It’s time for everyone to meet Priyanka.
Priyanka is the wonderful young woman who comes to my house every other Friday afternoon to take the pictures for this column. She’s a great photographer and genuinely interested in learning how to bake. She’s also greatly loved by our dog, Spike, who is under the impression that she comes purely to play ball with him. Our baking, clicking and ball-throwing sessions are always a good way to end the working week.
Rustic charm: This eggless open pie with a rich filling is the perfect initiation for pastry novices. Photo by Priyanka Parashar/ Mint.
However, Priyanka is unfortunately allergic to eggs, which means week after week she has to stand by and watch a procession of cupcakes, macaroons and biscuits take shape without any hope of tasting them.
It was partly watching Priyanka leave empty-handed every week that prompted me to devise a series of egg-free treats. But then for the first couple of weeks, her services were required elsewhere on Friday afternoons and she missed the flapjacks (www.livemint.com/flapjack.htm) and baklava (www.livemint.com/baklava.htm), both ideal for anyone who has to avoid eggs.
To my great relief (and Spike’s) she was back this week, and thoroughly enjoyed a great big bowl of this heart-warming rustic fruit tart with lashings of cream. I’m not sure, but I think there may have been a tear in her eye—can she please be excused other Friday afternoon duties for at least the next couple of weeks?
Note: I used the last of the Himalayan plums for this tart along with a punnet of Afghan apricots but you can use pretty much any fruit that’s in season. The pastry is a sweetened short crust—simple, but remember to keep everything, including your hands, as cool as possible and handle the dough as little as possible. This pie is perfect for pastry novices—it doesn’t matter how ragged your edges are. This is a “rustic” tart after all—it won’t win any perfect patisserie prizes but it will taste really good.
Rustic Plum and Apricot Tart
For the sweet-crust pastry
250g refined flour (maida)
50g vanilla sugar, or plain caster sugar
125g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
A few tablespoons of iced cold water
For the filling
500-750g plums and apricots
50-75g vanilla or caster sugar—depending on how sweet the fruits are you will need a large baking sheet, lined with baking parchment
First, prepare the sweet-crust pastry. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the butter cubes. With your thumbs and fingertips, quickly and lightly rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture in the bowl resembles breadcrumbs.
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Add one or two tablespoons of the iced water and, with a knife, mix until the pastry starts to come together. One of the secrets of successful short-crust pastry (apart from quick, cool handling) is to use as little water as possible. The mixture should just be starting to bind, but with crumbs still in the bowl. Then with your hands, gently press it all into a ball—don’t knead or the pastry will be hard when baked. Wrap the ball of pastry in some cling film, then leave it in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes.
Prepare the fruit. If you’re lucky and the fruit you’ve bought is naturally sweet and juicy, simply halve the plums and apricots, remove the stones and mix them in a bowl with a couple of spoonfuls of vanilla/caster sugar.
If your fruits are a little more “challenging”, hard or sour, halve and stone them and cook for a few minutes in 2-3 tbsp of vanilla/caster sugar and a splash of water until they’ve softened and sweetened.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. When the pastry has rested, roll it out on a clean, dry, lightly floured work surface. Roll into a rough oval shape about 3-4mm thick. Don’t worry about making the edges even, a crooked edge will only add to the tart’s charm.
Carefully lift the pastry on to the baking sheet. Spoon the prepared fruit into the centre of the pastry, leaving a border of about 6-8cm. Take the edges of the pastry and fold them up over the fruit, pinching together any gaps to stop the juices running out. Brush the pastry with some milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the fruit is tender and the pastry golden brown. Serve as a dessert hot with cream.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Write to Pamela at email@example.com