Sultan Cream Tart

This tart is a pleasant change from round or rectangular tarts and has the added advantage of being able to be made in any size required, from small, serving just one person to large, serving eight. Of course, if you’re feeling peckish, then one person could probably eat a large one, but I’m going to pretend I never said that – I’d hate to put ideas in your head.

This tart is also infinitely customisable. The original recipe (Harris & Borella, All About Pastries, c1900) filled the segments with delicately coloured and flavoured whipped cream, which makes for a wonderfully light and airy treat. For the photo above, I chose an 18thC recipe for a dairy-free whip. Similarly, fresh summer berries or indulgent fruit conserves are both equally appropriate.

Sultan Cream Tart

This enriched shortcrust pastry is halfway between pastry and shortbread: very crisp and friable and a great contrast with the buttery, puff pastry.

Sweet shortcrust
170g plain flour
60g cornflour
125g unsalted butter
15g caster sugar
1 large yolk
ice water to mix

  • Put the flours, yolk, sugar and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then roll out to a thickness of 5mm.
  • Transfer to a board, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To assemble the tart
1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
1 large yolk whisked with 1tbs water for glazing

  • Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and cut out into circles of the desired size, 15-25cm in diameter.
  • Prick all over with a fork, to prevent blistering, and brush the surface with water.
  • Docked Pastry
  • Unroll the puff pastry. Each tart will require 5 strips of 1cm width, and 2 strips of 2cm width.
  • Place the 1cm strips of puff pastry as follows, laying two strips down the middle with a small gap in-between, as shown.
  • Lay the two, 2cm strips around the edge to form a rim. Have the ends start/finish at the top/bottom of the pastry as shown.
  • Trim the pastry ends neatly.
  • Return the pastries to the fridge and chill until firm. When thoroughly chilled, transfer each tart to a separate piece of parchment paper. using a sharp knife, cut down between the two vertical strips of pastry, and draw each half apart.
  • Heat the oven to 205°C/185°C Fan. Brush all the puff pastry edges with egg glaze and bake them until puffed and golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Finishing

These pastries can be made and finished with the glaze/nuts the day before they are required, and kept – carefully – in an airtight container until needed. Fill just before serving.

chopped pistachios
toasted, flaked almonds
75g apricot jam – warmed with 2tbs water

fillings of choice

  • Warm the jam with the water and whisk until smooth. Brush the semicircular rim with glaze and smother with toasted almonds.
  • Brush the glaze over the three dividing bars and smother with chopped pistachio nuts.
  • Fill as desired and serve at once.

 

 

Plum Cannons

These eye-catching pastries are, essentially, a jam turnover, but with a little deft handling, they are transformed into an unusual and appealing shape.

Another hit from the team of Harris and Borella’s All About Pastries, they date from the turn of the nineteenth century.

The original recipe suggested Greengage conserve for the filling, but alas, my cupboard was as bare of this preserve as the supermarket shelves. I was more than slightly perturbed by this sad state of affairs: I had merely run out, but I would have settled for ‘store-bought’. Seeing as Greengages are a classic in preserves, I was disconcerted to find my local Sainsbury’s devoid of Greengage Conserve, despite internet assurances that they would have some.

Of course, any high-quality preserves can be substituted – I opted for mirabelle – the real pleasure comes from enjoying the combination of crisp pastry, crunchy sugar topping and sweet/sharp burst of fruit in the middle.

With a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, these treats come together very quickly – and will no-doubt disappear just as fast.

Plum Cannons

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
Plum conserve
egg-white for glazing
caster sugar to sprinkle

  • Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry a little thinner, so it measures at least 24cm by 36cm
  • Cut the pastry into nine rectangles 12cm by 8cm.
  • Put a teaspoon of jam/conserve in the middle of each piece of pastry.
  • Damp the edges of the pastry and fold the ends inwards to cover, overlapping the pastry by at least 3cm.
  • Turn the pastries over, so the seal is underneath and trim the ends (the original long side) straight with a sharp knife.
  • Arrange on a cutting board and chill for at least 30 minutes until firm.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the chilled pastries from the fridge and, again with a sharp knife, cut a neat V-shape from each end.
  • Arrange the pastries on a lined baking sheet (the jam WILL run during baking, and cleaning baked-on jam from a metal baking sheet is not fun).
  • Brush the pastries with lightly-beaten egg-white and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Cut a small vent in the top to let out steam – I was a little heavy-handed with this batch and the slits opened too much. No-doubt yours will be the epitome of elegance.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 15 minutes. NB This might seem a long baking time, but puff pastry needs a surprisingly long time to both puff up AND bake thoroughly. If you’re sceptical, before you remove the pastries from the oven, check underneath to see that they are golden brown. If you remove the pastries too early, they will sink as they cool and their layers disappear into stodge.
  • Cool on a wire rack and serve either warm or at room temperature.
  • Store in an airtight container and ‘refresh’ by crisping them in a low oven for 10 minutes.

