It’s not really obvious why the picturesque Derbyshire market town of Bakewell (population 3,949 at the last census) should have become known as the home of England’s most famous tart. The dessert that bears its name didn’t even start out as a tart – the “Bakewell Pudding” starts to appear in recipes in the early 1800s (there are arguments as to exactly when) and then morphs into its present pastry-fruit-and-frangipane form around the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps it’s just down to the name.
The ubiquitous mass-produced “iced cherry Bakewell” would not make a fit subject for a blog post. But Nigella Lawson’s classic How to Eat has a fabulous recipe for Bakewell Tart. It may owe rather more to French patisserie than to what you’d find in a pastry shop in the village, but it really captures the Bakewell Tart’s almond-and-raspberry loveliness and has been a favourite in my family for years. I’ve changed a few things – mine is a little less sweet and the pastry technique is slightly different (actually based on another recipe in the same book), which I find makes more elastic pastry that’s less prone to tearing. But if you buy the book and make the original, that will work perfectly well too.
If your raspberries aren’t all that sweet (this is December, so mine very much weren’t), you’ll want some extra raspberry jam or, as I’ve done here, use some raspberry coulis made from raspberries cooked down with a bit of sugar and cooled (I happened to have some left over from a previous dessert).
200g plain flour (preferably OO grade), plus more for rolling
40g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
60g butter, cold
Juice of half a lemon
Put the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds into the bowl of your food processor.
Cut the butter into small cubes (perhaps 5-10mm) and add to the bowl.
Put the bowl in the freezer for at least half an hour.
Remove the bowl from the freezer and blitz to a fine, sandy texture.
Beat together the eggs and lemon juice, add to the bowl and pulse for a short time to blend in.
Pour the contents onto a surface, bring it together into a ball, knead it a few times, flatten, wrap it in cling film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
Grease a tart tin (the quantities here do a 27-30cm tin).
Flour your board and rolling pin; roll out the pastry to a diameter several centimetres larger than your tin, then line the tin with the pastry.
Put the tart in its tin back into the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble it.
The frangipane filling
3 large eggs
180g caster sugar
180g ground almonds
180g butter, melted
Put the eggs into the bowl of your stand mixer, setting aside half an egg white for use brushing the pastry.
Mix the eggs, caster sugar and almonds
When you’re sure the butter is cool enough not to scramble the eggs, mix it in thoroughly
Putting it all together
70g raspberry jam or coulis (omit this if the raspberries are sweet)
Flaked almonds for sprinkling (I used around 25g)
Optional: 100ml or so whipped cream
Preheat oven to 175℃ fan
Prick the pastry base with a fork
Brush the base with your reserved egg white: this helps to stop the jam and/or filling seeping into the pastry with the resulting dreaded “soggy bottom”.
If you’re using the jam or coulis, spread it over as evenly as you can manage.
Dot the raspberries evenly around the whole of the tart base.
Pour the frangipane mixture evenly over the tart base and raspberries. You may need to tilt or shake the tart slightly to get everything reasonably level.
Scatter flaked almonds over the top.
Bake until golden brown, around 35 minutes.
Cool and serve. Whipped cream with a dollop of raspberry jam folded lightly through it makes a nice accompaniment.
It’s time for the bake from my own country. There are so many to choose from: timeless cakes like the Victoria Sponge, regional specials like the Eccles cake or Bakewell tart, seasonal fruit cakes or hot cross buns, tea time favourites of scones or crumpets, or the humble muffin, which even has “English” in its name (everywhere except, of course, in England). But I’ve chosen to do a pastry style that I’ve hardly seen anywhere else in the world: the hot water pie crust, using it to make the classic English game pie. Since it’s coming up to December and people are thinking about Christmas, I’ve gone for a recipe from the BBC with the seasonal twist of cranberries and chestnuts.
Although you can warm up this kind of pie, it’s more often eaten cold as a lunch dish. It’s a fabulous main course for a picnic, although you’ll need freezer capacity since the game season doesn’t generally coincide with picnic weather in these parts. But the same technique should work for a pork pie or other variants.
The pastry-making technique is a bit like choux pastry without the eggs: boil up fat and water together, then quickly combine the flour and mix. As with most recipes for hot water crust, the BBC’s specifies lard, which is difficult to find right now and, in any case, isn’t to everyone’s taste. I used butter and it worked fine. The key is to work quickly when mixing and rolling the pastry, which is beautifully elastic when it’s still warm.
Cranberry sauce filling
150g fresh or frozen cranberries (buy 200g – we’re using the rest later)
50g golden caster sugar
If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
Pour into a bowl to cool
800g mixed boneless game, such as rabbit, venison, wild boar, pheasant, partridge or pigeon
300g pork belly
200g bacon lardons
150g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum packed ones readily available in UK supermarkets work well)
50g fresh or frozen cranberries
½ tsp ground mace
2 large pinches of ground nutmeg
Small bunch sage
Small bunch thyme
Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
Chop the game finely. I went for around 5mm cubes, which gives a fairly coarse filling which is well matched to the size of the lardons in the supermarket packet. But you can go finer if you prefer.
Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
Mix everything together as evenly as you can: it takes a surprisingly long time to get the belly mince evenly distributed around the rest of the filling.
Making the hot water crust pastry and filling the pie
200g butter, plus some for greasing
575g plain flour, plus some for the board
Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
Boil a kettle.
Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
In a small bowl, beat the egg.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
Now work quickly: combine the water and butter in a jug and mix thoroughly. If the butter is taking too long to melt and the whole thing has cooled down, top up the temperature with 30 seconds in the microwave.
Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
Fill the pie in the following order: half the meat filling, all the cranberry sauce, then the second half of the filling. The top should be slightly domed.
Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
Make a lattice on the top of the pie with the strips of dough – leaving gaps (or at least one gap) big enough to poke a funnel through. If you’ve run out, cut off some of the overhanging pastry and roll them out to make up the shortfall.
Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.
4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
300ml veal or chicken stock
Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.