With the new series of The Great British Bake Off just around the corner, it's something of an understatement to say I'm ridiculously excited at the prospect of the return of all things cake shaped to my telly. Baking has become something of a weekend ritual for me of late (there's something about being in icing sugar up to your eyeballs which is quite relaxing, no?), and I've been getting a bit experimental with my repertoire of recipes of late. In an attempt to prove that pastry isn't all about the dreaded 'soggy bottom', a few Saturdays ago I dug out my Bake Off bible and undertook the challenge of mastering the technical monster that is the home-made sweet tart. The results were surprisingly stress free, so I'm sharing the recipe (and the baking love!), with some handy tips thrown in for good measure:
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
200g plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, cold from the fridge
about 3 tablespoons of very cold tap water
For the filling
100g bar dark chocolate
200ml double cream
2 eggs, at room temperature
icing sugar for dusting
For the pastry:
1) Place your sieve over a large mixing bowl and place the flour and sugar in it, sifting gently into the bowl by tapping the sieve with your hand.
2) Cut the butter into small cubes- the smaller the better. Add to the sifted flour and sugar, coating with flour and gradually begin to cut the butter once in the bowl.
3) Once the butter has been reduced to small pea size, place both of your (clean!) hands into the bowl and pick up a little of the mixture using your fingers. Begin to rub the mixture between your fingers so that the butter is squashed into the flour- this is called rubbing in.
4) Continue with this for a little while, until all the lumps of butter have gone.
5) Slowly add the cold water and stir everything together with a knife. As the mixture begins to clump together, you can use your hands to bring it into a ball shape. If you find that you are left with some dry mix at the bottom of the bowl, then add a tiny bit more water to help everything to stick together.
6) Once you feel your dough has the right texture (not overly wet or dry) and is firm, lightly flatten to a disc shape a couple of centimetres thick and carefully wrap it in clingfilm. Pop in the fridge and leave to chill for about 15 minutes.
7) Once chilled, remove your pastry from the fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface. Add a little flour to your hands and the rolling pin too.
8) Carefully unwrap the dough and place in the centre of the work surface. Slowly begin to roll out the pastry- the best motion to use is forward, back, side to side. If you find your pastry sticking to the rolling pin, then add a little more flour. It's best to try and roll out as quickly and carefully as possible before the butter in the pastry gets too warm and the dough becomes even trickier to handle; you're ideally looking for a round base which is quite thin here.
9) Make sure you have your flan tin or pie dish close to hand. Using the rolling pin, roll the pastry on top of the dish, carefully unfurling so it's just resting over the sides. Making sure your fingers are dry, pop them in a little flour and gradually begin to press the pastry into the corners of the dish, getting rid of any air pockets or wrinkles. Gently press the pastry around the sides too, taking care not to tear it as you do so. If you spot any cracks or holes, quickly repair with any excess pastry.
10) Use a knife to carefully remove any overhanging pastry from the dish- keep just in case you need to make any emergency repairs or want to top your tart as I did.
11) Take a fork and delicately pierce some holes in the base of the pastry case before chilling again in the fridge for 20 minutes.
12) Preheat your built in oven to 190 degrees/Gas Mark Five.
13) Take a square of baking paper and scrunch it up before flattening out again. Once your pastry case is sufficiently chilled, remove from the fridge and carefully place the paper inside so it lines the base and sides. Fill generously with baking beans for blind baking- essential for avoiding a soggy bottom!
14) Place the pastry into the oven and leave for 15 minutes. Once blind baked, use oven gloves to remove from the oven, placing on a heatproof work surface before removing the baking paper and baking beans. Take care as they will be very hot!
15) Pop the empty pastry case back into the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and has a dry texture. Remove and leave on a heatproof counter before turning the oven down to 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4. Pop a baking sheet into the oven to warm.
16) Have a breather over a cup of tea- we're at the halfway mark now!
For the filling:
17) Onto the filling! Take your chocolate and break into small pieces. Add the cream to a saucepan and warm over a medium heat on your induction hob. You only want it to simmer gently- as soon as steam and small bubbles start to appear, remove from the heat.
18) Slowly add the chocolate to the warmed cream. Leave to soften before stirring with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth mixture with no chocolate lumps.
19) Carefully crack one egg into the measuring jug before separating the second- you only need the yoke from egg no.2. Add the yolk to the whole egg before washing your hands and mixing the eggs with the chocolate and cream thoroughly.
20) Remove your baking sheet from the oven and pop the pie dish on it. Slowly pour in the filling before returning to the oven for 20 minutes until the filling is no longer shiny on top. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
21) Remember the leftover pastry from earlier? You might want to make a topper for your tart like I did with it. You may need to return it to the fridge to make it easier to handle, but once cold you can roll it out again and make some shapes. I chose hearts and created a small stencil using a knife. Once you have a topper you like, place on the baking sheet and pop in the oven until golden brown (a little egg wash might help with this). Remove and leave to cool before placing on your tart.
22) If you're using a flan tin, then once the tart is cooled carefully remove and serve on a plate. If you used a pie dish like I did then serve from that- after sprinkling lightly with icing sugar. Eat, share and enjoy!
So there you have it! Although the process has quite a few steps to it, it's actually pretty simple once you get into the swing of things. And the end result is well worth it!
Have you ever tried making pastry? If so, how did you get on?
*This post has been sponsored by Electrolux
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)