Fruit Pudding Pies

Mary Rooke, 1770

Pudding pies used to be immensely popular in the 18th century, and describe a particular style of dish where a pastry case is filled with a thick, flavoured and sweetened porridge and the two baked together. Obviously, you’re now saying to yourself, ‘Hang on a second, that’s a tart, not a pie’, and you’d be quite right, of course, but only by 21st century semantics. In addition, the ‘pudding’ of the title is to our modern eyes, rather vague, but to those of an 18th century cook, it was curiously specific, and not for the reason you might think.

Look up the word ‘pudding’ in the Oxford English dictionary, and the very first definition is: A stuffed entrail or sausage, and related senses. Yes, no mention of warm, comforting delicacies served at the conclusion of a meal, but innards and stuff in ’em! In the 17th and 18th centuries, pudding could be sweet or savoury. Echoes of these savoury puddings are still visible today in the black and white puddings sold in butchers shops. Sweet puddings included dense mixtures of dried fruits, peel, suet and spices, either stuffed into entrails or wrapped in floured cloths and simmered in water, as the traditional Clootie Dumplings of Scotland are today.

A more accurate description of pudding from these times would be that of a foodstuff of a certain texture, and so it is with pudding pies. The texture is more akin to a baked cheesecake, smooth and dense, but with just a fraction of the richness, they’re practically health food! In this instance, the filling is flavoured with the sharpness of gooseberries. I like the way it cuts through the denseness and really lifts and brightens the filling, but any smooth fruit puree will work well, the best results coming from sharply acidic fruit.

Original Recipe
Source: D/DU 818/1, Essex Record Office

Fruit Pudding Pies

112g ground rice
112g butter
225ml milk
112g sugar
100ml gooseberry pulp
4 large eggs
zest of a lemon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 individual pudding, or deep tart, dishes lined with shortcrust pastry

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
  • Stir the ground rice, butter and milk over heat until quite thick, then pour into a basin.
  • Add the sugar and stir together until cold.
  • Add the gooseberry pulp, well-beaten eggs, lemon and nutmeg.
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Spoon the mixture into the pastry-lined dishes and smooth over.
  • Put the tarts onto a baking sheet and cover lightly with a sheet of foil, to prevent the filling darkening too much.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pie dishes. Remove the foil after 15 minutes and turn the pie dishes around if they seem to be colouring unevenly.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm or cold with cream or custard.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie

Traditional

There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was some time before I managed to find a picture of these iconic tarts, and for a long time had to rely solely on my imagination. Consequently, what I pictured in my mind was the pie you see above, and was just a little disappointed to eventually learn that the pies were small, hand-sized, shallow, round pies with a single layer of gooseberries and a lot of sweet/sharp juice.

The use of a hot water crust for a fruit pie is unusual, and can be tricky to work with. Some recipes even recommend that once the tart shell has been formed, the pastry is chilled overnight in order to make a firm casing for the gooseberries, but this then makes it difficult to attach the lid firmly once the paste is cold.

In my searching, I also found accounts that seemed to agree on two things: everyone seemed to like these tarts, even if they didn’t like gooseberries, and that they were extremely juicy when bitten into. I decided to make a large, consumer-friendly variation of this classic dessert pie by setting the juice with gelatine, so that it could be sliced and each slice would hold its shape.

Elderflower is a classic flavour pairing with gooseberries, and this pie combines a jelly made from the gooseberry juice syrup and elderflower cordial with fresh gooseberries and a sweetened hot water crust. The jelly is sweet and delicately flavoured and the gooseberries are so sharp, the contrast between the two is both delicious and refreshing. To make everything much easier, it is baked in a loaf tin.

Sweet Hot Water Crust
600g plain white flour
400ml water
100g butter
100g lard
60g caster sugar

  • Put the fats, sugar and water into a pan and warm over a low heat just until the fat has melted.
  • Put the flour into a bowl and pour on the warmed liquid. Stir well.
  • The paste will be very soft when it comes together, and you can roll it out if you like, but it can also just be flattened and pressed into the tin by hand.

1kg fresh gooseberries
1kg caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial

beaten egg to glaze.

