Update 5.7.2006: Read Andrew's write-up of Blog Save Our Tart.
The Independent published an article on the last day of May about Britain's food under threat. Apparently Cromer crabs from East Anglia, Bakewell tart from Derbyshire, Kentish apples from South of England, Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs from Gloucestershire, Crimbsy cod from Humberside, blackcurrants from Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Scottish wild salmon from Scotland, Stilton from the Midlands, eels from Somerset and Norfolk black turkeys from East Anglia are all on the verge of duying out and slowly disappearing from the British tables. To rectify the situation, Andrew of Spittoon Extra decided to save the Bakewell tart by organising a one-off blog event, and this is my humble contribution.
Although I had heard of Bakewell tart and seen small cherry-topped versions at my local supermarket, I hadn't yet tried one during my seven years in Britain. Just days after the newspaper article, an opportunity to try one arrived. Together with three Estonian girls, I was checking out various Edinburgh establishment for an important visitor from our homeland (more about it next week), and we ended up at The Scotsman Hotel bar , where I had my first ever slice - and very good one at that - of Bakewell tart. The tart (above) was topped with sliced almonds and served with ice cream, vanilla custard and some fresh blueberries.
My recipe is adapted from Jane Grigson's book English Food. There is some confusion about the name - is it Blackwell tart of Blackwell pudding?; filling - should one use raspberry jam or strawberry jam?; and about the use of almonds in and on top of the cake. Derbyshire pastry makers insist on calling it Bakewell pudding; Jane Grigson uses raspberry jam; although the original Bakewell pudding had no almonds, most popular versions include some on the topping.
Oh, and Mr Darcy? Well, Jane Grigson kindly points out that in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet (alias Emma Thompson) and her uncle and aunt had driven over from Bakewell on a way to Pemberley in Derbyshire, where Mr Darcy's (alias Colin Firth's) estate was situated. Upon reaching a top of the hill, she was very impressed with the view of Pemberley House across the valley. 'Elizabeth was delighted' and soon afterwards realised how much she loved Mr Darcy. Who knows, maybe it was Bakewell pudding and not the view that triggered that romantic realisation?
The filling from Jane Grigson's English Food (quantities slightly reduced)
Sweet shortcrust pastry:
200 grams plain flour
100 grams butter
2 Tbsp caster sugar
4 Tbsp cold water
good quality raspberry jam - I used Waitrose Organic soft set Raspberry Conserve
100 grams butter, melted
3 large eggs
100 grams caster sugar
100 grams ground almonds
Roll out the pastry and line a 20 cm tart tin*. Pre-bake at 200˚C for about 15 minutes, until the pastry is slightly golden.
Spread raspberry jam over the base.
Beat eggs and sugar until you have a pale and fluffy thick cream. Pour in the cooled melted butter, stirring slowly. Fold in the ground almonds, pour into the tart tin.
Bake at 200-220˚C for about 30 minutes, until the filling is golden and looks set.
I served mine with some icing sugar, Greek yogurt and fresh raspberries. I liked the cake (as did my two Guinea pigs), though next time I might try with a layer of fresh raspberries and reduce the amount of butter in the frangipane topping.
* The traditional Bakewell tins are oval with sloping sides and about 7 cm deep.