Brilliant buns and tasty tarts
Article originally appeared in The Irish Times Saturday, December 3, 2011
IN THE 10 YEARS I've been running my catering business, I have found that when it comes to catering for a crowd, clients are often willing to prepare the main course themselves, but may shy away from attempting starters, finger food or desserts in bulk. In the case of the latter, there is no need to fear baking for larger numbers - like everything else in the kitchen, much of the work can be done well in advance and the overwhelming appreciation from the sweet-toothed among your guests will make it worthwhile.
A few readers have mentioned that the mixed peel recipe published in October didn't work for them. This may be because the citrus fruit they used was very heavily waxed. In that case, the peel may not absorb the syrup, so it might be best to use the deliciously flavoured syrup in desserts and discard the peel. It's always best to give waxed fruit a good scrub before use.
Mince pies, tangerine tartlets, spiced frangipane tartlets - one base, three tops
The size of the tartlets you make depends on the occasion, whether it's a large Sunday lunch where a tartlet accompanied by a dollop of cream is the finale, or perhaps you are hosting a fork supper for 50 where a variety of bite-size tartlets would be an easier option for mingling guests. I have based the following recipes on using shallow tartlet trays, 12 holes in each, the holes six and a half centimetres wide by two centimetres deep. If you would like to make tiny tartlets, using a mini muffin tray, make sure your pastry is thin; you want to leave room for the filling.
When making tarts, the quality of the pastry is of paramount importance. The good news is that if you respect the pastry-making process and stick to a few cardinal rules, you can achieve amazing results. Pastry can be made a day or two in advance, all the tins can be lined and stacked in the fridge, and the tartlets can be finished off on the day they are required.
A good pastry should be short (crumbly) and melt-in-the-mouth. When I'm making pastry, I make sure that I will have no distractions, that I have good space cleared in the kitchen, and that both my mental state and my ingredients are cool and collected.
This recipe will line two 12-hole tartlet trays. I use icing sugar as its fine starchiness makes for a smooth and more manageable pastry. The pastry can be made a few days in advance and stored until needed in the fridge.
- 200g flour
- 50g icing sugar
- 125g very cold butter, cubed
- 1 egg yolk
- I tbsp ice-cold water
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
If you don't have a food processor work as lightly as possible using your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. When you add the liquid, pinch the whole thing to make it come together into a dough.
Roll it out thinly on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry into rounds with a scone cutter a little larger than the cases. Line the tin with the pastry and refrigerate until needed.
A 320g jar of mince meat should make a dozen mince pies. When making the pies, proceed with the pastry as described above, reserving a quarter of the pastry for the tops. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut with a star-shaped cutter to fit the tops.
Put a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into the pastry case, pop the pastry star on top, and bake at 160 degrees/gas 3, for 15-20 minutes. When they are cooked, allow them to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, with a dollop of cream.
Mandarin meringue tartlets
This recipe has three different elements, pastry, curd and meringue. Each is made separately and assembled before serving. They can also be assembled a few hours before hand.
For the pastry:
Make the pastry as before and bake the tart shells in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 160 degrees/gas 3, until golden. Allow to cool, then gently remove the shells from the tins and store in an airtight container until needed.
For the mandarin orange curd:
This curd can be made a week or so in advance and kept in the fridge.
- Juice of 5 mandarin oranges
- Juice and zest of a lemon
- 225g of caster sugar
- 125g butter
- 3 egg yolks, beaten
For the meringue:
These little meringues are known as kisses. I always have a stock of them at hand - they're delicious sandwiched together with Nutella.
- 1 egg white
- 120g of caster sugar
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees/gas 4 for five minutes to crisp up the outside, then reduce the temperature to 120 degrees/gas 1, for a further 40 minutes. These can be stored in an airtight container for a week or so.
To assemble spoon a teaspoon of curd into each tartlet and pop a meringue on top.
Spiced frangipane tartlets
This recipe makes enough filling for 24 tartlets
- 75g unsalted butter, softened
- 75g icing sugar
- 3 small eggs, beaten
- 75g ground almonds
- 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
- 2 tsp brandy
- 1 tbsp mixed peel
- I tbsp chopped walnuts
- Pinch of mixed spice
All the scents and flavours of Christmas in one bun. Over the years, I have shared this recipe with people who have come to some of my cookery demonstrations and, without fail, everybody rates them as a huge success. I think it might have something to do with the speed at which they are made, and consumed. This makes two dozen buns in muffin trays.
- 225g butter, at room temperature
- 225g dark brown sugar
- 4 free range eggs
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 225g sultanas, soaked overnight in half a glass of whiskey or brandy
- 125 glacé cherries, halved
Labels: Bread And Cakes