CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This review is long overdue. I first contacted Nancy Birtwhistle to ask permission to blog on a recipe from her first cookbook, Sizzle and Drizzle, in December last year.  But a lot happened to all of us. Life turned upside down, and it will quite likely never go back to what it used to be. To that normal I suppose we all took for granted. Better late than never, I am sharing today a recipe that feels very special to me. Nancy made it in a certain tent during the Great British Bake Off and I remember falling in love with it the first time I watched that episode. How could I not? It joined chocolate and passion fruit. And she decorated it in a simple yet very elegant way. Instead of making a single, larger tart, I made two individual portions. In isolation times, we have no one to share this type of dessert with, so a smaller portion was the ticket.

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART
(from Nancy Birtwhistle’s Sizzle and Drizzle)

1 tart pan, 9 inch (23 cm) in diamater, preferably fluted edges, loose bottom

for the crust:
125g flour
20g cocoa powder
90g salted butter, cold, cut in small dice
30g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice mixture (optional)
2 Tablespoons egg yolks, beaten

for the filling:
(use half if making two individual size tarts)
6 eggs
200g granulated sugar
100g softened butter cut into dice
200mL passion fruit juice
5 gelatin leaves (I used Platinum)

for the decoration:
1 egg white
100g powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 400F.

Make the tart crust. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and spice in the food process and blitz to mix. Add the cold butter and process until everything is combined, this will take just a few pulses. With the motor running, pour the egg yolks and process until it starts to come together. Stop and gather everything over a plastic wrap. Press into a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry very thin (I like to do it over wax paper and with a plastic wrap on top), then use it to cover your tart pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for 5 minutes more. Trim the edges with a serrated knife, and allow to cool completely.

Make the filling. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water. Mix the sugar and passion fruit juice in a sauce pan, heating it gently until it fully dissolved. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks vigorously, then add the warm juice slowly, whisking non-stop. Put the mixture back in the sauce pan and heat to 185 F (85 Celsius). Be careful and keep whisking, remove from heat if needed for a few seconds to make sure no curdling of egg yolks happen.

Remove from heat, add the drained gelatin sheets, pass it through a sieve. Add the butter, whisk very well to emulsify. Allow the curd to cool slightly then pour into the pastry case all the way to the top. It is better to do this already in the fridge so you don’t have to move the tart around.

When the tart is set, decorate with the Royal icing mixture that you make by whisking the sugar and egg white together for about 4 minutes in a KitchenAid type mixture.  Adjust the consistency to make it right for piping. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used the full amount of dough but made smaller tarts, I find it easier to work with larger amounts and not get into pie dough anxiety as I’m rolling it out and trying to make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan. I halved the amount of filling, so if you are considering making just two small tarts, pay attention to that. Of course, the passion fruit curd is delicious and having some extra hanging around in the fridge is not a bad idea.


Nancy gives two important tips: roll the pastry thin, as thin as you can do it. And transfer the empty blind-baked shells to the fridge to fill them. That ensures you can fill them to the top and not spill over the side as you try to carry them to the fridge. Small details matter. As I was piping the swirls, I transported my mind back to the tent, and imagined Nancy grabbing the piping bag with the Royal icing, taking a deep breath and knowing she had to do as perfect a job as possible, with the cameras on her, and the shiny surface of the passion fruit curd ready and waiting. She did such a beautiful job! No wonder she went on to win the whole thing!

This was absolutely delicious, and I urge you to make it if you have access to passion fruit (you will need 8 to 9 fruits to make the full amount of filling). I have still quite a bit of frozen passion fruit pulp, and it worked well for this purpose.

And now a small overview of Nancy’s book, Sizzle and Drizzle.

