Orange Blossom Tart

Here’s a wonderfully aromatic and delicious dessert that I have adapted from a recipe that appears in Hannah Glasse’s “The art of cookery, made plain and easy”. It must have been popular, because Hannah gives no fewer than four recipes for Orange Pudding, each slightly different. Copyright infringement back then being rife, it is highly likely that Hannah is not the original author of this recipe, but I have yet to find an older version with these particular ingredients.

Hannah calls this a pudding – and indeed it is certainly something that you might eat after lunch or dinner, but it is in fact what we would term a tart, and I can honestly say it is unlike any tart I’ve ever tasted before, for the very best of reasons.

The most striking aspect is the flavour – a mixture of Seville orange, orange flower water, rosewater and white wine. Rather surprisingly, the word that popped into my head when breathing in its aroma was ice-cream – and that was before it was cooked! Once cooked and chilled, the flavours mingle together and taste extraordinary – the only way I can think to describe it is like plunging your face into a bunch of fresh flowers – but in a good way! This isn’t soapy/perfumed – it’s light and fresh and rounded. None of the flavours overpower, it’s just fantastically floral.

One of the challenges when adapting old recipes, is that specific quantities are sometimes a bit of a challenge. This recipe is a good example, because amongst other things it calls for “the crumb of a halfpenny loaf”. Although food prices were relatively stable before the industrial revolution, wheat, and by extension bread, was especially subject to price fluctuations due to harvest yield. So much so, specific laws were created concerning the manufacture and sale of the various types of bread (The Assize of Bread) and books of tables drawn up specifying the size of loaves depending on the cost of wheat.

Even with the Assize of Bread tables to hand, it’s still not clear which loaf the crumb should come from: white, wheaten or household. Household bread was the coarsest, and therefore unlikely, I reasoned, to have been used for such a delicate dessert. That left either white or wheaten and at just over 6oz and 9oz for a penny loaf, the difference in the quantity of crumb was going to be significant. The only solution was to make two tarts, and try each to see if one quantity was more suited than the other.

The photograph at the top shows the result. The slice on the left was cut from a tart made with 150g fresh white breadcrumbs. The slice on the right from a tart made with just 100g. Personally, I prefer the one on the left – the texture is like baked cheesecake, but not heavy and cloying. The slice on the right has a much softer consistency – if you’re a fan of baked custards, then this is the one for you. For an even more delicate texture, you could even try with just 50g of breadcrumbs – do let me know if you try this!

This is a wonderful springtime tart and I really hope you’ll give it a try.

Orange Blossom Tart

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
225g plain flour
140g butter
60g cornflour
85g caster sugar
1 large egg
grated zest of 1 lemon
ice cold water
egg-white for glazing

  • Put all the ingredients except the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add some ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the pastry forms a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Grease a 22cm fluted, deep, loose-bottom tart tin – a lemon meringue tin if you have one, is ideal.
  • Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and place on a floured surface.
  • Roll out thinly (7-8mm) and line the prepared tin, gently easing the pastry into the sides.
  • Let the excess pastry hang over the sides of the tin for now.
  • Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork and put the lined tin back into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the tart from the fridge and trim the excess pastry. Don’t remove too much – allow 3-4cm to overhand the side of the tin – this keeps the pastry from shrinking back into the tin and can be trimmed after cooking.
  • Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beads/beans/rice.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, then remove the parchment and beads and bake for another 5-6 minutes until the pastry is cooked through.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with lightly beaten egg-white and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This seems like a faff, but it will ensure you pastry is both cooked AND resistant to the wetness of the filling until it is cooked. *lying* I deliberately undercooked the pastry on the left in the photo to demonstrate.

