Cakes & Bakes: Prune and almond tart with Armagnac

Slice of home-made prune and almond tart with Armagnac with a dollop of crème fraîche | H is for Home

About a month ago we were watching an episode of Food Unwrapped where they investigated the benefit of prunes in keeping you… ahem, ‘regular’.

The presenters did a little compare & contrast experiment where, each day, one of them drank a glass of prune juice, another ate a couple of plums and the third ate a few prunes. The last proved to be by far the most effective way of upping your fibre intake.

Rolled shortcrust pastry | H is for Home

The programme took a trip to Agen in France which apparently produces the best prunes in the world. That was it, I was straight online to order myself a bag of Agen prunes.

They didn’t lie, Agen prunes put all other prunes in the shade when it comes to taste and size. I’ve begun eating 3 prunes each morning and I can attest that the workings of my alimentary canal are markedly smoother than previously!

Blind baked pastry case | H is for Home

I searched through all my cookery books looking for a tempting recipe to try so as to mix my prune intake up a little. Eventually, I came across a prune and almond tart with Armagnac in Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. I don’t think I’ve not previously posted any of his recipes despite the fact that we love a lot of the food he makes.

Armagnac-soaked Agen prunes lining a pastry case | H is for Home Filling poured over prunes in a pastry case | H is for Home

We’re not big brandy drinkers and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold miniatures, but decided to invest in a bottle of Armagnac for this and future recipes – it’s often called for in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Stein’s instruction is to soak the prunes for an hour prior to using them. However, I think a more extensive soak (overnight / 8 hours or so) would improve matters.

Prune and almond tart with Armagnac | H is for Home

Not that the tart wasn’t incredibly good anyway – believe me, it was! Pairing it with a dollop of crème fraîche really works too.

Click here to pin the recipe for later!

Prune and almond tart with Armagnac
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
For the pastry
  1. 225g/8oz plain flour, sifted
  2. ½tsp salt
  3. 130g/4½oz butter, chilled & diced
  4. 1½-2tbs cold water
For the filling
  1. 300g/10½oz mi-cuit (semi-dried) Agen prunes, stoned
  2. 4tbs Armagnac
  3. 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  4. 35g/1¼oz ground almonds
  5. 55g/2oz caster sugar
  6. 200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
To serve
  1. icing sugar (for dusting)
  2. additional crème fraîche (for serving)Home-made prune and almond tart ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Put the prunes into a bowl with the Armagnac and leave to soak for at least an hour, turning them occasionally to help them absorb the alcohol
  2. Put the flour and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl. Add the butter and work together to the fine breadcrumb stage
  3. Stir in the water with a round-bladed knife until it comes together into a ball
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed briefly until smooth
  5. Rest the pastry in a fridge for about 30 minutes before using
  6. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased, loose-bottomed flan tin (2½ cm deep, 24cm diameter)
  7. Prick the base all over and chill for 20 minutes
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/Gas mark 6
  9. Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes then remove the blind baking gubbins and bake the case for a further 5 minutes
  10. Set the case aside and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/ºF/Gas mark 5
  11. Drain the prunes over a bowl to reserve the remaining Armagnac
  12. Add the ground almonds, egg, sugar and crème fraîche to the Armagnac then beat together until smooth
  13. Distribute the prunes over the base of the pastry case and pour over the almond mixture
  14. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes away clean
  15. Allow the tart to cool before dusting with a little icing sugar
  16. Serve with additional crème fraîche
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Adapted from Rick Stein's French Odyssey
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Lemon curd and jelly tarts

Home-made lemon curd and fruit jelly tarts with a cup of tea | H is for Home

I had a bit of leftover lemon curd from last week’s Pavlova recipe… I also have jar upon jar of home-made fruit jelly in the store cupboard. As someone who hates to waste anything, I thought I would make some simple lemon curd and jelly tarts.

Making pastry tart cases | H is for Home

Whether you’re rubbing in by hand or using a food mixer, the shortcrust pastry is a breeze…

Filling pastry tart cases | H is for Home

…then fill with your preserve(s) of choice and bake. Start to finish in an hour or so. Perfect if you want to rustle up something quickly – or try a bit of baking with the kids.

Cooked lemon curd and fruit jelly tarts | H is for Home

You can leave them plain & simple – or perhaps pretty them up a bit. I garnished the top of the lemon curd tarts with a single blueberry and the jelly ones with a little sprinkle of dessicated coconut.

Adding garnishes to lemon curd and fruit jelly tarts | H is for Home

They’re a good finger food for a party or an afternoon or high tea. They’re simple, inexpensive and delicious – a great combination!

Click here or on the image below to save the recipe for later!

