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Recipes: Bakewell Tart

Bakewell in Derbyshire is a pretty market town in the Peak District National Park, about ten miles to the south west of Sheffield . A lovely destination for many reasons, Bakewell is famous for two in particular: the well dressings that take place at the end of June; and its eponymous tarts and puddings.

It is generally accepted that the pudding is the original version, dating back to Tudor times and possibly even earlier, and there is something of the medieval nobleman’s kitchen about the ingredients cited for the pudding: eggs, butter, milk, pounded almonds, sugar (possibly honey in the original) and breadcrumbs. Variations on this list include the addition of nutmeg, the use of lemon to sharpen it slightly, and the use of preserved fruit on top of pastry to make a very luxurious pudding indeed.

The puddings sold locally in Bakewell are a real treat for those of us who enjoy a proper British end to a meal, right up there in the pantheon with Roly-Poly Pudding, Sussex Pond Pudding , treacle sponge and Banbury Cakes . They are moist, suitably filling, and deceptively simple – to get the right consistency is an art. The wonderful Jane Grigson pooh-poohed the idea of using almonds, believing the filling should be a rich custard (and some of the puddings in Bakewell are closer to a heavy custard as she indicates).

The tart uses a shortcrust pastry base, spread with strawberry jam – though other preserves have been used – in turn covered with a mix of eggs, almonds, butter and sugar that when baked should remain moist and light, rising in a mound to leave a peak higher than the surrounding crust. Some cookbooks offer the use of puff-pastry as the base, but that seems like a later experiment.

There are several stories about the origin of the Bakewell tart as opposed to the pudding, though the veracity of them is perhaps open to question. The Bakewell Tart and Coffee House claims to be the source of the product, offering as the story of its genesis the tale of Mrs Greaves, landlady in the 1820s of what is now the Rutland Arms , whose unsupervised and inexperienced servant erroneously put the jam on the pastry base, rather than on top of the eggy mixture. Mrs Greaves, who was busy entertaining, served it anyway and the rest is history, or at least one take on it. Another version has a nobleman in the 1860s ordering a jam tart, the layers again going on in the wrong order in the haste to serve him, though the date is very much open to doubt given Eliza Acton gave a recipe for it more than a decade previously. The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop is a good place to learn about the product, and consider its history while of course eating one. Sadly the name Bakewell does not refer to the baker’s art, but is a corruption of the words bad, or bath, and kwell, or source, referring to the many wells that used to flow in the area.

 

BAKEWELL TART RECIPE


Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry
  • 175g/6oz plain flour

  • 75g/2½oz chilled butter

  • 2-3 tbsp cold water

For the filling
  • 1 tbsp raspberry jam

  • 125g/4½oz butter

  • 125g/4½oz caster sugar

  • 125g/4½oz ground almonds

  • 1 free-range egg, beaten

  • ½ tsp almond extract

  • 50g/1¾oz flaked almonds

For the icing
  • 80g/2¾oz icing sugar

  • 2½ tsp cold water

Preparation method

  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm/8in flan tin. Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).
  4. Line the pastry case with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.
  5. For the filing, spread the base of the flan generously with raspberry jam.
  6. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.
  8. Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in cold water and transfer to a piping bag.
  9. Once you have removed the tart from the oven, pipe the icing over the top, giving an informal zig zag effect.

Summer Trips: Hiking in The Peak District

I just wanted to share a few photos from a recent trip to the Peak District.

It’s Great Britain’s first national park, designated as such on 17th April 1951. It is 555 square miles of outstanding natural beauty in central to northern England, covering areas of Derbyshire to the south and West Yorkshire in the north by way of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire in between.

It is an area where some of the earliest signs of human habitation have been found. Evidence has been found in caves in Dovedale amongst other areas, and there is a scattering of Stone Age circles and neolithic burial barrows throughout the area. Later, the Romans settled there and evidence is still seen today such as the spring at Buxton which was dedicated to “Aquae Arnemetiae” – the local goddess.
 

 
Speaking of water, the Peak District is the source of many rivers including the Goyt, Tame and Mersey. It is also the location of the Ladybower reservoir which as well as providing water for the population of the East Midlands, was the place that Barnes Wallace perfected the “bouncing bombs” of the Dambusters fame in WWII (pictured below).
 

 
The Peak District is home to more than 38,000 people and at the high points in the season, visitors from cities such as Manchester and Sheffield swell those numbers by more than 10 million each year. They go for a variety of reasons, from visiting attractions such as Chatsworth House and the Blue John Mines, to hiking or fell running up the slopes of Kinder Scout or Mam Tor. Some even go for the festivals and events such as the Opera festival in Buxton or to watch the Royal Shrovetide Football match which is an annual tradition dating back to the 12th Century. Others might visit places such as Eyam which was made famous for its self-isolation in 1665 to avoid passing on the Black Death to other villages, or the villages dotted around and about who take part in well dressing ceremonies in the spring and summer each year.
 

 

 
The art of scrambling takes a while to perfect. It’s a type of climbing that falls between hill walking and rock climbing and is a method of going up ridges and rocky faces. The difference here though is that you scramble up your route with your hands used at all times, as well as your feet in the ascent. Sometimes ropes are necessary on harder scrambles, but usually it’s just you and your body to get you through.
 
Peak District scrambling is all about climbing up and sustaining rock contact all the way up to the summit! The area is great for exploring all its fantastic contorted rock formations and it has many stunning geographical features which can be walked on, climbed on, bouldered on – but the art is to learn when and how to put your hands down.
 

 
As a visitor to the Peak District, you may have noticed we are the home to two very diverse and distinctive landscapes, the White Peak and the Dark Peak. The two areas have different underlying rock types, the limestone of the White Peak giving its name and the gritstone and shale of the Dark Peak. The rocks shape the land, but also determine the type of farming available to it.  Sheep can graze almost everywhere in the Peak District and they do, creating a quintessentially English countryside scene with little white dots littering the lush green fields, complementing the dry stone walls of the White Peak. In contrast, the sheep of the dark Peak are wild and woolly, hardened to life on the moors and fighting for their survival in harsh winters, sheep befitting a Bronte novel.