Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Great British Bake Along: Maple and Pecan Tart

Greetings bakers! You join me on week five of the Great British Bake Off - pie and tart week. Once again I'm baking along with the swiftly dwindling group of bakers, although this time I anticipated the bake by doing my tart last weekend.

At the weekend I did something I have not done for a long time and actually followed a recipe to the letter.

Well, nearly.

With a housewarming party to go to, I wanted to make something that was fairly easy and travelled well. Only then, of course, I had to go and complicate it.

This is what my finished pecan tart looked like:

Unfortunately, by the time we drove from Surrey to West Sussex, it no longer looked like that. As the tart hadn't fully cooled before I decorated it with the cream and caramel shards, the cream melted during the car journey and went all over the car seat.

And my sister's skirt, not that she went on about it or anything (she did).

So if you decide to make this tart, definitely leave it to cool fully and completely if you're going to put cream on it. I should have, but I was pushed for time and even a while in the fridge didn't chill the tart enough.

Anyway, apart from the addition of the ill-fated cream and caramel shards, the only thing I changed about the original recipe (one of Paul Hollywood's) was to swap the golden syrup in the original for maple syrup. This is because I'm obsessed with maple syrup since I went to Canada. I also believe the pecan nut is maple syrup's soulmate and the two should never be parted.

This will serve at least 12 - it's very rich.

You will need:

For the tart:
200g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, cubed
1 medium egg, beaten
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
23cm tart tin

For the filling:
200g pecan nut halves
150g maple syrup
100g butter
125g dark muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten

To decorate:
300ml double cream
100g sugar
100ml water
2 tbsp finely chopped pecans
shallow baking tin, lined with greaseproof paper
piping bag with star nozzle (optional)

1. To make the tart pastry, mix together the icing sugar and flour and rub the butter in with your fingertips to make a crumbly mixture.

2. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water. Make a well in the middle of the crumble mixture and pour in the liquid ingredients, while mixing with one hand until the mixture comes together into a soft, slightly sticky dough. Roll into a ball and wrap in clingfilm, then chill in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface then use it to line the tin. If your tart has a thin, removable base, one thing I find easy is to roll the dough out over the base then lift the base and dough into the tin. Roll a rolling pin over the top to remove any excess dough and using this excess dough, push the dough into every edge of the tin. Then prick lightly all over with a fork to prevent the dough rising in the oven.

5. Wrap the lined tin in clingfilm and put it in the fridge while you prepare the filling - this will prevent any shrinkage as it is baking. Beat together the muscovado sugar, butter and maple syrup and heat gently in a pan for at least 5 minutes until the butter is fully melted and sugar dissolved. Set aside to cool.

6. Remove the tart base from the fridge and scatter the pecan halves over it. Once the filling mixture has cooled for 10 minutes, beat in the 3 eggs.

7. Pour the filling over the pecan halves and put in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the filling is mostly set but still wobbles in the middle and the pastry is a light golden brown.

8. While the tart is baking, prepare the caramel shards by heating the sugar and water in a pan until bubbling rapidly. Do not at any point stir or the sugar will crystalise. Watch the caramel closely until it turns golden brown (the second picture below) - the difference between it being perfectly done and burnt is a few seconds and burnt caramel smells really horrible and will ruin your pans.

9. Pour the caramel over the lined baking tin and scatter the chopped pecans over the top quickly, before it sets. Set aside to cool and once set hard and completely cold, peel off the paper and snap into shards.

10. Take the tart out of the oven and leave to cool fully. I am serious, don't go anywhere near it with cream until it's cool.

11. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and then use to decorate the tart. If you were piping the cream  and kept your cream swirls to the very edge, you could probably manage 12 evenly spaced cream swirls. I was blobbing them with a spoon near the middle and managed 6 more-or-less evenly spaced cream blobs. Stand a caramel shard upright in each cream swirl or blob.

12. Do not attempt to travel to Sussex.

And that's it - rich, fudgy, gooey and all-in-all very good.

Happy baking,


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