I’m just back from a fabulous week in the South of France with my daughter. We drove many miles from Provence passing fields filled with “Van Gogh’s” sunflowers on the way and over to the Alpes.
We stayed in a little French town nestled deep in the mountains.
Twice during our stay the small town square was transformed into a wonderful market by local farmers and artisan food producers selling their wares. Sun ripened, sweetest ever deep red cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries etc. – we ate our fill!
Every morning we collected our breakfast croissants from the town’s boulangerie. We eyed up the window display of goodies – pissaladiere, patisserie of all descriptions, breads and an array of wonderful French glazed fruit tarts.
Back home in the UK, and I thought I would like to recreate some of these French goodies. I’m making a Bakewell tart this weekend – we do have our own equally delicious British tarts and cakes.
Our Bakewell tart, when freshly baked can be quite a revelation. If you’ve never tried – then do have a go as it is not difficult at all. It is every bit as good as those French tarts I think!
Really quite simple, a crisp pastry base (that is not too sweet), a layer of good quality jam all topped with an almond frangipane and toasted almonds. Very versatile too.
Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day, or served slightly warm as a pudding with a dollop of whipped cream or even take it on a picnic. (In the picture mine is decorated with two sugar paste cherries – just a bit of fun if you have the inclination!)
Those piles of sweet cherries on the market reminded me to make my favourite cherry and vanilla jam. Perfect for this Bakewell tart – but so is raspberry or strawberry jam.
Bonne Maman is a good brand to look out for – and widely available if jam making is a step too far!
Tip: Do always ensure your summer fruits and berries are at room temperature. Remove from the fridge a good hour before eating, as when chilled the flavour is dulled.
Tip: If you have over ripe berries, (or a mix) de-stone if necessary and whizz up in the food processor to a purée. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, sweeten to taste. Sieve and you have made a lovely fruit sauce. Freezes brilliantly if you have made a lot. It is great stirred into yoghurt, poured over summer fruits and berries or ice cream.
This has become a classic. Created by accident, I understand, in the 1860s in Bakewell, much mystery surrounds its origins… which, surprisingly to us modern fans, didn’t include ground almonds. Make sure all the ingredients for the filling are at room temperature.
For the pastry
100g unsalted butter, chilled and diced, plus more for the tin
200g plain flour, sifted, plus more to dust
Pinch of salt
40g icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
For the filling
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g ground almonds
4 tbsp good-quality cherry, raspberry or strawberry jam
25g flaked almonds
To decorate (optional)
Claret food colour paste
Christmas red food colour paste
Edible glaze spray
1 vanilla pod
Lightly butter a 23cm round, loose-bottomed metal flan tin (not ceramic; it won’t cook the pastry properly). To make the pastry, tip the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large bowl or food processor. Rub in the butter using your fingertips, or blitz. Lastly, add the egg yolks gradually until the dough comes together. If it is still too dry, add a very little cold water or, if too wet, a little flour. Try not to overwork the pastry as it will toughen it.
To line the tin, lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. Lift it with the rolling pin, line the tin with the pastry and prick all over with a fork. Trim the edges and press well into the tin. Chill for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line the pastry case with a piece of baking parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans (or raw rice). Cook for about 15 minutes, remove the paper and cook for a further few minutes; the pastry will be pale gold. While the pastry is cooling, make the filling.
Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy. Start adding the eggs very slowly, then add the almond and vanilla extracts. Fold in the ground almonds. Spread the jam over the base of the pastry, then spoon the almond mixture over the jam – ensuring it is level – and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the centre is firm to the touch. Cool.
To make the two giant cherries, colour the sugar paste with the claret and Christmas red food colours . Divide in half and roll into two balls. Indent the tops of each with the end of a paint brush or similar tool, and spray with the glaze for a shine. To make the cherry stalks, split the vanilla pod nearly in half, keeping one end intact. If necessary trim the two stalks to neaten them, but add the valuable seeds or trimmings to a jar of vanilla sugar. Place the tip of each into the indent in each cherry, and position into the centre of the cooled tart just before serving.