Baking challenge: petit four and mini pastry challenge (Part II)

These little tartlets were for the second half of the pastry showstopper for the Great British Bake-Off baking challenge I have imposed upon myself. I’m doubly pleased I divided up the entry for this now that I see how long this one has turned out to be.

I made the tartlets about a week after the successful pastry canapes. The requirement was to make three different types of miniature tartlets: mine were raspberry-chocolate ganache tartlets, chocolate and orange-almond tartlets, and a lemon curd. I was inspired to make the chocolate-orange tartlets, with an orange-flavoured almond filling, owing to a log of almond paste sitting in my cupboard which I had bought from Scandinavian Kitchen on a whim when picking up some fresh yeast. I used the same batch of chocolate pastry, from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, for both the chocolate-orange tartlets (the pastry introducing the chocolate element) and the raspberry chocolate ganache tartlets.

The raspberry truffle tartlets were very rich, but the raspberry extract (you could also use raspberry liqueur if you prefer or extract isn’t available) and a sprinkling of freeze-dried raspberries, which I bought from Waitrose (so they are fairly easily available, along with freeze-dried strawberries and mango if you fancy that too), cut through the rich filling by bringing some much-needed tartness to the mix.

The third tartlet was perhaps the simplest, just filled with a low-fat (homemade) lemon curd and decorated with blueberries and more freeze-dried raspberries. The curd, made with a minimal amount of sugar, was tart and delicate. Personally I think I preferred them without fruit to cut through the lemon taste and silky texture, but it did make them look very pretty. I used a slightly sweetened shortcrust but as I could barely taste the sugar, I would recommend leaving it out if you like and substituting an equal weight of flour (to get half weight of fat to flour). I did have about three leftover shells extra which I just snacked on. Whether you have extra pastry left over or not will depend on the size of your tartlet tins – mine were very small indeed, true petit four tins.

My favourite was the lemon curd tartlets, my boyfriend like the chocolate-orange ones best and people at work very much enjoyed the raspberry chocolate ones – so there was something for everyone in the mix there!

Making all those tiny tartlets was a bit of a pain because, for the chocolate raspberry and lemon curd tartlets the tins had to be chilled before blind-baking, and this was a bit of a faff because I only had twelve tins of each of the petit four tins I used and this required me to chill, blind bake, line with pastry, chill etc in batches, so it took a very long time. The chocolate-orange tartlets were maybe the easiest to actually make, therefore, because the pastry didn’t require blind baking.

Incidentally, has anyone been watching The White Queen? I have been catching up and it is as implausible as the reviews all suggest. Everyone is basically a 21st century person in fancy dress, with effectively modern attitudes towards love, marriage and child-rearing; the characters are inconsistent (especially the weepy Warwick daughters); and the actors are forced to spout some truly diabolical dialogue, mostly about generating issue. Also, there is a supernatural element in the show which is, I think, meant to give modern audiences the impression that the women actually have more autonomy and power than they actually wield (answer: not much – it’s all about the baby-making, until they’re too old to bear children, after which they’re a bit more powerful). However, it’s not very intellectually taxing, so I can just about manage it. Also, it was shot in Belgium because Belgium is pretty and more medieval-looking than Britain, which is cool – there are a few Belgian actors and actresses in it – speaking English! Something pretty rare for most Flemish thesps.

Chocolate pastry
Barely adapted (instructions only) from How to Be a Domestic Goddess

  • 175g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 TBS cold water
  1. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt into a bowl and cut or rub in the butter, either using a pastry cutter or by rubbing your fingertips against your thumb until the butter has crumbled into flakes resembling porridge oats.
  2. Beat the yolk and iced water together and mix it into the flour and butter mixture until it comes together. Turn it out of the bowl and pat into two discs. Wrap in clingfilm and chill the pastry in the fridge until required, but at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate-orange almond paste tartlets

  • Half quantity chocolate pastry (based on the recipe above)
  • 200g almond paste (not marzipan)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • the finely grated zest and juice of one smallish orange (any orange is fine really – if it was really important you’d get measurements in mls and teaspoons!)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 tsp orange oil/extract
  1. Roll out the chilled pastry on a surface lightly dusted with a mixture of flour and cocoa powder. This is quite a dry pastry so don’t dust too heavily. Roll out to about 2-3mm thick.
  2. Take your tartlet or petit four tins (I used 3.5cm tins with a depth of 2cm) and very lightly brush a thin layer of the melted butter over the surface of the inside of the tins.
  3. Take a biscuit/pastry cutter. How big this is depends on the depth and size of your tartlet tin. I used a 5cm sized cutter for my tins. Cut out your pastry and press into your tins (I had to do this in several batches as I only had 12). Trim the edges so that they are level with the edge of the tins. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork a few times.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C. Slip in a baking sheet to heat up at the same time. This will help the bases of the pastry crisp up.
  5. Mix the almond paste, beaten egg and orange juice and zest (adding the liquid ingredients to the almond paste makes it softer). Beat in the sugar and orange oil. Add the orange oil gradually and taste as you go, if you’re happy to taste the raw egg mixture. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined.
  6. Take a piping bag and fit it with a large plain tip. Scrape the mixture into the piping bag. It’s easiest to do this by twisting the bottom of the bag so that the mixture cannot reach the opening, then balancing the bag in a cocktail shaker or pint glass, wrapping the top around the opening, so that there is something stable to hold the bag up. Once full, twist or wrap the top of the bag.
  7. Carefully lift the piping bag up, untwist the bottom and pipe the filling into the empty, unbaked chocolate pastry cases until it just reaches the top. Place the tins very carefully onto the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the filling is set. It may be very lightly golden coloured around the edges.
  8. If you have more pastry left over, wipe out the tins of the pastry residue, grease and repeat the process above.

