Sun, 5 May, 2019
Cherry and pistachio tart inspired by Ottolenghi’s recipe. The base is shortcrust, the filling is pistachio frangipane made with pistachio paste which saves the bother of grinding pistachios – and the outcome is pure baking ecstasy.
I’m a ruthless literacy snob. You may say it’s not important how to write things as long as there’s something important to be told; that I’m after form over substance, that content matters. Fine. But I’m old and grey and in my whole life very rarely have I encountered proof that bad grammar and shocking spelling hide jewels of wisdom, authentic dyslexia notwithstanding.
Bad writing puts me right off whatever the author wants to say. The awful ‘everyone is a reviewer’ tendency has thus caused me to fume and rant, scoff and scowl, and in the end decide I’m not going to pay the slightest attention to reviews. They are either written by morons or by people who don’t understand what it is they are supposed to review: ‘we waited for 10 minutes and left without trying the food; awful restaurant’; I was double booked so had to find another hotel – horrible place!’; and the best ones ‘I bought the book for somebody else’, ‘haven’t used the appliance yet’, ‘arrived shattered because courier threw package over fence’.
Neither do I read restaurant reviews any more. Half are written by people who like everything, the other – by the never pleased. You can rarely find authors who know what they are talking about and that will be mostly reliably good fine dining. Oh I’m a horrible snob.
But there is one bunch of reviewers I adore, trust and admire and that’s the NY Times Cooking audience and FB group. Lovely people and they know how to cook, to bake, to eat and to write properly. I always read the comments to any recipe that catches my fancy and they are invariably insightful, adding value to the original. I sometimes follow the notes more than the recipe instructions, so sensible and relevant are they.
No surprise then that I approached this pistachio tart recipe with caution; the notes all said it was not worth the effort, too time-consuming, in all - no good. Considering the tart was Yotam Ottolenghi creation, whose recipes albeit esteemed, are famously finicky, I was not very confident in the outcome.
Surprise, surprise – and thanks to the noters. Happily they were not at all justified in condemning the tart; it’s absolutely delightful. But perhaps thanks to my tweaks inspired by the comments it turned out so fine (so I like to think). The pastry was said to be too dry and crumbly so I upped the butter content. The processing of pistachios too expensive and troublesome, so I used ready-made pistachio paste (available from various online delis and baking suppliers like sous-chef.co.uk and most certainly amazon.worldwide). I skipped raspberries (unseasonal) and put in glace cherries, adjusting the amount of sugar. And I added more flour to the filling, learning from my bakewell tart testing experience.
Well, bravo, Yotam Ottolenghi! Bravo, NY Times Cooking audience! Bravo (ahem!), Cuisine Fiend! This is one of the best.
pistachio tartServings: 12-14Time: 2 hours
- For the pastry:
- 150g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp.) plain flour
- 20g (1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp) caster sugar
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- zest grated from 1 large lemon, divided
- 100g (7 tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1⁄2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 - 3 tbsp. iced water
- For the filling:
- 100g (1⁄2 cup) raw pistachio paste plus 30g whole pistachios, roughly chopped
- 60g (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- a pinch of fine salt
- 3 large eggs
- 150g (2⁄3 cup) caster sugar
- 30g (2 tbsp.) plain flour
- 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
- 10-12 glace cherries, halved
1. Stir the sugar, salt and half the lemon zest into the flour. Using a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the vinegar and iced water until the pastry starts to come together. Knead briefly, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. If you can’t get the pistachio paste, use 100g raw shelled pistachio kernels and blitz them in a food processor or blender to a paste. Stir in the melted butter, lemon juice, the remaining lemon zest and salt; set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Roll out the chilled dough to a disc slightly larger than a tart or flan tin 23cm in diameter and press it into the tin. Prick the bottom with a fork a few times, cover with a length of baking parchment and weigh the parchment with baking beans or small coins. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the weights and the parchment and bake for further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack.
4. To make the filling, beat the whole eggs in a standing mixer with a balloon whisk or with a handheld mixer until they are almost tripled in volume; about 10 minutes. Keep beating and gradually add the sugar in a slow stream.
5. Fold in the pistachio paste with a spatula until combined. Sieve the flour and baking powder over the batter and fold it in. Fold in the chopped pistachios.
6. Pour the batter into the pastry shell, drop the cherries into the batter evenly (they will sink) and bake the tart for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown, risen and set. Cool completely on a wire rack; the filling will sink slightly as it cools.