Filling
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
250ml double cream
75g caster sugar
5 large egg yolks
60ml white wine [1]
1 tablespoon orange flower water [2]
1 teaspoon rose water [2]
zest and juice of a Seville orange [3]
70g clarified butter – melted

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside to let the flavours mingle. It will have the consistency of porridge.
  • When the pastry base is finally cooked, turn the oven down to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Cover the top edges of the pastry with tin foil, to prevent them from burning.
  • Pour the filling into the cooked pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. There should be a slight joggle to the middle of the tart, but nothing too fluid.
  • Set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
  • When cold, trim off the excess pastry, remove from the tin and place on a serving plate.
  • Eat slightly warm or at room temperature. Alternatively (and my own personal preference) chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

[1] The original recipe called for sack, a fortified wine similar to sweet sherry. You could use sherry, madeira even marsala if you like. Whilst I love the flavours of all three, I thought them a little rich for this recipe, so I chose a regular white wine. A sweet and aromatic dessert wine would also be delightful.

[2]Both of these fragrances are available in the baking aisle at the supermarket. They also tend to vary greatly in strength and aroma according to which brand you use. The original recipe called for equal quantities of both, but the rosewater I use is rather strong. In contrast, the orange flower water that I use is rather lightly perfumed, so I used slightly more. if you use different brands, my advice is to use just 1 teaspoon at a time and taste as you go until you’re happy with the flavourings.

[3] If, like me, you made Seville orange ice cubes with the zest and juice back in January, then all you need is one cube. If not, then use the zest only of a sweet orange, together with the zest of either a lemon or lime for added sharpness.

Banoffi Pie

I’d just like to take a moment to discuss a modern British classic pudding: Banoffi Pie.

Yes, Banoffi. Not Banoffee.

That’s just one of my little niggles regarding this dessert that have ultimately led to this post.

Done properly, to the original recipe, it is a classic, sophisticated and delicious dessert, worthy of a dinner party.

But it rarely IS done properly and, over the years, I’ve seen it churned out on television in worse and worse variations, until this past week when I saw an absolute shocker and so I was propelled into making this post just to set the record straight if nothing else.

I’m convinced that the fatty, over-sweetened mess that Banoffi Pie has evolved into, puts off a lot of people, which is a shame. Hopefully, if they can be persuaded to try it as it was originally conceived, they might just become fans.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how Banoffi Pie came into being, and one of the co-creators has also published online the back-story as well as his original recipe.

Even though I am a fan of the original recipe, I’m going to change it a little.

I know, I know……I realise I’ve just spent three paragraphs banging on about people changing recipes, but in my head this is ALLOWED – because in the past I have actually eaten original recipe Banoffi Pie. Over the years I’ve developed a personal rule of first trying a recipe in it’s original form, out of respect to the original author. That done, you can tweak it how you like, but make it their way first. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results.

Once you’ve tried the original recipe too, you can pop back and we’ll carry on.

Back already? Excellent.

Before we begin, lets just have a quick whizz around the components, which gives me the opportunity to bang on about those too:

Pastry Base: Yes, contrary to popular belief, the original recipe called for a sweet, shortcrust pastry, which is actually ideal for this dessert. We’re going to draw a discrete veil over the crushed biscuit-and-butter and (my personal bête-noir) chocolate-biscuit-and-melted-chocolate bases, which push this dessert into being sickly. The filling is so rich and sweet, having the dry, crumbly pastry is a perfect foil. I actually have a copy of the original recipe published in the second book of recipes from the restaurant where it originated ( “The Deeper Secrets of The Hungry Monk” ) which just specified ‘shortcrust pastry’. This I interpreted as carte blanche to use whatever recipe I liked. What I have for you here is the original sweet cornflour pastry which I adapted to a savoury version for the Cheese and Potato Pies. It has that extra crispness that a regular all-butter pastry lacks.

Filling: I’ve seen some people get very precious about the caramel “I make it all by hand!” they cry, ladling in the butter and cream. However, these caramels tend to be rather runny, and to be blunt, the filling can be doing without all that fat. The original is much simpler and is obtained by simmering unopened tins of sweetened, condensed milk for an extended length of time. This can be done in a variety of ways, but my method of choice is in the slow cooker because you can leave it unattended, and it won’t boil dry. Cover the tins with water, set it on Low and leave it for 8 hours. You can simmer them longer, up to 12 hours, and the caramel will gradually become darker the longer it is left in the water. The caramel in the picture was taken out of the slow cooker after 8 hours. In the UK, the most well-known producer of milk products (Carnation) have recently started selling tins of caramel. These are great if you need a dessert at short notice, but I find the caramel isn’t quite as firm as when you make it yourself, as well as being, to my taste at least, a great deal sweeter. If convenience is what you’re after, I suggest simmering more than one tin at a time and keeping the home-made spares in the cupboard.

