Is there a nicer way to help raise money for pets in need than throwing a Tea Party?
I don’t think so.
I always had a fascination for tea parties, I used to throw one each afternoon for my dollies, pouring imaginary tea and serving imaginary cakes with my whimsical blue and white Dutch china tea set. At the time I felt I was doing something outrageously exotic but my friends later confessed that they thought it was quite a snobbish ritual, as Italian children usually have a not so fancy “merenda” in the afternoon, no tea involved, just a glass of milk and a slice of sponge cake with some home made jam or some bread with Nutella. Moreover Italian children drink very light tea with a slice of lemon, a kind of yellowish warm water, only to recover from a stomach bug or indigestion and never for the pleasure of it. Oh my, how uncivilized of us !
I honestly think that being in charge of serving tea to comfortably seated people was the psychological trigger that made me want to be an air hostess in the first place (and yes, also travelling around the word, sleeping in 5 stars hotel and going out for dinner with handsome men in uniform might have played a role).
The Blue Cross doesn’t really need any introduction as they have been taking care of sick and injured unwanted pets, finding them new loving homes from 1897. They really are a god send to animals in need and to animal lovers. So immagine my joy when they asked me to bake some goodies to be sold as refreshment at The Burford Centre Tea Party.
I’ll never bake for a better reason, that’s for sure.
I baked a range of different things, but my red fruit tart was considered good enough to be offered as a prize in the raffle so I feel I should share the recipe with all you tea party enthusiasts.
Creme patissiere filling:
g 500 whole milk
g 175 granulated sugar
g 40 glucose syrup
g 25 corn starch
g 25 all purpose flour
g 50 egg yolk
g 50 whole egg
1 vanilla bean
1 finely grated unwaxed lemon zest
Bring the milk to the boil, mix all the other ingredients together into a bowl and when the milk is hot pour the half into the egg mixture and stir. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the milk and bring it back to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat as soon as it starts to thicken. Pour into a cold bowl and keep on mixing until lukewarm. Then cover with cling film and let it cool.
My trick to get a silky smooth custard is to use a blender to stir it when it is on the heat
g 175 unsalted butter
g 150 icing sugar
g 25 whole egg
g 250 type OO flour
g 1.5 salt
1/2 vanilla pod
1 lemon grated zest
g 2.5 baking powder
To make the shortcrust: cream the room temperature butter with the icing sugar first, then add slowly egg, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the baking powder to the flour, sieve it, and when the buttercream mixture is smooth add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until the flour is absorbed, but don’t overwork it as you want your shortcrust to be crumbly, not tough.
Preheat oven to 180°C, and place a rack in center. Roll gently the the dough on a slightly floured surface and line a pre greased fluted tart pan with it. Prick gently with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes. Cover the pastry with oven paper and pour baking beans or a smaller tart pan on the top. Bake it for 15 mins then take it out, remove baking beans and oven paper and let it golden into the oven, same temperature.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling. Best thing would be to brush the bottom with melted cocoa butter to prevent it from absorbing to much moist from the custard, or to fill it last minute before serving, as Mary Berry HRM of pudding would put it: “Nobody likes soggy bottoms!”
Top it nicely with seasonal fruit of your choice, here some grand ideas and if you want it to last for a couple of days you might want to pour some vegetable gelatin or warm clear fruit jelly on it otherwise the fruit will brown and leak on the custard.
Nice to know: creaming the butter makes all the difference in terms of elasticity and flexibility of the dough. So no more swearing when you try to line a tart pan or worse a tartlet mould with a shortcrust that melts and crumbles in your hands.
Hip hip hooray for Fabrizio Donatone, the Maestro (third place at Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in Lyon 2007 with Jessica a chocolate cake that can blow your shoes…and socks off) who taught me this miracle swear-free shortcrust.