It was time to bake another cake and this time Mummy and I decided we should try something different. We’d made a few loaf style cakes recently (you can read more about them here and here), but this time we thought we should make a tart – from scratch! Yikes! Mummy has usually been apprehensive about making her own pastry as her previous attempts have had mixed results, but Chef Gerald is always open to a food-related challenge, and there’s no better way to improve one’s skill than through practice.
We wanted to experiment with a nut-based pastry, and the bag of fresh walnuts in the pantry seemed like the right candidate for the job. Based on various pastry recipes we have been reading lately, we decided to use the 3:2:1 formula, meaning 3 parts flour: 2 parts walnuts: 1 part butter, as this appeared to be a safe enough combination to start playing with. A couple of lovely oranges were smiling pretty in the fruit bowl, our favourite biodynamic eggs were back on the menu, and some fresh cream needed using, so we knew this was going to be…. walnut and orange tart!
Cakes can be quite a demanding job, you know – there are all those ingredients that need to be quality checked, then there’s hiding from the blender monster that comes out of the cupboard and makes a lot of noise, and then there’s that agonising wait during the baking process…..
For the pastry case, we used
195 g whole wheat flour
130 g ground walnuts
2 tbsp sugar (we used unrefined coconut sugar)
65 g cold butter, cubed
We start by performing the walnut quality check. Walnuts are really yummy, but in order to get to them you have to wait for Mummy to open them for you. This is quite a loud and messy job, so Chef Gerald usually supervises this while perched on Mummy’s shoulder – when all the hard work is done, he can come down, choose a representative sample of walnut halves (usually 5 – 7) and take a small bite of each – yum! Quality approved! Now it’s time for Mummy to grind them in the blender monster, so Chef Gerald will go play with his toys while this is taking place.
Then it’s time to measure the flour – for accurate measurement, please ensure that weight of monk parakeet perching on bowl is subtracted from total weight of ingredients:
Add the cubed butter to the food processor and pulse until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the dough is starting to stick to the blades. If the mixture is too dry, you may need to add some cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough reaches the desired consistency. Please note that the mixture will look rather coarse and sandy, especially if using whole wheat flour. Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for approximately 1 hour.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until approximately 1 cm thick and large enough to cover the base and sides of a 23 cm tart tin, also allowing for some overhang. Our pastry was too crumbly to roll out, so had to press it into the tin the same way you would do with a biscuit cheesecake base. If you are able to roll your pastry to desired size, then press it firmly into the base and sides of the tin, trimming off any excess at the end. Place the tin in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.
In the mean time, preheat oven to 185 degrees Celsius, then bake tart case for approximately 25 minutes. If using whole wheat flour and brown sugar, the case will turn rather dark during the baking process, however it is important not to over bake as walnuts can burn rather easily. You will know when it’s done, when it has reached an even light brown colour.
While the dough is cooling, make the orange filling. For this, you will need:
75 ml cream
75 g (5 tbsp) sugar (we used unrefined coconut sugar)
1 very large (or 2 medium) orange, zest finely grated, juiced
1 – 2 tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)
1 large orange, peeled and sliced into thin rounds, to decorate
In a bowl or jug, mix 200ml of the orange juice with the orange zest, sugar and Cointreau/Grand Marnier if using, until sugar dissolves. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and cream until well combined. Incorporate the orange juice mixture and then pour into cooled pastry case, then bake at 170 degrees Celsius for approximately 20 minutes, until the custard is set. Leave to cool in tin for approximately 15 minutes, then lift out of the tin, place on a plate and leave to cool for a further 15 minutes. Decorate with orange slices in your preferred pattern, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 8.
Additional Bistro Gerard notes on this tart: if you are not too keen on walnuts, you can substitute your favourite nuts in this recipe – almonds or macadamias should work just as well. Even hazelnuts might be worth a try, though you may need a stronger-flavoured filling (such as chocolate, for instance) if using these.