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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day patisserie!

I actually made this ages ago; Easter, in fact. Hence the yellow painted egg down the bottom. But due to forgetfullness and other posts taking priority, this has languished in my photo pile for too long, especially considering how proud I was of it! But what better than Bastille Day to pull out something so obviously French-derived, eh??

I think it was because I had 1/2 a jar of leftover cherries in the fridge (remember those chocolate cherry brownies?), and I was looking for something to make to take to a family lunch. I flicked around a few books and, as often, turned back to my trusty Stepanie Alexander Cook's Companion. It had all the right moves: preserved cherries, ground almonds and few other ingredients. I particularly liked the idea of making up an eggy, buttery, sugary almond paste (a frangipane) to spread over the base of the tart; both for flavour and to prevent the base from getting soggy from the fruit. Another layer gets spread over the top so the fruit is sandwiched between - yum! I've always been a fan of almond croissants, so anything made with frangipane is a big winner in my eyes.

This cherry tart is a simplified version of one from Jane Grigson's Fruit Book - and I simplified it even more by using frozen shortcrust pastry. I didn't have quite enough cherries, so I made up the difference with the only vaguely appropriate thing we had in the pantry (because I'm too lazy to run off to the supermarket after already starting to make something. Improvisation is my saviour!...and my downfall!) which was a tin of prunes. Now don't screw up your nose! Tinned prunes are very nice; and they have a sprightly tartness to their flavour which the dried ones don't. I thought they paired pretty well with the cherries.
I also jacked up the almond flavour with a tiny splash of almond essence. But don't use too much because that stuff is way powerful and can overshadow any other flavour. It makes things taste so damn European, though. As my mum would say, it needs to be added from the top of a tall building!

Yes, this tart tasted really, really good. Quite professional, like something bought in a French bakery, but didn't use too many infredients or require any fussy technique. However, my real pride and joy is that lattice-work. People, check out my lattice-work! Is that good or what?? It looks like something in a book! I was so chuffed I kept shoving the tart in the faces of friends and passing strangers. Next time I'll take the time to make my own pastry (although the frozen stuff was adequte) and I might even get jiggy with the lattice-work. My nan suggested twisting the strips.....oooooh, kinky!

Read on for the recipe:

Cherry, Prune and Almond Tart
Adapted from Jane Grigson, by way of Stephanie Alexander.

2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry
90g butter

90g caster sugar
1 egg
1 extra egg yolk
3 tablespoons plain flour
125g ground almonds
1/4 (or 1/2) teaspoon almond essence
1/2 cup jarred Morello cherries, drained but syrup reserved
1/2 cup tinned prunes, chopped
100g icing sugar

-Preheat oven to 200C.
-Line a 20cm loose-bottomed flan tin with the 1 sheet of the pastry and bake blind for 20 minute. Reserve the other sheet for making the lattice top.
-Reduce oven temperature to 180C.
-Cream butter and caster sugar until pale. Add egg, extra egg yolk, flour and ground almonds to make a paste.
-Spread a thin later of paste over the base of the pastry case. Scatter cherries and prunes over evenly.
-Dab on remaining paste and smooth as well as you can with a knife.
-Cut the other pastry sheet into long strips and cover the tart with a lattice.. Get jiggy and creative if you feel so inspired.
-Bake for 25 minutes until tart feels springy and firm.
-Cool a few minutes, then brush all over with icing sugar mixed with a little of the reserved syrup. Return to oven for another 5 minutes.
-Serve warm or cold.

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  • Talk about straight edges! It's really beautiful, hope your own pastry is too!

    By Blogger Alanna Kellogg, at 7/15/2006 03:24:00 am  

  • mmm, yum, yum, yum! Sounds delicious Niki!! I'll be indulging in a little latticework myself tomorrow, but if past experience is any predictor, my strips won't be nearly as perfect as yours!

    By the way, if prunes are now called "dried plums", what are canned prunes called? Or maybe that's just an American marketing thing...

    By Blogger Cathy, at 7/15/2006 11:51:00 am  

  • Yes, that lattice work is a beautiful thing! I can't remember the last time I made a tart with lattice pastry, but trust me, it was not worthy of a photo!

    I've been meaning to read some Jane Grigson for ages, but haven't gotten around to it. Julian Barnes swears by (and not at) her. Is she that good?

    By Blogger plum, at 7/15/2006 08:35:00 pm  

  • Good grief that's impressive! It looks and sounds delightful...something which will bring a cherry lover like me to my knees! Mmm!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/16/2006 11:40:00 pm  

  • Oh, 10 out of 10 for presentation!

    By Blogger Belinda, at 7/20/2006 08:31:00 pm  

  • Ak - planning to make my own pastry next week. Will let you know!

    Cathy - I think it might just be an American thing. Prunes are still called prunes over here, no matter how they're packaged. I was confused though when my ex told me his mother had a prune tree. I thought he was joking and meant she had a tree where she always forgot to pick the fruit and it turned all dried out and shrivelled, but it seems there really is a species of plum called a prune. Confusing!

    Plum - Jane Grigson seems to be mentioned as an inspiration and reference in every current English cookbook. I've not actually read any of hers (although did flick through one at Books for Cooks recently...) but I think she was very advanced for her time. Maybe not so relevant nowdays? I don't know... But her daughter, Sophie, has a few shows on the Food channel at the moment. I actually find her a bit scary..!

    Ellie - Mmmm....she's my Cherry Pie!!

    Belinda - definitely!!

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/22/2006 05:33:00 pm  

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