Banana: This addition/improvement transformed Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie into Banoffi Pie. The banana is laid on top of the caramel and underneath the cream, NOT on the pastry base. This would make spreading the caramel very difficult, as the sliced banana would stick to the caramel and slide about. And no, they don’t go on top of the cream either, because they’ll just turn brown and become very off-putting. And if you DO put them on top of the cream and then throw chocolate on top to disguise the browning, you’re fooling no-one. One variation that meets with Ian Dowding’s approval is to replace the banana with a thickened apple puree, making an Appleoffi Pie. Made with sharp, cooking apples such as Bramleys, I can just imagine the delicious contrast in both flavour and texture, although I’d probably leave out the coffee from the whipped cream for this version.

Coffee Cream:  Yes, coffee cream – whipped cream flavoured with coffee. So often this is replaced with plain whipped cream, or even vanilla flavoured cream, to the dessert’s great detriment. And, contrary to Mr Dowding’s original, in my opinion the coffee cream should be unsweetened and strong to the point of bitterness. Using espresso coffee powder turns it into a fantastic counterpoint to all the sweetness in the caramel and bananas, as well as lifting the dessert into dinner-party status. Coffee can do that. It’s almost as if it’s status as a grown-up flavour, confers adult status on everything it touches.

Chocolate for sprinkling/garnish: Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Nellie!? Whaddya doin’? You can’t go introducing a new flavour and shoving it on top of the pie just because you feel like it! Coffee, banana and caramel flavours are plenty busy enough, thankyousoverymuch! If you must sprinkle anything, a light dusting of espresso coffee powder is all the garnish it needs.

Baking Tin: You can make this dessert in any size and shape tin you like. A 20cm round tin, preferably with a loose bottom to help ease out the cooked pastry case, is traditional, but this time I used my loose-bottom rectangular flan tin (13cm x 35cm), which means the finished dessert can be neatly cut straight across in elegant, finger slices and the different layers are clean and clearly visible.

The Original(ish) Banoffi Pie

Pastry
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 thinly.
  • Line your chosen tart tin, easing the pastry into the corners/sides.
  • Leave the excess pastry overhanging the sides and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the tin from the fridge and, now that the pastry has relaxed, trim the excess from the sides.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart tin with a fork.
  • Line the tin with baking parchment and weigh it down with baking beads/rice.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven and take out the parchment and beans.
  • If the edges are already brown, cover them closely with foil and return the tart to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Set aside to cool.

Filling
1 tin sweetened condensed milk turned to caramel, cooled

Unless you’re making a huge (30cm+) tart, then one tin is all you’ll need. Warmed carefully, it’ll spread a long way and a 1-2cm layer is rich enough for a treat without becoming sickly.

  • Open the cooled tin and tip into a small saucepan.
  • Warm the caramel gently until it becomes smooth and pourable.
  • Pour the warm caramel into the cooked pastry tart shell and spread it evenly over the base.
  • Lightly grease some clingfilm with butter and lay it closely over the caramel.
  • Chill until required.

To Assemble
300ml double cream
1tsp instant espresso powder + extra to sprinkle
2-3 bananas

  • Whisk the cream and coffee powder together until firm peaks.
  • Slice the bananas and lay a thin layer over the caramel.
  • Cover the bananas with the coffee cream. I like to just spoon it over, and keep it light and billowy, but if you prefer something more formal, you can pipe it. What you must do, is ensure that all the banana slices are completely covered. Just like the meringue on a lemon meringue pie, make sure the cream goes right to the edge of the tart, touching the edge of the pastry. Any banana left uncovered with start to discolour very quickly, but covered with the cream they remain delicately pale.
  • Dust the top lightly with espresso powder and chill until required.