Many years ago, I had stayed briefly with a French family in Alsace and along the way learnt how to make rustic Alsatian desserts from their gentle grandmother. She spoke no English and I spoke hardly any French, but bless her, she had really wanted to teach me so learnt I did. Those were the days when my cooking/baking repertoire was virtually nil, but I was a keen student and eager to impress. I therefore absorbed her traditional way of baking by carefully observing her firm, beautifully knobbly hands knead through the dough and memorizing by heart every step of the recipes. Of course, she was babbling away while doing all this and I simply nodded in agreement to whatever it was she was telling me. I remember us both laughing at the absurdity of it all, knowing that we didn’t really understand what the other was saying. However, we both understood food, and that in itself created our bond.
Everything in my Alsatian grandmother’s kitchen was done by hand, there wasn’t a single Kitchen Aid in sight. Oh no. Her massive oven… it was a cast-iron AGA, powered by burning logs! Fast forward many years later, I'm still baking her Alsatian Tart recipes, albeit in my electric-powered oven (phew).
Today, I was reminded of that wonderful time and wanted to honor “grandma” by baking a tropical version of her Plum Tart. I substituted just two of the ingredients: the vanilla sugar and double cream, and in place of those, I used rose sugar and coconut cream. For the fruit, I’d earlier spotted some miniature apricots on the supermarket shelves so I grabbed and used those.
As I wasn’t sure if this updated dish would be a hit, I decided to make them as tartlets in muffin trays instead of the standard pie tin. That way, should there be any adverse reactions to the dessert, it's small enough that people can discreetly spit it into their hankies or slip the tartlets into their trouser pockets without me noticing. Well.
As it turned out, the tartlets were scrumptious. The rose sugar offers beautiful flecks of pink and flavour to the tartlet while the coconut cream makes you think of the Bahamas or Bali when you bite into one. If you ever want to come up with a totally fearless dessert, this is the one!
Rose sugar = dried rosebud petals blended with caster sugar
Can't decide which shape looks prettier.
Miniature Apricot Tarts with Coconut-Rose CustardIngredients:
Makes: 12 muffin-sized tartlets
250g plain flour
100g rose sugar
25g rose sugar
200ml coconut cream
6 miniature apricots, pitted & halved
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Make the rose sugar first by grinding together dried rose-bud petals with all the sugar you need. For this recipe, I used about 15 rosebuds, minus the green stalks. If you happen to make extra rose sugar, keep it in an airtight container for future recipes or to use in your hot beverage.
3. For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then rub in the rose sugar. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and break one egg into it. Knead with your fingers until you get a pliable dough mixture.
4. Roll dough into little balls and press into the base and sides of a muffin or tartlet tray. Prick the base with a fork and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes. If you’re using a standard pie-tin, bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 180°C.
5. For the filling, beat the eggs, rose sugar and coconut cream in a bowl until fully combined. Spoon or pour mixture into each tartlet crust up to ¾ full. Place one half of the miniature apricot in the middle of the custard pool and return tray to the oven.
6. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes until custard is firm. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning tartlets out.