As a baking fanatic my store cupboards always seem to be littered with the leftovers of my previous exploits, be it a handful of dried fruit or the remains of a bag of flour. I am always quite rightfully begrudged to discard even small amounts of any ingredients I've invested in, so it's always good to have a few recipes that only require the bare minimum of each individual component.
Take this tart for example. If I do say so myself it is a stunning creation, with a crisp flaky pastry top/bottom and sweet, sticky and syrupy bottom/top. It is definitely more than a sum of its meagre parts, with no more than 100g used of any of the contributing ingredients, from the handful of dates leftover from a recent tea loaf, to the dregs from a bottle of rum remaining after a night of, well I forget exactly.
As austere as this tart may seem it is a real beauty to both serve and to make. Everything from creating the flaky pastry to the fragrant syrup is a pleasure and such a satisfying way to spend a few hours. I cannot sing its praises highly enough.
Oh and one final thing. You may have noticed this one pays more than a passing resemblance to the traditional French Tarte Tatin. You can call it whatever you like, but as an English gent I am sticking with Upside Down Tart, served not with crème anglaise, but thick custard...
Prep time: 2 Hours
Baking time: 35 Mins
For the pastry
50g Unsalted Butter (Cold and cut into small cubes)
100g Plain Flour
1/2tbsp Icing Sugar
Around 3tbsp of Cold Water
For the filling
3-4 Medjool Dates (Pitted)
50g Unsalted Butter
100g Golden Syrup
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
Demerara Sugar (A sprinkling)
The first job is to make the pastry, which although takes some time is still great fun. Add the cubed butter to a bowl, followed by the flour and icing sugar. With a flat bladed knife gently mix the butter around in the flour mixture, just to coat the butter with the flour. Add the water and keep working with the knife until it starts to come together to a very loose dough. You may need slightly more or less water, but I've found around 3tbsp is usually enough. At this stage get your hands in and bring together. You should find that you have a soft dough with chunks of butter visible. This is a very good thing as it's these pockets of butter than create the flaky finish. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Roll out to a thin rectangle, fold each end towards the middle, then over again in half. Turn by a quarter and do the same again, then pat off any excess flour, wrap again in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. You then need to repeat this process 2 more times, taking care not to use too much flour each time.
When the dough is resting in the fridge for the final 15 minutes you can start on the filling. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas
5 and grab a 20cm solid (not loose bottomed) sandwich tin. If you don't have one you can pick them up in supermarkets or department stores for only a few pounds. Cut the figs into eight and arrange around the base of the pan (you don't need to grease it), then roughly chop the dates and place between the figs, filling any gaps. Add the butter, syrup, rum and vanilla to a small saucepan and leave on a very low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted into the syrup. Give it one final stir then pour over the fruit.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a large circle, slightly larger the the diameter of the tin. You may have a few scraps of pastry left over, so keep those to one side. Lay the pastry over the top of the fruit and tuck in all around the edges. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and place in the oven for around 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and a nice golden brown in colour. Remove from the oven, then carefully upturn onto your serving plate, ready for your by now salivating guests.
One final point, if you do have any scraps of pastry left over, squeeze them together into a small ball, then roll out to a thin rectangle on a floured surface. Dust all over with cinnamon and caster sugar, roll up, and slice into rounds. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle over a little more sugar and bake in the oven at 190C/375F/Gas
5 for around 15 minutes. You'll then have some little pastry biscuits to serve with tea and coffee. Bonus!