Home-made jelly and lemon curd tarts | H is for Home

Lemon curd and jelly tarts
Yields 24
Cook Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 180g/6oz plain flour
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 90g/3oz cold butter, cubed
  4. 3-4 tbsp cold water
  5. 8tbsp lemon curd
  6. 8tbsp fruit jelly or jamHome-made lemon curd and jelly tart ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Put the flour and salt into a food processor and whiz briefly together to mix
  2. Add the butter cubes and pulse briefly a dozen times or so until you have coarse crumbs
  3. Trickle in the water continuing to pulse until the mixture resembles rough lumps and looks a bit like overcooked and dry scrambled eggs. Add only as much water as you need
  4. Tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and gently squeeze together into a ball without pressing too hard
  5. Wrap & chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
  6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 6
  7. Lightly grease a tartlet tin
  8. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the pastry out thinly
  9. Using a pastry cutter slightly larger than the circumference of a tartlet hole, cut out pastry rounds
  10. Press the pastry rounds evenly into each hole (I use the end of my rolling pin as a tamper)
  11. Fill each pastry case with about a teaspoon of lemon curd or jelly/jam
  12. Bake for 15 minutes
  13. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before attempting to remove them
  14. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack
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H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Rhubarb and custard tart

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.

Incredible Edible rhubarb, peas, onions and chives growing in Todmorden Train Station car park

There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.

Stalks of rhubarb with metal colander

Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!

Measuring jug with eggs, custard powder and vanilla essence

The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.

Making custard

This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.

Pouring custard on tart pastry base

Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.

Sticks of rhubarb in custard

I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.

Cakes & Bakes : French pear tart

Slice of home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It takes quite a few stages to make this French pear tart but it’s well worth the time and effort. If you don’t think you’ll have the time all in one day to do it, you can prepare most of it well in advance and bring it all together on the day you plan to bake & serve it.

Sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home Mixed sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home

You can whiz up the pastry, press it into the tart tin and freeze it… weeks in advance.

I must admit, it has got to be – by a country mile – the most delicious pastry I’ve ever made!

Peeled pears and squeezed lemon

You can cut corners (and time) by using tinned pears or simply omitting the poaching stage if using fresh fruit.

Almond cream in a food processor bowl with bottle of rum in the background | H is for Home

The almond cream can be made a couple of days before and left covered & chilled in the fridge until just before it’s due to be put in the oven.

Almond cream in sweet pastry case | H is for Home

My rectangular tart tin is so large that I had to double up the almond cream recipe and cut the pears into quarters rather than halves.

French pear tart before being put in the oven | H is for Home

The resulting tart is very attractive (not to mention photogenic!) and can be cut so each person gets a neat slice of pear.

Home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It’s moist and sweet – sweet enough to serve with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche or thick Greek yoghurt on the side.

Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home

The perfect bake for a dinner party or daily treat.

Cakes & Bakes: Spinach, cheese & onion tart

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Home-made spinach, cheese & onion tart | via @hisforhome

I bought myself a brand new, fluted loose-bottomed tart tin this week and couldn’t wait to use it!

ball of wholemeal shortcrust pastry

I decided to make a spinach, cheese & onion tart from a recipe that I tore out of a Telegraph magazine a few weeks ago.

wholemeal shortcrust pastry flan case

A couple of spoonfuls of English mustard adds a nice piquancy and depth of flavour.

wholemeal shortcrust pastry flan case ready to be blind-baked

We got six, good portions from the tart which can be eaten either hot or cold.

slicing onions and garlic

It’s perfect for a light lunch with a few salad leaves – and can be made well in advance if you’ve got guests coming and don’t want any last-minute stress.

washed fresh spinach

We had it the following night as more substantial evening meal pairing it with paprika-salted potato skins and mixed salad.

eggs, cream and English mustard

There are all kinds of flavour variations possible using this basic method – bacon, chorizo, smoked salmon, goat’s cheese, mushroom…

spinach, cheese &onion tart

Very delicious and very versatile.

Cakes & Bakes: Honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart

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Home-made honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart

We have some friends that live nearby who are having their kitchen renovated. For the next few weeks, all they’ll have to cook on is a single-burner camping stove.

Honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart ingredients

We’ve been in the exact same position in the past – it’s such a drag! We invited them round to ours for dinner tonight so we thought we’d cook them something that they can’t currently make at home.

Glazed figs before being put in the oven to roast

Justin’s making the main course – chicken breasts filled with a fennel, pastrami and chicken mousse with a spinach and pine nut lasagne – and I’m making the dessert.

Honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart before going into the oven

In keeping with the loosely Mediterranean theme, I’ve cooked a honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart. You can buy ready-made shortcrust pastry to make the base, but it’s really easy to make yourself at home – a 2-minute job… honest!

Honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart before going into the oven

I’ve not made this tart before – I hope it’s a hit tonight!