It’s been an odd sort of summer so far. Not bad-odd at all; it just feels like summer itself has been a bit elusive this year. Here we are, hurtling towards the dog days of July and no matter how many strawberries or apricots or nectarines I eat, it’s hard to convince myself that it’s anything other than mid-April. I know it’s a cliche to say that every year seems to fly past ever quicker but it’s really, really true.
(NB I may be having some sort of existential crisis prompted by the fact that I’ve just received a calendar invite for my office Christmas lunch).
Every now and then though, there are moments when I think ‘Yes! That’s it! It’s finally arrived! Summer 2014, I am ready for you!’. They’re fleeting moments, for now, but they hold so much promise.
I had resolved to stay away from pastry for a while – I’ve not had much luck with it recently and have spent far too long watching batches of it crack or shrink or melt or just generally misbehave as soon as they go into the oven. I can take a hint.
I’ve no idea what on earth possessed me to try and change my luck on what was, just about, the hottest day of the year. But as I stood there on Friday afternoon, the sun streaming in and the kitchen windows wide open, topping and tailing gooseberries while my pastry recovered in the freezer from the effects of my hot and sticky hands, it did sort of feel a bit like proper summer.
Gooseberries are, I think, the most summer-y of fruits. If I want raspberries or apricots or peaches in mid-December, then I can usually find a pale imitation in the supermarket, flown in from southern Europe or Africa or grown somewhere in an industrial hot house. I don’t tend to bother with them but there is clearly a market there. There doesn’t, however, seem to be much of a market for out-of-season gooseberries and so their appearance in late May/early June always provokes a little squeal of excitement.
Now that we’re slightly later in the season and the gooseberries are slightly sweeter, I’m not adverse to eating them raw but they do really shine when cooked down with a splash of water and a touch of sugar. The resulting compote has a myriad of uses, not least being swirled through my morning bowl of yoghurt and granola, but I think these little bakewell tarts might be the best use I’ve found for it so far.
Happy summer all!
I love gooseberries but they are a very seasonal fruit and not that widely available, particularly outside Europe. They are so bright and sour though that they work wonderfully in these tarts, nestled under some lemon-scented frangipane and encased in sweet, buttery pastry. Rhubarb would be a good alternative if you can't get gooseberries. Really, any fruit would work but you'll want to play with the sugar level so that the whole thing doesn't end up too sweet.
- 250g (10 oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- A splash of water
- 60g (1/2 cup) rice flour
- 30g (1/4 cup) corn flour
- 25g (1/4 cup) ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 55g (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 beaten egg (reserve the other half for the filling)
- A splash of cold water, if needed
- 55g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 55g (1/4 cup) unrefined caster/granulated sugar
- 1/2 beaten egg (leftover from the pastry)
- 55g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- Flaked almonds, to decorate
- First of all, make the gooseberry compote by placing the gooseberries, a little sugar and a splash of water into a small pan over over low-medium heat. Cook the gooseberries for 20 minutes or so until they have started to break down and gone a bit sludgy. Taste the compote to see if it needs a touch more sugar (gooseberries at this time of year don't need much and you want something pleasingly tart to contrast with the sweet pastry and filling). Set the compote aside until cool. It can be made the day before if you like.
- To make the tarts, lightly grease a 12 hole cupcake or muffin tin. Place the rice flour, ground almonds and corn flour in a food processor with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles (large) breadcrumbs. Add the 1/2 egg and a tablespoon of water and pulse again until the mixture starts to clump together (you may need a touch more water). Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together with your hands. You can, clearly, make the pastry by hand if you'd rather.
- Roll the pastry out thinly and cut out 12 circles approximately 4 inches across. Place each circle of pastry in a hole of the muffin tin and gently press it down and to the edges. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife. Place the pastry cases in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan 170C). Beat together the butter and sugar for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the 1/2 egg, continuing to beat all the time. Fold through the ground almonds and lemon zest.
- Remove the pastry cases from the fridge and divide the compote between them. Completely cover with frangipane and scatter flaked almonds on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the tarts are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Adapted from these little bakewell tarts.