Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Celebrating the Bakewell Tart

Andrew from Spittoon Extra has sounded the alarm, the Bakewell Tart is at risk of extinction! Is this the result of global cooling..err global warming...umm climate change? No, it seems that it's the fault of those "health-conscious" types.

When Paalo found out about this, his English heart almost broke - if there's something that the English could gastronomically be proud of, it was in their ability to produce sugary delights. "You must do something!" he beseeched. Who was I do deny his request?

Reading up, I found that the true origins of the Bakewell Tart were somewhat clouded. It's supposed to been "invented" in the 1860's by a cook who made a mistake when making a tart and instead of putting the jam over the tart put it inside.

There also seems to be some controversy on whether the pastry case is puff or shortcrust and indeed if the jam is raspberry or strawberry. Then there's that British thing they have for calling anything sweet "pudding" - it makes it most confusing when the dessert in question isn't a pudding but a tart! Maybe this might be one of the Bakewell's problems, it's just too confusing.

In the 1869 edition of Mrs Beeton's Book on Household Management she has two recipes for Bakewell Puddings.

The "Very Rich" version uses puff pastry and directs that the jam is spread to a half inch in thickness! This is one of the major differences I've found in comparison to more modern versions, they suggest as little as a quarter cup of jam. For reference, the other version had a crust made simply of breadcrumbs.

So finally, here we have one Bakewell Tart presented in all it's glory - encased in it's real butter shortcrust shell lies a thick pool of sweet raspberry jam that's been smothered in a mix of butter, eggs and almond.


Bakewell Tart

1 portion Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
350g Raspberry Jam
120g softened butter, cut into cubes
120g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs, at room temperature
120g almond meal
flaked almonds
icing sugar, for dusting

Line a fluted pie tin with pastry and let rest for at least an hour. Here I've used a 23x23cmx3cm square tin. Cover pastry with baking paper and fill with weights.

Preheat over to 180°C.

Cook pastry case for 15 minutes then remove paper and weights and continue cooking for another 10 - turn the oven down if you feel that the case if browning too much.

While the case is cooking, prepare the topping.

In a bowl of a mixer, place the butter, caster sugar and vanilla essence and beat until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at the time and make sure they are well incorporated before adding the next. Finally, just gently stir in the almond meal.

Remove the tin from the oven and spread the jam evenly over the base, the heat will make this really easy to do. To get to Mrs Beeton's magical 1/2 inch I would probably have to double the amount of jam used and double the depth of the cake tin too.

Gently scoop out the topping and spread it out over the jam, careful not to disturb that layer to much. Sprinkle over with the flaked almonds and return to the oven.

Cook for another 20-30 minutes or until the topping has set and is golden brown - if you feel it's cooking too quickly, turn the oven down.

Let the tart cool slightly before removing it from the tin.

Dust over with icing sugar and serve warm or cold - with a decent blob of clotted cream.


When serving your very traditional English Tart it's always nice to serve it on wonderful old English patterned plates.

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