I’ve never been much of a baker (which you can probably tell by the disproportionate lack of sweet vs savoury recipes on tidymunch) and to be honest, I’d generally rather have a starter than a dessert. I do have a tiny bit of a sweet tooth now and again, though, and at Christmas I like to present a three course menu to you… so here you have this year’s dessert!
As usual, I wanted something a bit “different” but something that also references the traditions and themes of Christmas. Wracking my brains, I figured plum pudding would be a fairly traditional dessert, but with so much food to be consumed in the rest of the day, wouldn’t it be a bit on the heavy side? (One of the reasons I usually avoid Christmas Pudding!) So what about a tart? That could be nice and light, right? I scoured the interwebs, and tarte tartins came out tops…. I found a recipe that included spiced red wine, and that just screamed mulled wine to me (sue me if this isn’t quite accurate :p) and what’s more Christmassy than mulled wine?
Little did I realise that tarte tartins aren’t exactly easy! That’s the bad news… the good news is that even if you don’t get it quite right, this will taste amazing anyway! Go on, give it a whirl, I did, and even although I wasn’t 100% happy with the final outcome, it got rave reviews from six hungry co-workers!
450ml red wine
150g caster sugar
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
grated zest of 1/2 orange
25g unsalted butter
130g soft light brown sugar
1 pack chilled ready-made puff pastry
The original recipe states that this should serve 6, but I got 8 good-sized portions from it… and I’m not one to skimp on my portion sizes!
- A hot hot kitchen on my first attempt at this convinced me to make the glaze a day ahead, so that it thickens up enough. Just chuck the wine, caster sugar, star anise, cinnamon, orange zest, and cloves, in a pan, and bring it all slowly to the boil, giving it a stir now and then.
- Once it’s to a gentle simmer, turn the heat up and leave it bubbling away moderately until it reduces by about half. This seemed to take ages for me (about half an hour).
- When that’s done, run it through a sieve (you can ditch the spices) and leave it to cool to room temperature, before transferring to the fridge overnight.
- Next day, I prepared my pastry first (another lesson from attempt no.1 in the hot hot kitchen). Remove it from the packaging, and leave to rest for 10 minutes, before rolling out to cut a circle about an inch wider than the base of the tart tin you’ll put your tartin in (see what I did there?). Transfer to the fridge.
- Speaking of the tart tin you’ll put your tartin in, it’s best not to use a loose-bottomed one, or you’ll have problems with leakage etc. I used a ceramic flan dish, and gently melted the butter directly in it, on top of the hob.
- Put the oven on to pre-heat to 200ºc (or 180ºc fancy)
- While the butter is melting, halve and stone your plums (ooh err, missus). Stoning them is tougher than I thought!
- Once the butter is melted, sprinkle half the brown sugar over the top. I mixed it in a little to soak up the butter.
- Arrange your plums quite snuggly inside the dish, cut side up.
- Sprinkle the rest of the brown sugar on top, and bung in t’oven for about 20 minutes, until the sugar and butter is starting to caramelise.
- After the 20 minutes, bring it out, and leave to cool for around 15-20 minutes. In this time, I also took the pastry back out of the fridge. If you have the hot hot kitchen issue, leave the pastry in a cooler room.
- Once your plums have cooled, drape the pastry over the top, and tuck the edges in around the plums.
- Cut a few slashes into the pastry to allow steam to escape, and then transfer to the oven for another half hour or so, or until the pastry is golden brown. I’d recommend leaving this as long as you possibly can to give the sugar, butter, and juices the best chance of caramelising.
- Remove from the oven, and leave to cool for five minutes, before
- Putting your serving plate on top, and then quickly flipping the whole lot over. Lift the tart tin you put your tartin in off the top, and voila!
- Serve (hot immediately, or later, cooled) with a table-spoon or two of the mulled wine glaze drizzled over each slice
ASDA are first past the post this week, with a budget-pleasing £10.35 largely down to very good prices on the spices and plums. Interesting times see Sainsbury’s snatch second place at £11.35, rescued from what looked like a certain last place, thanks to an amazing price on the brown sugar.
Tesco just managed to beat Morrisons with their £11.53 vs £11.55.
Now, where to begin?! I’ve had terrible trouble with my pastry 🙁 On the first attempt, I suffered from a very soggy bottom. I think this was due to a combination of my very juicy plums (bake-off innuendo central), the hot hot kitchen melting the pastry a bit, and perhaps not enough cooking time in the oven to thicken up the plum juice a little. On my second attempt, I doubled up the pastry, which resolved the sogginess issue, but that depth of pastry didn’t cook right through… I could perhaps have left it a little longer, but would worry about the outer pastry burning. My recommendation is to follow the recipe as presented above, particularly regarding when to prep the pastry, and the temperature of the room when you do so.
Now you’ll have noticed (maybe) that one of the images shows the plums cut side up (which would have meant cut side down for cooking). This looks much prettier, but I think it contributes to the over-wetness of the tart, as the juices just flow out and prevent the caramel from thickening up. If you cook them cut side up, the sugar on top seems to seal some of the juice in (or maybe more evaporates, or maybe a combination of both) making for a less sloppy end result.
The original recipe also calls for 15 minutes for the first bake, which I increased to 20 minutes to give it that better chance.
The next time I try this, I’m going to cook and drain the plums first. I’ll also cook the caramel separately in a pan, so I can be sure it’s combined properly. I’ll then add this to the tartin tart tin thing with the completely cooled fruit, before proceeding with the pastry as outlined in the main recipe.
Now don’t let any of what I’ve just said discourage you. No matter how this looks when you’ve finished,the taste will not disappoint!
In terms of substitutions, I won’t attempt a fat club friendly version for the slimmers of the world (it’s Christmas!) but you could sub your fruits. Apple or pear are popular classics!
Obviously the tarte can be served with or without the glaze, but it’s definitely worth trying a bit on the side… I’m not a fan of mulled wine, but woweeee this glaze is amaze!
So pastry chefs…. any more tips on how to perfect my plums?