Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Raspberry Bakewell Tart

Raspberry Bakewell Tart

Strawberries are undoubtedly the most popular fruit of summer. Juicy and luscious, with their shameless scarlet colour and heady fragrance, they are the Marilyn Monroe of the berry world. At their best, they are indeed a delight but their ubiquitous presence in every supermarket, greengrocer and corner shop from April to October can often bring disappointment, with tastes ranging from somewhat bland to downright insipid. Raspberries however rarely betray us. Their texture is consistently good, never watery or slushy, their delicate flavour sweet yes but tempered with a sour note, subtle, more complex on the palate, Grace Kelly perhaps or Katharine Hepburn.

Raspberries are used to great effect in this recipe. A classic Bakewell tart is shortcrust pastry, filled with raspberry jam and an almondy sponge. This version, based loosely on a Nigella recipe in How To Eat, intensifies the flavours by using almonds both in the frangipane filling and the pastry and providing a double hit of fruit by adding some fresh raspberries on top of the jam. The result is wonderful - light, crisp pastry; rich, buttery frangipane; sweet, tangy raspberry. Pudding perfection.

I'm linking this up to four blogging challenges. The first is the One Ingredient Challenge run by Nazima (this month's host) from Franglais Kitchen and Laura from How to Cook Good Food. Their theme for June is Raspberries and as I love them, I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone's ideas.

One Ingredient June Rasberries

The second is Ren Behan's Simple and In Season Challenge, another blog event that encourages us all to use local, fresh, seasonal produce.

Simple and in Season

The third is Calender Cakes, run by Rachel (this month's host) from Dolly Bakes and Laura from Laura Loves Cakes. The theme for June is Pump Up the Jam. 
Calendar Cakes Challenge
Finally, as this month's letter is 'R' in the brilliant Alphabakes challenge by Ros (this month's host) from TheMoreThanOccasionalBaker and Caroline  at Caroline Makes, I'm sending this as my entry. 


for the pastry
120g plain or 00 flour
40g icing sugar
20g ground almonds
85g butter
1 egg yolk

for the filling
150g fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
3 eggs
125g butter, melted
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
a few drops almond extract
40g flaked almonds

For the pastry, chop the butter and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Take it out and put it into a food processor together with all the other pastry ingredients except the egg yolk. With the double blade attachment, whizz until the mixture is the size of small peas. Then add the egg yolk and pulse until it just starts coming together. Dump out onto a board and form the mixture into a ball, flatten it down a little, wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 mins. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out thinly and use it to line a 21cm round, loose-bottomed tin. Put it back in the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you make the filling. 

For the filling, beat the sugar, almond extract and eggs together. Then pour the melted butter in to the mixture, still stirring. Finally, mix in the ground almonds, beating well to eliminate any lumps. 

Remove the pastry case from the fridge and prick the bottom with a fork. Spread a thin layer of jam over the base and then cover evenly with the raspberries. Pour the frangipane over and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.

Bake for about 40 mins until golden. Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin, then carefully remove the outer ring and leave to cool further on a wire rack. You can serve the tart while still warm although it's good cold too.

Classic Bakewell Tart

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Torta della Nonna - Tuscan Custard Tart

Torta della Nonna

'Grandmother's Cake' is a classic, Tuscan/Ligurian dessert although there are as many different variations of it as there are grandmothers. As it's Father's Day in the UK this Sunday, if we disregard the Italian appellation, this would make a perfect ending for any Father's Day meal.

The tart combines a delicate, thin pastry crust with a thick, wobbly, vanilla-scented pastry cream inside. Pine nuts are sprinkled over the top to give a welcome crunch. My take on it is fairly traditional (bearing in mind of course that I am neither Tuscan nor a nonna) but I add almonds to the pine nuts on top, having tasted one like that in Siena recently. 

As this is completely made from scratch I'm sending it to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge, Made with Love Mondays.



For the pastry
200g 00 flour
100g cold unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
1 egg
grated zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
a pinch of salt

For the custard
350ml milk
grated zest of half a lemon
2 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
25g plain flour

For the topping
25g pine nuts and/or roughly chopped almonds

For the pastry, chop the butter and put it in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. Take it out and put it into a food processor together with all the other pastry ingredients. With the blade attachment, pulse until it just starts coming together then dump out onto a board and bring the mixture together with your hands until just combined. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins. 

For the filling, heat the milk and lemon zest until nearly boiling. While that's happening, put all the other ingredients in a heat proof bowl and whisk together to combine (I use an electric hand whisk or mixer). Whisking continuously, add the hot milk gradually then scrape the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely (not in the fridge though as it tends to make the custard lumpy).

 Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out two thirds of the pastry and use it to line a 21cm round, loose-bottomed tin. Whisk the filling again, making sure it's smooth and spoon into the pastry case, levelling it out with the back of the spoon  Fold over the excess pastry onto the top of the custard. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into a round to cover the filling. Lay on top of the custard, pressing lightly onto the folded-over pastry to seal. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and almonds if using.

Bake for 50 mins until golden. Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin, then carefully remove the outer ring and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Dust liberally with icing sugar before serving. 

Tuscan Custard Tart

Friday, 7 June 2013

Gnudi - Tuscan Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings


Although they may resemble gnocchi, these little dumplings are in fact quite different as they don't contain potatoes. This makes them light and delicious. Originally from Tuscany, they are basically the filling of classic ravioli but without the outer pasta layer hence the name Gnudi which in Tuscan dialect means 'nude'. You don't often find them in restaurants as they don't keep well once they're made but they're easy enough to prepare at home and well worth it. They just need delicate handling - they're so light they're practically little clouds.

The classic version contains only spinach but I like to add fresh parsley to the mixture as well, to give the flavour a bit of a lift. You could add other herbs too - I like the idea of fresh mint or maybe basil.

This post is making its way over to one of my favourite challenges, Herbs on Saturday, soon to become Cooking with Herbs and sporting a lovely new badge to boot! The challenge is created and hosted by Karen from the wonderful Lavender and Lovage.

Herbs on Saturday for June: Cooking with Herbs Challenge - Win a Pot of Culinary Lavender Grains

I'm also sending it to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge which encourages everyone to cook from scratch, Made with Love Mondays.


RECIPE - serves 4

450 g fresh spinach
50g fresh parsley, roughly chopped
500 g ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
70 g flour
100 g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

6 sage leaves
50 g butter

Drain the ricotta of excess liquid by leaving in a colander for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. 

Wash the spinach, drain briefly and put in a saucepan just as it is to wilt, turning it over from time to time so that the leaves on top cook as well as the leaves on the bottom. Allow to cool slightly then chop roughly. 

Meanwhile, mix the ricotta cheese with the flour, eggs and parmesan, stir well and add a pinch of nutmeg,  and season well with salt and pepper. Stir and add the chopped spinach and fresh parsley. Mix everything together thoroughly. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. 

Shape the mixture into oval dumplings, slightly smaller than golf balls. Place gently into the boiling salted water. They are ready when they float to the surface, it usually only takes a few minutes. 

While the gnudi are cooking, melt the butter with the sage leaves. 

Remove the gnudi from the water with a slotted spoon, place in a serving dish and pour over the melted butter. Serve with more freshly grated Parmesan. 

Ricotta and Spinach Dumplings