Chamomile Panna Cotta Tart
This really is a dreamy dessert—sweet, creamy and meltingly unctuous, and the pristine white surface makes the perfect canvas for artistic decoration. The panna cotta can, of course, be made without the encasing pastry but doing so would mean losing the welcoming crunch.
There will be a little of the panna cotta mix leftover, which if set into a separate glass will provide a perfect gluten-free alternative dessert, should one be needed.
SERVES 8–10, using a fluted, loose-bottomed 23 x 3.5cm (9 x 1½in) circular tin
1 quantity Sweet Shortcrust pastry (see below)
For the panna cotta
150ml (5fl oz/²⁄³ cup) milk
4 chamomile tea bags
4 sheets gelatine (I use Dr. Oetker)
800ml (26fl oz/3¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon) double (heavy) cream
200g (7oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
For the topping
a selection of prepared fresh fruits
baked pastry shapes
edible flowers and herbs
ALTERNATIVE & CREATIVE PASTRY
Make and rest the pastry following the recipe below, then line, blind bake and trim a pastry case, using the tips and techniques also found below.
Any leftover pastry can be cut into decorative shapes, egg-washed and baked separately to be used as extra decoration.
For the panna cotta, add the milk and tea bags to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, switch off the heat and allow the tea to infuse for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, giving them a good squeeze before discarding. Soften the gelatine by soaking the sheets in a bowl of cold water.
Add the cream and sugar to the pan of infused milk. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar. As soon as boiling point is reached, turn off the heat. Drain the softened gelatine and pat dry with kitchen paper before stirring into the hot cream. When the gelatine has fully dissolved, pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and allow to cool. Once cooled, place in the fridge, checking and stirring every so often until the panna cotta starts to thicken. The ideal pouring consistency required is that of thick custard.
Once thickened, carefully pour into the prepared pastry case. Any bubbles that rise to the surface can easily be popped by running the flame of a blow torch over the surface, however, this isn’t a necessity, it’s purely for aesthetics. Place back in the fridge until fully set—this should take around 4 hours.
Decorate the tart with a variety of fruits, baked pastry shapes, petals, edible flowers, sprinkles and herbs. When ready to serve, use a hot dry knife to slice the tart perfectly, wiping the knife between slicing. Serve with an extra portion of fruit macerated with a sprinkling of caster (superfine) sugar and a splash of booze, if you like.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
This classic pastry is my go-to recipe for most of the sweet pies and tarts in this book. No alterations are needed from one recipe to the next, other than the quantity needed. That said, if you are feeling experimental, additional flavourings such as citrus zest, vanilla, ground nuts and spices can be added successfully, although do use them sparingly. To overpower the perfect buttery taste that this pastry offers would be a great shame. Personally, I prefer to focus the layering of flavour into the pie or tart filling instead.
One quantity of pastry is enough to line a large circular tin measuring 23 x 3.5cm (9 x 1½in), with extra remaining for small decorations. For a fully covered decorative pie, a double quantity will be needed.
MAKES 1 QUANTITY
230g (8oz/1¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
125g (4½oz/½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1cm (½in) cubes, no need to be precise
50g (1¾oz/heaping ¹⁄³ cup ) icing (powdered) sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
For egg wash – if and when the recipe calls for it
1 egg yolk
Place the flour and butter into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and attach the paddle beater. Mix on medium speed until the butter has been incorporated into the flour and resembles fine breadcrumbs (1). Add the icing (powdered) sugar and mix for a few seconds before adding the egg yolk and milk (2). Continue to mix until a cohesive dough forms (3)—this should only take 30–60 seconds, depending on your mixer. Turn out the pastry onto a work surface—there’s no need for more flour – and bring it swiftly together with your hands, without overworking it (4).
Lay out a long sheet of cling film and place the dough on one half. Flatten the pastry with the palms of your hands, then fold the remaining cling film over the top, fully encasing the dough. Roll out swiftly between the cling film (5) to an approximate depth of 5mm (¼ in), trying your best to keep it in a circular shape. Place in the fridge for at least an hour before using it.
After resting, roll out between two sheets of non-stick baking paper (6)—there’s no need for more flour—and use according to the relevant recipe instructions.
To blind bake, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and place a baking sheet in the oven, unless otherwise stated within the recipe.
Scrunch up a piece of non-stick baking paper, a little larger than the tin being used then unfold it and place it on top of the pastry (6). Fill the case with baking beans, dried rice or lentils, or a mixture of all 3 (7). It is important to fill all the way to the top of the tin, as this will prevent the pastry from coming away from the sides during baking and the extra weight will stop the base from lifting. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then spoon out the beans and remove the paper.
The base of the pastry case may still look a little raw towards the centre, which is fine. Gently prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until all of the rawness has baked, yet the colour is still relatively pale. It is important to check the case for any holes or slight cracks. If any are visible, use the leftover pastry to fill these in carefully.
Make an egg wash by mixing an egg yolk with a few drops of boiling water and use this to glaze the pastry case, making sure to brush both pastry base and sides. Not all of the egg wash will be needed.
Return to the oven for another 15–20 minutes, or until the pastry case is deep golden, crisp and cooked through. Don’t be alarmed if the overhanging edge seems burnt, this will be shaved off and discarded. Allow to cool completely in the tin [before] trimming away the overhanging edge.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Kyle Books.