam this time.

After the waiting game, it was time to blind bake. I am well versed in this so this was no bother. Admittedly the pastry shrunk back a bit, but I was unfazed. As long as it sufficiently dried out, there should be none of the dreaded soggy bottom. It was baked for 15 minutes with the parchment and uncooked rice (I have a jar of much-used stuff especially for this purpose – too cheap to buy ceramic baking beans) and then another 5 with this paraphernalia off to dry it out.

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Pastry was a bit of a pain to work with, hence the messy base. Personally I’d have gone with a basic plain shortcrust for this as the icing, jam and filling are sweet enough.

Case baked, cooled a little and spread with jam, it was time to get the mixer set up for the filling. Equal measures of sugar, butter and ground almonds plus 1 beaten egg and some almond essence.  Again, no drama and it was set into the reduced oven to cook. This is where the first problem arose….it needed a good extra 5 minutes over the maximum 35 cooking time as stated within the recipe. Once baked, it was left to cool and hopefully settle down into a flat surface.

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Frangipane filling awaiting its pink and white anointment. As you can see, several skewer holes to check for ‘done-ness’. A little patchy colour-wise but that didn’t matter as the icing would hide those sins.

I perhaps got too eager and made up the icing in advance, and it had to be stirred a good few times to stop it setting, and it also may have been a bit on the thick side. However, it was just enough to cover the top of the tart, and when it got to the feathering (fine piping isn’t my forte and the lines were a touch messy) I had way too much pink icing left over. But the tart was finished.

However, the proof of the pudding IS in the eating, and it was devoured with gusto by my work colleagues. Can’t ask for more than that. Perhaps the base was a little thick at the edges if I was being hyper critical but apart from that, the china pie dish was a decent stand in, and serving the tart from the dish didn’t hurt – it cut nicely without breaking.

Verdict on this one: A good, solid recipe, though the feathered icing topping is cause for contention amongst purists. However, some find the plain unanointed variant of the Bakewell a touch dry, and I do love a Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewell – the satiny tooth-aching synthetic sweetness of the fondant (almond flavouring in that is desirable) is a good enough contrast. Like the Viennese whirls, this has been added to the ‘will bake again’ file.

Next time……I get to grips with Fresh Herb Fougasses..

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