Dark chocolate and raspberry ganache tartlets
Based on and adapted from a recipe from Eggs on Sunday

  • Half quantity chocolate pastry (based on the recipe above)
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 120ml double cream
  • 1 TBS seedless raspberry jam
  • 3 tsp raspberry extract or raspberry liqueur (if using extract, do taste it for the strength. This is what worked for me)
  • Extra butter, to coat petit four/tartlet moulds, melted
  • For decorating: freeze-dried raspberries
  1. Roll out the chilled pastry on a surface lightly dusted with a mixture of flour and cocoa powder. This is quite a dry pastry so don’t dust too heavily. Roll out to about 2-3mm thick.
  2. Take your tartlet or petit four tins (I used 3.5cm tins with a depth of 2cm) and very lightly brush a thin layer of the melted butter over the surface of the inside of the tins.
  3. Take a biscuit/pastry cutter. How big this is depends on the depth and size of your tartlet tin. I used a 6cm sized cutter for my tins. Cut out your pastry and pat into your tins (I had to do this in several batches as I only had 12). Trim the edges so that they are level with the edge of the tins. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork a few times.
  4. Take some baking paper and cut into small squares large enough to cover the tartlets. Scrunch the baking paper up (this helps it fit into the tins better) and fit into the tins over the pastry. Fill up the tin with baking weights, beans or rice  to weigh the pastry down – you will not be able to cook the beans and rice (I have some split lentils dedicated to use as baking weights). Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and slip in a baking sheet to heat up at the same time. This will help the bases of the pastry crisp up. Once the oven is preheated, pop the tins onto the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is cooked and dry. Because the pastry starts so dark, it won’t really change colour. Once baked, remove the baking paper and baking weights. Let cool for about 20 minutes or so until cool enough to handle. Once cool, slide them gently out of the tins and let cool completely on a baking tin.
  6. If you have more pastry left over, wipe out the tins of the pastry residue, grease and repeat the process above.
  7. Once all the pastry cases are baked and ready, it’s time to start on the filling. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat until it just comes to the boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate has melted. Let cool about five minutes.
  8. Mix in the tablespoon of raspberry jam and the extract or liqueur until completely mixed in. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes until no longer steaming hot.
  9. Pour the ganache into a jug with a small spout (you can also spoon it into the cases if you’re not too clumsy, as I am!). Pour ganache into the cooled pastry cases until it just about reaches the top and let cool for about 10 minutes. Scatter the freeze-dried raspberries over the ganache, if using (I highly recommend you do as the tartness offsets the intensity of the filling) and let tarts cool completely at room temperature. These keep quite well for a few days – even the dried raspberries didn’t become soggy and horrible, though they weren’t quite as crisp as on the first day.

Shortcrust pastry

  • 140g plain flour (or 160g plain flour, omitting the icing sugar below)
  • 20g icing sugar
  • small pinch salt
  • 80g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • between 3-5 TBS cold water
  1. Combine the flour, salt and icing sugar, if using, in a bowl. Rub or cut in the butter, either using a pastry cutter or your fingertips (rubbing your fingertips against the pad of your thumb) until the butter resembles large flakes, like porridge oats
  2. Mix in the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing carefully into the flour each time, until the pastry come together. A very few crumbs is okay. Pat the pastry together into a ball, divide into two and wrap each ball of pastry in clingfilm. Chill until required, but at least 30 minutes.

Lemon curd tartlets
Lemon curd recipe adapted from Alice Medrich’s low-fat lemon curd

  • One quantity shortcrust pastry, based on the measurements above
  • 80ml lemon juice
  • 3 tsp finely grated or minced lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 4 TBS caster sugar
  • For serving: blueberries and freeze-dried raspberries (optional)
  1. Roll out the chilled pastry on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Roll out to about 2-3mm thick.
  2. Take your tartlet or petit four tins (I used very tiny fluted tins shaped like miniature brioche tins 5cm across with a depth of 2.5cm) and very lightly brush a thin layer of the melted butter over the surface of the inside of the tins.
  3. Take a biscuit/pastry cutter. How big this is depends on the depth and size of your tartlet tin. I used a 5cm sized cutter for my tins. Cut out your pastry and press into your tins (I had to do this in several batches as I only had 12). Trim the edges so that they are level with the edge of the tins. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork a few times.
  4. Take some baking paper and cut into small squares large enough to cover the tartlets. Scrunch the baking paper up (this helps it fit into the tins better) and fit into the tins over the pastry. Fill up the tin with baking weights, beans or rice  to weigh the pastry down – you will not be able to cook the beans and rice (I have some split lentils dedicated to use as baking weights). Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and slip in a baking sheet to heat up at the same time. This will help the bases of the pastry crisp up. Once the oven is preheated, pop the tins onto the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is cooked and dry. Because the pastry starts so dark, it won’t really change colour. Once baked, remove the baking paper and baking weights. Let cool for about 20 minutes or so until cool enough to handle. Once cool, slide them gently out of the tins and let cool completely on a baking tin.
  6. If you have more pastry left over, wipe out the tins of the pastry residue, grease and repeat the process above.
  7. Meanwhile, make the lemon curd. Combine sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a (very) small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  8. In a medium (heatproof) bowl, lightly beat the egg. Whisking constantly, slowly stream in the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the egg. Beat for two minutes with a hand whisk. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve back into the saucepan
  9. Cook, stirring constantly, on a low heat, until the curd just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately. Let cool for about 20 minutes before transferring to a small jug with a small spout. Pour into the cooked and cooled pastry cases. Carefully scatter the freeze-dried raspberries and blueberries over the lemon curd before it sets completely, if wished. Simple as that!
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