This nearly didn’t happen.
There were too many things that could have gone wrong, and most of them nearly did. Toasting pinenuts, blind baking a pastry case, the wrong type of honey…
To my surprise, things turned out well, and we had a delicate and delicious dessert, sweet and balanced with a deep honey flavour, a crisp, short pastry base and a subtle nuttiness.
Really quite impressive, but not without it’s traumas. There was a lot of swearing and some banging and crashing along the way.
First, the base. In a food processor, cream together 115g of butter and 100g of icing sugar until light, airy and pale. Add a couple of egg yolks, then 225g of sifted plain flour and a pinch of salt. Pulse the food processor until you’ve got to the ‘looks a bit like breadcrumbs stage’, then add a splash of milk to bring the dough together into a ball.
Shape the ball into a roll, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour or more.
After the dough has rested, use it to line a 30cm tart tin, one of those with a fluted edge and removabe base. The best way to do this is to cut the dough into slices about the thickness of a pound coin, arrange them in the buttered tin and then push the pastry together with your fingers, trimming the edges with a knife.
You could roll the pastry out, but it will be traumatic and, quite probably, unsuccessful.
When the pastry case is ready, prick the base with a fork and put the whole lot into a freezer for at least an hour and preferably overnight. The idea of freezing the pastry case is that it should behave itself in the oven and shouldn’t shrink too much or collapse. You won’t need baking beans or any other such inconvenience with a frozen base.
After a suitable rest period, blind bake the frozen pastry case in a 180c oven for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is starting to take on a golden colour.
Whilst the pastry is baking, toast 200g of pinenuts in a dry frying pan. Do not, not even for one second, take your eye off the ball here. Disaster will strike in an instant here. Keep the pinenuts moving with a wooden spoon all the time. The nuts will turn from a lovely golden colour to cremated within a matter of seconds. Take the pan off the heat at the first hint of any one of the nuts turning too dark, and tip them straight into a bowl.
To make the filling, blend 250g of butter and 250g of golden caster sugar in a food processor until you reach the same state as earlier – light, airy and pale. Transfer the mix to a large bowl and stir in the pinenuts and three eggs, one at a time. Mix in four tablespoons of the best honey you can find and then gently fold in 115g of plain flour and a pinch of salt.
Pour the filling into the cooked pastry case and return the tart to the oven, nudging the temperature down to 170c. Leave to cook for 30 minutes, before removing it from the oven and letting it cool.
As the tart cools, it will shrink very slightly and the tin should come away easily.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and maybe an artistic drizzle of honey and some artfully scattered thyme leaves.
This recipe is adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s. Jamie’s technique with a pastry case is foolproof.