Saffron Bakewell Tart

Saffron is a spice from the Crocus genus of flower.  The flowers grow 20-30cm and each bear up to four flowers.  Each flower has three vivid crimson stigmas (strands).  These ‘strands’ are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and a colouring in foods.  Saffron is generally sold by weight, which as you can clearly imagine, it takes an awful lot of those stigma strands to produce a single gramme of the saffron we use in the culinary world. This makes it the most expensive spice in the world. Currently Iran produces approximately 90% of the world’s production of the saffron that is in use today.  It takes approximately 80,000 saffron flowers to produce just 500 grammes of finished saffron.

Saffron has a hay like fragrance and contains a pigment which gives a golden yellow colour to dishes.  It has also been used to dye fabrics and textiles as far back as the 7th Century and has been traded and used for over 4,000 years.

I was recently sent a sample of saffron to try from the Premier Saffron company who import their hand picked saffron from Iran.

Pairing perfectly with almonds, I re-created the traditional Bakewell Tart to include some saffron, thereby adding a slightly different, but subtly delicious tasted.  Here’s how I did it:

Pastry
225g Plain flour
50g Lard
50g Butter
25g Caster sugar
30ml (approx.) cold water

Filling
5-6 strands Saffron
15ml Milk
125g Butter
125g Caster sugar
150g Ground almonds
75g Ground Rice
2 Eggs
2.5ml Almond essence
45ml Raspberry jam
Flaked almonds to decorate

1. To make the pastry, cut the lard and butter into small cubes and add them to a large bowl containing the flour and sugar.  (I use half lard and half butter to give a ‘short’ crisp pastry, as taught to me by my nan and my mum).
2. Rub them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (it helps to keep the pastry cool and the butter and lard not to melt if you only use your finger tips).
3. Add the cold water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
4. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 190℃, and place an upturned rectangular baking tin in to heat up (this will help prevent your tart from getting a ‘soggy bottom’.
6. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to an even thickness to line a 20cm square tin.
7. Retain the pastry trimmings for decoration.
8. Return the pastry lined tin to the fridge to chill whilst you prepare the filling.
9. Place the saffron strands onto an oven proof plate and heat in the oven for 4-5 minutes until warmed (this helps the flavour and colour release from the strands).
10. Warm the milk gently then add the warm saffron strands.  Stir and leave to infuse for a few minutes. The milk will turn a summery pale yellow colour.
11. In a large bowl, place the butter, caster sugar, ground almonds, ground rice, eggs and almond essence.
12. Add the milk and saffron mixture and beat until well incorporated.
13. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the jam evenly over the base.
14. Pour the filling mixture into the pastry case, over the top of the jam.
15. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and use to decorate the top of the Bakewell Tart.
16. Sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate.

17. Place in the oven on top of the upturned baking tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pastry is cooked.
18. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove the tart from the tin on to a wire cooling rack and leave until cold.

19. Slice and serve with custard or simply on its own with a cup of tea.

The saffron adds a very subtle flavour to the Bakewell Tart and marries perfectly with the almonds.

I was sent a pack of the saffron strands from Premier Saffron to try.  I was under no obligation to create a recipe or to link to their website as a result of receiving the sample.

Mince Pies with a Sweet Cinnamon Pastry

Using the mincemeat I made from mum’s vintage recipe book, I made up a batch of sweet cinnamon pastry and turned out some gorgeous tasting mince pies.

200g Plain flour
5ml Ground Cinnamon
Pinch salt
50g Lard
50g Butter
25g Sugar
30ml (approx.) Cold water

1. Place the flour and cinnamon in a large bowl with the salt.
2. Cut the lard and the butter into small cubes and rub the fat into your flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in the sugar.
4. Add most of the water and mix together with a table knife until a dough forms.  You will need to adjust the water depending on your mixture.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and quickly bring it together.
6. Wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool.
7. Preheat your oven to 220C.
8. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured board.
9. Cut round shapes to fit the cake/muffin tin you are using.
10. Place the pastry rounds into your tin, being careful not to puncture the pastry (the mince pies will stick in the tin if you do).
11. Fill the pastry cases 1/2 way up and place a cut out shape of leftover pastry on the top.
12. Cook for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown (the pastry will be slightly darker than normal due to the sugar and cinnamon content.
13. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool a little.
14. Enjoy with a cup of coffee and perhaps a dollop of my rum butter that will melt through.

Well…. I had to have a bite to check they were ok, didn’t I?

Parmesan cheese Pastry

This is a beautifully flavoured pastry to make as the base for a quiche or for a pasty. With a twist of Parmesan to flavour and enrich your food, just add your imagination and see what you can tantalise your palate with. Enjoy!

200g Plain flour
100g Salted Butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 medium Egg yolk, beaten
35-45ml Cold water, straight from the fridge

The secret to a good pastry is to have your ingredients cold and to work quickly.  Ensure you make it early enough to be able to leave your pastry to rest in the fridge.  This prevents shrinkage in the oven when you cook it.
1. Tip your flour into a large bowl.  Don’t worry about sifting it, you can give it a quick whisk to add some air and lighten it up as well as remove any lumps.
2. Add the cubed butter and, using your finger tips and thumbs, rub the butter into your flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add the Parmesan cheese, and quickly work it through your flour & butter mixture until thoroughly combined.
4. Add the beaten egg yolk and about 35ml of your cold water and mix with a flat bladed knife until the pastry comes together. If required, you can add some more of your water, a bit at a time until the dough starts to stick and form a clump.
5. Tip your dough out on to a lightly floured surface and bring together completely with your hands, then quickly and lightly knead into a ball.
6. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
7. When chilled, remove from the fridge, roll and use as required.
As a variation, when you add your cheese, why not also add:
* 10ml dried herbs such as parsley, sage or thyme for a cheese & herb pastry.
* 10ml caraway, poppy or sesame seeds.  This’ll give it an extra crunch when cooked.
* pinch chilli powder for a little ‘kick’
What will you make?  With ours, my daughter made a salmon and smoked cod flan.  I will share the recipe for that soon.  Until then…. X