Monday, October 22, 2007

I love my local library

Sometimes you open a cookbook and a recipe leaps off the page, teasing you with its mouth-watering description and general all-round sexiness. So you amble into the kitchen like a person hypnotised, cookbook in hand, because you have no other option - that recipe isn't going on any 'to make' list nor will it be filed away for another day. You have to make it now.

At least, that's what happened to me after I found this sitting happily on the shelves of my local library in all its hardback glory:

Plum bakewell tart is the recipe that worked its voodoo magic on me. There are a few others I'd like to try from this book* but the thought of a thick layer of vanilla-scented frangipane and juicy plum quarters, with a dollop of spicy jam hiding underneath... Mmmmmm. Before I realised it, I was rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, looking for the necessary ingredients. By some minor miracle, I had them all. Hurray!

Having said that, it had better be a sustained case of baking lust, as you need the best part of an afternoon to make the recipe. The pastry and frangipane both need half an hour to rest in the fridge, then there's a further hour in the freezer (!) for the pastry once you've eased it into the tart tin... And you have to make the jam. So I'm thinking it's more of a lazy Sunday afternoon project than something to whip up after work. But it's worth it. Oh yes. Like Mr O. says, it blows any factory-made version out of the water.

*Maybe I'll try for a proper book review before the library due date at the end of the month.

Plum bakewell tart from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

You’ll need a 28cm tart tin for this recipe.

For the sweet, shortcrust pastry (which makes enough for two tarts), you’ll need:

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
A splash of milk

1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Using your hands, work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar by rubbing your thumbs against your fingers until you end up with a fine crumbly mixture. Now add the lemon zest.

2. Add the eggs and a splash of milk to the mixture and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Divide the dough into two pieces. Pat each piece into a flat round, flour them lightly, wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour. (Put the half you’re not using in the freezer at this point for another day.)

Or just buy some good-quality ready made pastry. I was in the mood to make pastry this time around but that’s not always the case :-)

For the plum bakewell tart you’ll need:

A knob of butter
½ x sweetcrust pastry recipe above
1kg plums (mixed varieties would look pretty)
100g vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cornflour, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
50g flaked almonds
icing sugar

For the frangipane, you’ll need:

285g ground almonds
50g plain flour
1 vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon of good-quality vanilla extract)
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten.

1. Grease a 28cm tart tin with a little butter and make your pastry. After it has rested for 30 mins in the fridge, take it out and roll it out on a floured surface. Line the tart tin with your rolled-out pastry, easing it into the ridges at the side. Place in the freezer for an hour.

2. Put the ground almonds and plain flour together in a large bowl. Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds, using the back of your knife and add to the bowl (or just add the vanilla extract). Beat together until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat again until the mixture is smooth. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least half an hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and bake the pastry case for around 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.

4. Halve the plums and remove the stones. Finely chop half of them and place in a saucepan with the vanilla sugar and the cinnamon. Cook gently until softened, with a jammy consistency, then stir in the cornflour and simmer until thickened.

5. While the plums are cooking, cut the remaining plum halves into quarters and macerate them for 5 minutes by sprinkling them with icing sugar. Carefully spoon your plum jam into the pastry case and smooth it out across the bottom. Spread the frangipane over the plum jam. Arrange the plums on the surface of the frangipane, pressing them in lightly. Scatter the flaked almonds across the top.

6. Bake the tart in the oven for about 1 hour, with a baking tray under the tart, just in case it bubbles over. Once cooked through and golden brown on top, remove the tart from the oven and leave it to cool.

7. If you like, mix together a few tablespoons of icing sugar with a little warm water and drizzle over the top of the tart before serving.

Cook's notes

So, what didn't I do as per the recipe this time? Well, I didn't have a 28cm tart tin for a start, so I filled a 21cm tin instead and used the leftovers to make free-form tarts. I think I stuffed too much frangipane into the tin but other than that, it worked pretty well.

The pastry - it was ok. I've tried other, better versions, so if you have a 'go to' sweet pastry you'd probably be better off using it. Also, I used a teaspoon of cinnamon instead of the lemon zest recommended because I was angling for a more spicy autumn flavour overall.

Jamie recommends half a teaspoon of mixed spice for the jam but my love of cinnamon won out and I chucked in a teaspoon instead. While this made for quite a spicy jam, it balanced out when paired up with the frangipane.

It is a loooooooong recipe. I think the easiest way to make it would be to make the consituent ingredients on one night and then put the tart together on the next.


hellojed said...

That looks so good...I WISH I had a piece of it right now. Shame I'm such a rotten baker...

Jen said...

Thanks Hellojed :-) But you should see some of the disasters that come out of this kitchen too. There's certainly been a few and there's likely to be more!

Chris said...

Yum! I love plums in baked goods. This looks like such a tasty tart!

Holler said...

It looks gorgeous! Don't know if I would have the patience to make it though! I was inpressed that you had all the ingredients to hand!

Holler said...

I have added you to my list of favourite food and drink sites on my blog.

Jen said...

Hi Chris - I love cooking plums into recipes too. There's something about the way the texture becomes slippery, silkily (sp?) soft... And the flavour... Cor, it's gorgeous!

Thanks Holler :-) I was suprised too! Truth be told, I'd already picked up a few baking ingredients with a view to making something completely different but once I saw this recipe, all thoughts of my original plan went out the window!

Jen said...

Oooh - thanks Holler. Just so you know - you're on my list too :-)

Lorraine said...

Jen - I don't think you can ever go wrong with Jamie!! This looks delish, so does the burger!! I love Heidi's site too:) I'll add you to my blog too, great to see more Irish blogs, well done Deb for compiling the list!!!

Jen said...

Hi Lorraine. It's become a bit of a thing to knock Jamie in the last wee while but I've always enjoyed his books and recipes. They're very trustworthy, with good results.

Italian foodies! Oh that's making me think of our honeymoon in Italy - the Amalfi Coast and Florence... Lovely.

Holler said...

Hi Jen, I watched Jamie Oliver last night and he made the most gorgeous warm salads, with great dressings! I have to get that book! I am also feeling enthused about growing things that sprout now! You had to be there!

Jen said...

Hey Holler - damn it, I keep missing the tv series! I think I've seen about half of one episode so far. There's a bit of advice about growing stuff in the book, which was interesting but I'm a complete novice, so I have no idea how useful it really is. However, I'm going to attempt growing a few veggies in the new year and see what survives!

Holler said...

That's great Jen! I grew gardener's choice cherry tomatoes, celery and jalepeno chillis, as well as a few pots of herbs! It was a bad year for tomatoes this year, so we didn't get a good crop, but they were very sweet, my mum and I had some in an omlette with mushrooms today, yum! The chilli plant is wonderful and doesn't need much attention and yields so much fruit! My celery looks about ready so i am going to start using it soon!

Jen said...

Shame about the small tomato crop but the omlette sounds yum. And I'm a fan of green things that don't need a lot of attention as I'm quite good a killing them with neglect, so the chilli plant is going on the list!