If I had to define the book with a simple statement, I would summarize it as “superb baking instruction and tips with Nancy’s personality shinning through the whole book.”  One of the things that was evident from her performance in the show, is that she has  a ton of self-confidence and knowledge. She tested her recipes and was not afraid to stand up to Paul. Just one small example, she defended her method to speed up proofing of an enriched dough using the microwave. To Paul, of all people, the Bread King… And I loved when she was proved right (sorry for the lousy pun).  In the book, she mentioned that her first show-stopping challenge in the Great British Bake Off was making 36 mini-cakes. Everybody had butter over their counters (remember, the recipes are all submitted in advance and they set up the ingredients). Nancy was THE ONLY ONE with margarine. She felt a little “wobble in her confidence” but then said to herself – my cake tastes good. I have nothing to worry about. Guess what? She was Star Baker that week. We should all keep her experience in mind when that inner voice starts nagging us with self-doubt.

Her cookbook was entirely conceived, written, photographed, and published by her. And it has a very nice feature (she calls it “Let me show you”): you get access to videos in which she demonstrates parts of her recipes, by using your smartphone to decode a little bar printed on the pages. Very VERY cool. Here is an overview chapter by chapter with a few examples from each. Every chapter starts with her top tips for success.

BISCUITS AND SCONES. I pretty much would like to bake every single item of this chapter. Her approach is to use less sugar than most recipes would call for, and also keep the dough a bit on the dry side, rolling always in between plastic sheets.  My favorites would be Lemon Shortbread, Spiced Christmas Shortbreads, Brandy Snaps, Rose and Chocolate Macarons (how can I resist those?), Rye and Fennel Thins, Cherry Bakewell Scones,  and Cheese Scones. Every single recipe has the “Let me show you” link available so you can watch her making it. Just amazing!

BREADS. “It is better to over bake than under bake bread.”  Music to my ears. I see so many pictures that people share online of breads that clearly needed another 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven to really shine. From this chapter, I want to bake her Crusty Topped Bloomer (remember Tiger Rolls? this is similar), her Hot Cross Buns, Stromboli, and Yorkshire Teacakes (adorable).

CAKES. “An over baked sponge will have a dark crust on its sides, bottom, and maybe even the top. The perfect sponge should be the same color all over.”  Yes, yes, and YES! Might be my favorite chapter.  Chocolate Fudge Cake (with tips on what to do if your fudge separates), the classic Lemon Drizzle Cake, Pistachio and Raspberry Ripple Swiss Roll, Simnel Cake (on my list to do!), Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes, Gluten-Free Coffee and Walnut Cake (she swears you cannot tell it’s gluten-free), Vegan Lemon Cake. But let me tell you that I baked one of her cakes and will include it here as a teaser. A Coconut and Lime Traybake.  Absolutely delicious!

PASTRY. I lied. This is my favorite chapter. Nancy learned pastry from her Grandma, a huge influence in her life. Her initial description on how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry is worth the whole book, in my opinion. The featured recipe was from this chapter. My other favorites: School Dinners Meat Pie (gorgeous), Courgette Quiche (stunning presentation), Single Serve Whole Apple and Blackberry Pies, Rich Chocolate Tart, Luxury Mince Pies (plenty of tips on how to pull perfect ones, plus her great video tutorial),  Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Eclairs, Sausage Rolls

PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS.  This chapter stretched my horizons a bit, as I am not too familiar with some of the UK classics. I am very intrigued by Steamed Treacle Sponge (it does look great), Nancy’s Christmas Pudding, Eve’s Pudding, and obviously at some point I need to make the Queen of Puddings, as it was a technical I missed because a gingerbread sculpture collapsed and I was shown the exit door of a beloved tent (insert discreet tears). Half Sugar Almond Meringues are also calling my name, as well as Summer Lemon and Elderflower Cheesecake, and a stunning Raspberry and White Chocolate Bundt Cake.

HOME TIME. In this closing chapter, she goes over her way of life, growing a lot of the things she eats, preserving things, coming up with clever systems for cleaning that avoid strong chemicals or store-bought products. Everything with the videos ready and waiting for you.

I hope you enjoyed this little review. Her cookbook was clearly a labor of love form page 1 to page 416. Nancy is an author who wants you to succeed in the kitchen, she wants to make sure you can bake every single one of those recipes without issues. I will never forget her last showstopper challenge in the tent, in which she made a Moulin Rouge sculpture with sugar work. To conceive that was amazing, but to pull it all IN THE TENT, with the “male judge” hovering nearby,  just blows my mind.  So I am thrilled that a person with so much talent decided to share it in a cookbook, and we can all profit from it.

