One of the delights of my childhood was ‘proper’ Bakewell tarts from the corner shop, in a shiny cardboard packet with lurid colour photography. I never lost my love of them, and since being forced into a GF diet by coeliac disease, I’ve missed them (except when I’m in England, where they’re so popular a GF version is available). So today was the day to try and re-create something of the essence of my childhood treat.
The history of Bakewell tarts is long and disputaceous. There was definitely some kind of almond-based pudding or cake being sold in the Derbyshire town of Bakewell in the late 1800s. What the English have come to know as a Bakewell tart, however, is the bastard child of this original. Sweet shortcrust pastry, then a layer of raspberry jam, then a rich almond sponge, fudgy and loaded with eggs, and finally, a tooth-rottingly sweet white fondant icing with a cherry on top. It comes as a large round tart, or small individual ones, the size of a cupcake. The commercial cake brand Mr Kipling is by far the best known and loved of all Bakewell tart producers, but I’ve noticed that over the years, the pastry’s got thicker and the filling smaller…. Here, then, is my tribute.
A round 24 x 3cm pie/tart dish, lined with sweet shortcrust pastry (for heaven’s sake buy it ready made unless you’re a pastry wizard, which I’m not, especially GF. My hands are too warm to make good pastry). Line the base with baking paper and cover with baking beans. Bake at 180C/350F for about 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is lightly coloured.
3 heaped tablespoons of raspberry jam.
2 medium eggs
125g/half a cup caster (fine) sugar
125g/half a cup melted unsalted butter, cooled after melting
125g/half a cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1 tsp almond essence
1 cup well sieved icing (powdered) sugar
Turn the oven up to 190C/375F. Put the caster sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high speed for 15 minutes. The final mixture should be very thick, cream coloured and leave a clear ribbon when done. While this is going on, spread the jam evenly over the base of the part-baked pie shell. Once the egg mixture is thick, thoroughly mix in the melted butter, and then gently fold in the ground almonds and almond essence. Pour this over the jam in the base of the pie shell. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or till the almond sponge is set and lightly browned on top. Set on a cooling rack until completely cold. I couldn’t face the thickness and terrifying sweetness of the fondant icing, to be honest, so I’ve specified a simple glaze: To the icing sugar add water, a teaspoonful at a time, until a thick, glossy paste is achieved. Pour this over the top of the tart, and refrigerate immediately to set. If you’re in the mood for authenticity, it should be topped with a glace cherry…
Excuse me. I have an urgent appointment with my tart…