My friend Lesley and I have at least one thing in common: a very inappropriate sense of humour. We laugh as hard and as often as possible, quite often at the most inopportune moments.
Once, in a free meditation session at work designed to de-stress, we were doing neck stretches, turning our heads slowly side to side. We managed to face each other only once and as soon as we made eye contact we were away. We were asked more than once to stop laughing, but it was useless - I couldn't get the picture of her suppressed laughter out of my head. The snorts were unstoppable.
The 'out of order' attitude extends to our nicknames for each other: she's the Old Tart, and I'm the Tartlette. Some might be offended by these name tags, but I guess we're pretty assured of our affection for each other (either that, or we've both accepted the fact we're tarts and have moved on).
So when I was baking for our engagement party, tartlettes made me think of Ms Lesley and our hijinx. She has impeccable taste as well, so they needed to be top notch to pass her test.
Mum had made an unexpected delivery of quinces to our house in the preceding weeks. I love quinces, but am never sure how to use them apart from poaching them to a sweet pink mess. Mum suggested we get more bang for our buck by making quince jelly too. All it required was sugar, water and four quinces. It was a couple of days before the party, so we popped it on late one afternoon and finished up before bed.
My verdict? The quinces were amazing, the jelly not so much. My fault - I left the liquid on to cook around five minutes too long and it became slightly too thick in consistency. Still delicious, it made an excellent glaze for the tartlettes.
There are three other recipes for tartlettes I'll share over the coming days. Tomorrow you'll get a rhubarb and chocolate tart and Thursday will be vanilla and strawberry. This one lasts the longest as it's baked, but all are simple to make, and can be converted to a larger tart if you're in the mood for something less fiddly.
So this little tart is for my favourite tart of all, my Old Tart. I'm sure she'll appreciate this recipe and the fact that I've called her an old tart for all of the world to see. She's funny like that.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
Adapted from Philippa Sibley
75g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
25ml cold water
250g plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten for glaze
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease 20 small tartlette tins well and place on a baking sheet.
Mix butter in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the yolks and sugar while mixing slowly. Continue beating until just combined. Add the flour and salt and mix briefly until the mix only just comes together.
Turn the dough onto a floured workbench and smear across the bench with the heel of your hand to combine the butter evenly. Only do this a few of times - make sure you don't overwork or your pastry will be too tough.
Bring your dough together and wrap in plastic. Place in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes to rest. Once rested, roll out on a floured work surface until around 2-3mm thick. Cut out and place in tartlette tins. Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until just golden.
Store in an airtight container for around 2 days in the pantry, or for 3 months in the freezer.
1 kg sugar
1.5 lt water
Bring all three ingredients to boil together in a heavy based saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 2 3/4 to 3 hours. The jelly will be set when a small dessertspoon of the liquid wrinkles when placed on a cold dish - even a slight wrinkle when pushed gently with your finger means it's done. The quinces will be a delightful deep pink colour.
Pour the jelly into sterilised jars and seal immediately. The fruit can be sliced thinly for your tartlettes.
20g plain flour
60 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Blend the pistachios in the food processor until finely ground. Sift with the icing sugar.
Mix the butter in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the pistachio and icing sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until well combined and smooth. Sift over the flour and fold through lightly.
To assemble the tartlettes, place the shells on a baking sheet and fill with the pistachio frangipane. Top with a sliver of quince and bake for around 20 minutes or until the frangipane has just set. Brush with a lick of heated quince jelly and serve to your favourite old tart.