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me permission to share the Passion Fruit Tart recipe, and for your support….

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CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY CURD TART


If you are tired of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, may I offer the perfect alternative? The color of the cranberry curd as you cut through the pie is enough to make your heart miss a beat. Plus, if you prefer a dessert that is not cloying sweet, look no further.  Tartness in the center, subtle chocolate sweetness on top and bottom. Oddly enough, I’ve had this recipe in my files to try soon ever since Helen published it in her blog. We are talking November 2014. I know, what’s wrong with me?  (Please, refrain from answering, it is a purely rhetorical question).

CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY CURD TART
(from Helen’s Pastries like a Pro)

Chocolate Press-in Shell
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of an 11”x1” quiche pan with removable sides in the center only. Set aside. Combine flours and cocoa in bowl of mixer. Mix briefly to combine. Add butter and cut in until very fine. Add sugar and baking powder. Mix to combine. Add egg and egg yolk; mix until it balls up and rides the blade. Remove from the processor and divide in half.

Divide one half into 2 pieces.  Roll one piece into a rope and press it in evenly along one side of the pan. Repeat with the second half of dough.  Overlap the seams and seal well so no seam shows. Press the remainder of the dough into the bottom of the pan. Seal the edges very well so no line shows. Prick the shell before baking.

Bake approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until completely baked. Cool completely.

Cranberry Curd
12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries picked over
1 cup sugar (7 ounces or 200 grams)
2 tablespoons water
5 egg yolks (3 ounces or 85 grams)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces (4 ounces or 114 grams)

Place the cranberries in a rimmed baking sheet and pick over.  Shake the tray to move the berries around.

Place the  cranberries in a saucepan with sugar and water over low heat until the cranberries are very soft and some of them have popped.   Stir frequently as this will be very thick and can scorch. Immediately, puree them in a food processor (by batches if necessary). Puree for several minutes to get the skins as fine as possible. There will be tiny specs of red which is as it should be. If you prefer to remove the skins, strain the puree before proceeding. Add the yolks and lemon juice to the processor and process briefly.

Place the cranberry mixture in the top of a double boiler and add the butter. Bring the water underneath to a boil.   Stir the curd constantly until an instant read thermometer reads 170 degrees. Immediately pour into the cooled crust. Smooth the top. Cover directly with film and refrigerate for several hours or preferably overnight.

Chocolate Cream Glaze
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Bring the cream to a simmer. Submerge the chocolate. Allow to sit for 4 to 5 minutes then whisk gently to smooth the chocolate completely. Remove the film from on top of the cranberry curd. Pour the glaze in the center and move it out to the edge of the curd with an offset spatula.

Refrigerate if using within a day or two. Freeze for up to a month for longer storage.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First of all, I urge you to visit Helen’s site because as is always the case for her blog posts, you will find a step by step tutorial that will guide you through the process. Even if you’ve never baked a tart in your life, her explanations will take you to a happy – and tasty – ending. This was my first time making this type of press-in crust. I normally delegate all things crust (pies and tarts) to Phil, but not this time. My pan was a little smaller than the one she used, so the crust turned out a bit thick at the bottom. With my inexperience, I was a bit insecure to use less crust, not knowing exactly what to expect.  Next time I’ll make sure it’s thinner. Anyway, if you have the right size pan, just follow the recipe exactly.

The color of the cranberry curd is something! I shared a few photos on my Facebook page, and some of my friends were wondering how to get the finalized tart to show the curd, maybe reducing the glaze to a zig-zag drizzle, or putting the glaze underneath the curd instead.  Having tasted it, I think the tartness of the curd really benefits from a nice layer of ganache on top. So the striking beauty of it will have to be appreciated only after slicing. Gastronomic compromise.

This is a perfect recipe for those who don’t like overly sweet desserts. The colors scream end of the year festivities, so I hope you consider making it if not for Thanksgiving, before 2017 says goodbye.

Helen, thanks once again for a fantastic recipe and tutorial…
I am a bit ashamed it took me so long to get to this tart, but better late than never!

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