A Tale of Two Tarts – #GIrishBO Week 3

Last week I felt the challenge was in my comfort zone and things didn’t go according to plan. This week I definitely felt out of my comfort zone as soon as I saw the theme of the third episode. I don’t like doing pastry and I avoid it if I can. It’s not that I don’t like cooking with it or eating it, I’ve just never had much luck making it. Before this week the last time I had done pastry was for mince pies in December and I didn’t enjoy the experience then.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this Bake Along though was to expand my repertoire so I didn’t want to baulk at the challenge. When Caitriona and Co confirmed this week’s challenge we were advised we could choose to do either a Treacle Tart (as per the GBBO Technical Challenge) or a classic Tarte Tatin (which was the basis for the first challenge in last weeks show). I decided if I ever going to improve at pastry I’d need more practise so I threw myself in the deep end and decided to do both!

I can’t imagine there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t been to Caitriona’s blog but if you haven’t then do take the time to pop along and check out the winners from each week, other peoples efforts and even feel free to join in yourself!
http://wholesomeireland.com/great-irish-bake-off-challenge-week-3/

Tarte Tatin

There wasn’t a GBBO assigned recipe for Tarte Tatin so we were free to source our own as long as it was a classic apple recipe. I went to my failsafe recipe book for all classic bakes Step-by-Step Baking which my Mum and Dad got me last Christmas (Happy 34th Wedding Anniversary Mum and Dad- this counts as your card!). It really is a great book and takes you through, in detailed pictures, every step of nearly every standard baking treat you can think of. I can’t recommend this enough!

I prepped my apples which the recipes recommends you dip in lemon to make sure they don’t go off colour, double checked how I was going to arrange them, melted my butter and sugar and caramelized the apples.

Everything was going fairly well, I was happy with the caramel on the apples. It occurs to me if this dish had become popularised in England or Ireland before France if probably would have been called Sticky Toffee Apple Pie, because that’s really all it is –  the French do always make things sound more sophisticated then they are.

During the apple toffeefication I had made a start on my pastry, the receip here called for a shortcrust style pasty with the inclusion of egg yolks instead of water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. I found it a nightmare to handle. It repeatedly broke up on me and it got bundled up and thrown back in the fridge at several points. I was developing pastry rage!

I resorted to doing what any self respecting single guy in his late twenties does when trouble strikes – I rang my mum. She recommended I used a food mixer to avoid adding heat from my hands and margarine over butter as it isn’t so sensitive to room temperature – I don’t own a mixer and hadn’t any margarine! She did recommend I put it back in the fridge for a lot longer though to get it chilled throughout and to roll it between greaseproof paper. I did both and it did turn out passable, I was happier but not entirely happy with the results. I also think I left it in the oven too long as the pastry is slightly overdone. It’s still edible but mostly because it’s covered by the apples and cream.

I took a little break at this stage still unhappy with pastry as a whole but I knew the Tarte Tatin wasn’t great so I had to press ahead with…

Treacle Tart

The Treacle Tart jumps straight in to the pastry side of the recipe so no avoiding it here. I tired to avoid handling the pastry as much as possible this time and ‘forked’ most of the butter in until I brought it together with my fingers at the end. I gave it a good hour or more in the fridge after which I made no direct contact with it during rolling; doing all the work between two sheets of greaseproof paper. It went better 🙂 I think in the past I’ve been handling my pastry far to much and need to be more hands off…maybe I’ve really warm hands (and a corresponding really cold heart?)

The full step by step and recipe can be found on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_treacle_tart_28524

The filling is really easy and as I bought a pack of premade breadcrumbs it’s even easier then messing around with a food processor and slices of white bread.

I egg washed the pastry for the lattice portion and set about cutting it up. I was taking this bit seriously…if Mary Berry says a 1cm wide lattice strip she doesn’t mean 0.9cm or 1.1cm! This was me in my most ‘GBBO’ moment yet!

I laid out my lattice and using the greaseproof paper I flipped it on to another sheet so it was egg wash side down, I then repeated the move on to the top of the tart so it was now egg wash side up again. I thought this was probably the best way to get it on cleanly without the risk of losing the lattice shape I spent a ridiculous amount of time crafting!

Even before it went in the oven I knew the Treacle Tart had gone much better then the Tarte Tatin but in another ‘GBBO moment’ I barely left the sight of my oven the whole bake time in case I ruined it in a lapse of concentration. The bake went fairly well including avoiding the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’.

I’m not mad about pastry still, this is probably the first ever pastry based bake I’m actually pleased with but I think I’ll try and get more practise in. I’ve left over pasty in my fridge still and roasted a ham and chicken the same day I did these tarts…I think I’ll try a pie some day this week!
Just to finish off – here are a bunch more photos that I’ll leave you with including my official entries in to this week’s #GIrishBO. Please let me know what you think – I’ll be baking and posting again based on the theme of this week’s challenge once confirmed. Thanks for stopping by!