18 November 2010

Jam Tarts

I love cooking but I think if I could only choose one meal to cook for it would be tea (does that count as a meal? I think so). I really don't have a sweet tooth and I think my favourite meal of the day is breakfast (when I can eat or drink anything bizarrely) but there is something decadent about tea that I just can't help getting excited about. So when my parents decided to come and visit us to pick up some logs (long story involving chainsaws and my garden being massacred) and have tea I thought I'd use it as an excuse to get a bit Enid Blighton and cover my table in goodies. I was going to make crumpets but I ran out of time but I did manage to make jam tarts and ginger biscuits.

The jam tarts were something I've wanted to do for ages because I love the ones you get in a packet but there are never enough apricot and those are me and my dad's favourite. As he's not been well and needs feeding up I went on a bit of an apricot bonanza and then managed to eat at least half of them myself. In that first batch I followed a recipe that used icing sugar but I think caster sugar gives your pastry better consistency. I also found that a lot of recipes tell you to use unsalted butter and then add a pinch of salt but I'm lazy and a devotee of salted butter (I won't have unsalted in the house) so I just ignore that bit. So here's my current favourite jam tart recipe which I think is just perfect for rainy Sunday afternoons and also seem to be a bit of a hit in the office.

makes about 16-20

180g plain flour
60g caster sugar
120g butter
2 egg yolks, or 1 eggs yolk and 2 tbsps water

Any kind of jam you want - my favourites are apricot and sweet tip raspberry.

You will need 2 bun trays, a rolling pin and a circular pastry cutter. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5/375F.

1. Sift the flour and sugar together and then rub in the butter. The pastry is better if the butter is cold so chop it up into small squares before adding it to the sugar and flour - this makes it easier to rub in.

2. Add some of the egg liquid and bring the dough together - I do this all with my hands, it's messy but it saves on washing up and you're going to have to use your hands in the end anyway. Use as little of the liquid as possible but remember that you don't want the pastry to be do dry - I find that if I'm using 2 egg yolks (which I prefer) then I use all of it, when I'm using egg yolk and water I don't quite need it all.

3. Make the dough into a flat hamburger shape (making it easier to roll when it's cold), put into a sandwich bag or clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least an hour. All recipes I've read differ on this but I find that after an hour its much nicer to roll and re-roll because the butter is properly chilled. If you are a complete domestic goddess you could whip this up in the morning and have it ready to go whenever you want to make the jam tarts for tea!

Jam Tart dough

4. When you are ready take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface, cut out circles with your pastry cutter and put them in the bun tins.

Partially rolled dough
5. Put the tins in the fridge for 20-30 minutes and then add the jam. Now you only need a heaped teaspoon or so of jam - it's very tempting to overfill them but they'll just bubble over if you do and that means hellish washing up.

Jam Tart Cases
6. Put the tarts in the oven for about 10 minutes but keep an eye on them. I think my oven runs a bit hot so it could be that yours take longer - you want the tarts to be looking golden around the edges and the jam to be bubbling.

7. Take the tarts out of the oven and leave to cool on a rack in their tins. After about 10-15 mins you can get them out of the tin and straight onto the rack. I have a trusty metal spatula I use for this but a round tipped knife would do just as well - they should come out quite easily so you can be gentle. Then they are all ready to be eaten - if you want to be fancy you can dust them with icing sugar but I'm not. I think they are quite sweet enough but as I said earlier, I don't really have a sweet tooth.
Jam Tarts


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