3-4 sheets of leaf gelatine

  • Use a sharp knife to top-and-tail the gooseberries, removing the stalk and the calyx.
  • Generously grease a large loaf tin. You can, of course, make this in any shaped tin, but a rectangular loaf tin does produce pretty and regular slices. In order to decide what size of tin to use just tip in your prepared gooseberries. The best fit will be from the tin the gooseberries only just fill.
  • If liked, line the tin with baking parchment in order to help with the removal of the pie once it has cooled.
  • Make the pastry and divide into two. Roll out one piece and cut a lid for your pie. Use the empty tin to mark out its size, then cut the pastry 3cm larger all the way round. Set aside.
  • Gather the trimmings and the rest of the pastry together and roll out to about 1cm. Line your greased loaf tin and allow the excess pastry to drape over the sides for now. Make sure any cracks are well patched, so that the juice stays inside the pie.
  • Layer the gooseberries in the lined tin with the sugar.
  • Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top of the pie. Press the edges together and trim the excess. Crimp the edges in a decorative manner.
  • Cut three circular vent holes in the lid at least 2cm in diameter.
  • Use the pastry trimmings to make additional decorations if liked.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the sides are well-baked. It is better to cook the pie a little longer than for the pie to be under-baked, so if the top is becoming too dark, cover with some foil.
  • When you’re happy with the done-ness of the pastry, remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Tricky Part: You need to drain the juice from the pie in order to mix in the elderflower cordial and the gelatine that will make it set. After much experimentation, I recommend the following method:
    • Put your pie onto a wire cooling rack.
    • Put a second rack upside-down on top of your pie.
    • Place a large bowl on your work surface. If you think it necessary, place a damp teatowel underneath to prevent slippage.
    • With your thumbs uppermost, pick up your pie tin, sandwiched between the wire racks.
    • Holding the pie tin over the bowl, flip it towards you and let all of the juice drain out of the pie through the vent holes. Once the juice has topped dripping, turn your pie the right way up and set aside.
  • Taste the syrup and add sufficient elderflower cordial to flavour. Since the pie will be eaten cold, you can make the flavouring slightly stronger than usual, since the flavours will be somewhat muted when served.
  • When you’re happy with the taste, measure the volume of syrup. For every 150ml, you need to bloom (soak in water) 1 leaf (sheet) of gelatine. Once bloomed, drain and add the gelatine to the syrup and warm gently until melted.
  • Pour the syrup/gelatine mixture back into the pie. You want enough syrup in the pie to make the cooked gooseberries float.
  • Leave your pie to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge.
  • Allow to come to room temperature before removing from the tin and cutting in slices to serve.

Posset Pie

Joseph Cooper, 1654

The surfeted Groomes doe mock their charge With Snores.
I have drugg’d their Possets.

Macbeth, Act II, scene II

The broadest description of a posset that I can think of is that of a hot syllabub: a thickened drink of either milk or cream, sweetened and flavoured with any of a number of alcoholic drinks and/or fruit, served warm.

In the Middle Ages it was seen as a winter warmer and it’s ability to make one feel good meant that over the years it segued into becoming borderline medicinal. It was recommended for insomnia, indigestion, as a purgative and of benefit when fasting.

Recipes abound, and the styles are as numerous as their intended uses: custard posset, cold posset, apple posset, whipped posset, froth posset, sack posset, soap sud posset, posset without milk, posset without wine, posset without milk wine or beer.

Thus far, Joseph Cooper is the only person I have found that turns posset into a dessert. Twenty years later Hannah Woolley would include this same recipe in her own book, adding a few of her own details to the method.

Apples are the recommended fruit, but this would work well with almost any fleshy fruit pulp; apricots in summer, for example, and dark, sharp damsons in autumn.

Posset Pie

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Eggwhite for glazing

500g fruit puree
2 large yolks
200ml double cream
50ml cream sherry
1tsp ginger
1/2tsp cinnamon
1-2tbs icing sugar
4 heaped tablespoons dried white breadcrumbs

To decorate
2cm matchsticks of candied orange, lemon and citron peel
sugar nibs

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Roll out the pastry and line a greased shallow tart tin. My favourite shape is long and rectangular (36 x 12 x 3cm).
  • Prick the bottom with the tines of a fork to prevent blistering and line with parchment paper and baking beads.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and baking beads and bake for a further five minutes.
  • Brush the insides of the tart with beaten egg white and bake for a further 3 minutes.
  • Turn the oven heat to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3.
  • Mix the filling ingredients until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if liked.
  • Pour into the pastry case and smooth over.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is almost set.
Apple Posset Pie
Apple Posset Pie Joseph Cooper, 1654

Shrewsbury Pudding Tart

Georgiana Hill, 1862

Here is something a little different for the adventurous, an unusual dessert in the form of a gloriously vibrant beetroot tart: given an official Thumb’s Up™ by my daughter. I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly and baked it in a pastry case, for ease of serving. The original method was for a buttered-and-breadcrumbed bowl. The cooking times are roughly the same. The flavour is very light and delicate, the lemon counteracting a lot of the beetroot’s sweetness.

1 x 24cm blind-baked pastry shell

225g cooked beetroot
115g unsalted butter – melted
150g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
60ml brandy
150-200g fresh white breadcrumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Puree the beetroot until smooth.
  • Add the butter, sugar, lemon, eggs and brandy and whisk thoroughly.
  • Add in the breadcrumbs BUT not all at once. You want them to absorb a lot of the moisture in the filling, which will vary depending on the freshness of the eggs and the moisture in the beetroot. You might not need all of them. The texture should be similar to a sponge cake mix, but still pourable.
  • Add the filling to the pie shell and place the tin on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set. Turn the baking sheet around after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

This pastry has been scaled down from a recipe I found in a Victorian/Edwardian commercial bakers’ book. It’s an all-butter (and therefore vegetarian) pastry  and includes a small proportion of cornflour. This makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry. It also gives it a really smooth, almost silken, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle.

60g cornflour
225g plain flour
140g butter
1 large egg
85g icing sugar
ice-cold water

  • Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Knead smooth, then roll out.
  • Cover with plastic and chill for 30 minutes.