Baking challenge: 24 petit four

This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the showstopper challenge for week two of series two: make 24 miniature sweet tarts.

I was keen to cap off the third and final part of my series two pastry week challenge, but then I stalled. And stalled, and stalled, and stalled. I kept telling myself that it was because plans to see people kept being cancelled or postponed and I didn’t want to have lots of sweet things lying around at home to eat when feeling undisciplined (which is basically all the time). However, I think the length of time it took for me to get around to making these indicates that, although I love pastry work, my heart really wasn’t in making dozens of shop-window-perfect mini tartlets around the busy Christmas period. Further, I chose a really simple recipe for speculoos tarts that probably wouldn’t have won me any kudos were I taking part in the national baking competition itself.

Simple, however, can be good, and I had some of the most positive responses to these tartlets that I have ever had towards my baking. In fact, my friend Tina, who sampled them, immediately went shopping with me to buy the necessary ingredients and borrowed my petit four tins to make them for her boyfriend’s family, who she was staying with over Christmas. Eaten warm, these tartlets have a soft, heartwarming, spicey centre; eaten cold, they are like homely, brown-sugar meringues, with a crunchy, shiny texture.

Speculoos is a Belgian (and Dutch) biscuit classic, as ubiquitous and essential in any self-respecting household as a pack of digestives in Britain. Speculoos are frequently described as spiced, which they are, but they also have a warm caramel flavour and lovely, buttery snap. Obviously I adore them. A more recent addition to the market is speculoos spread, a spreadable speculoos paste to pile on buttery toast, or add to ice creams, or make into tiny, crunchy, sweet tarts, as below.

I think the quantities below could actually make 36 mini tarts – obviously depending on the side of your tins – but eevn though I had filling and pastry left over I was too tired to make more and just capped it at the 24 limit of the challenge, and ate the filling with a spoon. As, I think, Tina did. The vinegar in the pastry made the pastry shells very flaky – in fact, people assumed I had used puff pastry!

Speculoos tartlets
Adapted from Pizzazzerie

You will need 24-36 petit four tins (I only have 12, so just washed and re-used. Yes, this is a faff, because you need to chill them between bakes).

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • pinch fine-grain salt
  • 1 TBS cider vinegar
  • 2 – 4 TBS cold water
  1. Combine the flour and salt 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 vinegar and water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing carefully into the flour each time, until the pastry comes 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.

For the filling

  • 60g white sugar (I used granulated but caster would be fine too)
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBS plain flour
  • 115g butter, melted and cooled
  • 150g crunchy speculoos spread
  • 2 TBS spiced rum (optional)
  1. Mix together all the filling ingredients and mix fiercely with a sturdy whisk until well-combined. Set aside
  2. Roll out the chilled pastry on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Roll out to about 2-3mm thick.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 twobatches 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 8 minutes. Remove the tarts from the oven and remove the baking paper and baking beans, then return to oven for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and dry.
  7. Turn oven temperature down to 160C
  8. Pour in the filling you set aside earlier. I just filled the pastry shells to the top of the tin. Bake at the lower temperature for a further 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool at least half an hour before easing out of the tins.

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