Granny’s Birthday Lunch and a Delicious Summer Tart

A few weekends ago was my grandmother’s birthday, and we threw her a big family lunch at my parents’ house. My family is pretty large, so at a family lunch, such as this one, there can be as many as twenty people.

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Obviously the most important thing about the day is the company and the conversation, but the food is really important too! (As is the wine, especially to my grandpa, who took a great deal of care to tell us exactly how old the wine was and where it had come from).

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Catering for twenty is never an easy task, especially when some of them are vegetarian, and thus live on lentils and quinoa, and others are traditional English 84-year-olds who are terribly stuck in their ways and would never dream of eating a lentil.

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Luckily, my mother is a complete genius in the kitchen, and also has the patience of a total saint, so doesn’t mind cooking for two days prior to the event! I tried to help too, of course, because I love any excuse to cook anything. I think most of the time, however, I was probably more of a hindrance than a help!

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I was left largely (but not completely) in charge of dessert. Of course, crumbles (one apple, one rhubard, both with custard) were on the menu (Grandpa’s favourite!) But I also couldn’t resist making this really yummy raspberry and frangipane tart. It’s a crisp pastry shell, filled with a thin layer of raspberry jam, covered in soft frangipane and fresh raspberries and topped with a drizzling of icing.

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It went down a hit (except with my uncle, who has an extremely strong allergy to nuts, for whom it did not go down at all, because I was pretty speedy to warn him against it. Definitely didn’t fancy a hospital run on that day!)

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Of course, there was cake and copious amounts of tea. It was a birthday, after all.

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We were also lucky enough to have the full English sun shining down all day, so, all in all, it was quite perfect.

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Raspberry Frangipane Tart

For the pastry:

250g cold butter

150g plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour, until it resembles bread crumbs. I also do this by hand, purely because I love it, but you can use a food processor if you’d rather. Stir in the caster sugar. Slowly add cold water to the mixture, mixing until it comes together to form a ball of dough. Roll out the pastry and place into a greased pie tin, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

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For the frangipane:

175g butter

175g caster sugar

125g ground almonds

65g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

To assemble:

about 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam

1 punnet of fresh raspberries

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder, and eggs and mix until well combined.

To assemble, begin by blind baking the pastry. Pre heat the oven to 200 degree. Lay a piece of baking paper over the pastry and fill with baking beans, normal dried beans, rice, whatever you have! Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown.

Reduce the oven to 170 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of jam over the pastry base, then pour in the frangipane filling. Press the raspberries into the frangipane. (I did this by hand- kind of messy I must admit! If you have a better way of doing it, please let me know!) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has set and is golden brown.

For the icing:

5 tablespoons icing sugar

2 teaspoons of water (add more or less to get the consistency you want! Keep it thick to retain the white colour)

Mix together icing sugar and water, then drizzle over the tart.

Serve warm or cold and in the sunshine!

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xxR

Croissants

Croissants are one of those things I’ve always been a bit terrified to try making, mainly because its practically a twenty-four hour process and also there seem to be a lot of things that can go wrong!

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But there comes a time in life when one must face their fears, even if these fears are purely based in butter, yeast and a bit of sugar.

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Also, I finished uni on Friday (woo!) so I now have pretty much unlimited time to mess around with such things as butter and yeast and sugar. So croissants were a must.

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Croissants are kind of weird, because they start life as bread (flour and yeast, mixed together). But then, the dough is rolled out, and, as with puff pastry, a horrifyingly huge slab of butter is laid on top. Then comes the fairly painful process of rolling out, folding over, letting rest, rolling out, folding over, letting rest (x3) that gives the croissant its layers. This is pretty crucial, so do not attempt to make croissants in a rush!

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Finally, the dough is cut into triangles and rolled into crescents, then left for one final rise, then baked.

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Mine were (probably) not quite French patisserie quality, but hey, it was a first attempt! And they were pretty delicious for a Sunday morning treat!

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Croissants (for this recipe I looked at lots of different sources, including Paul Hollywood’s website)

500g flour (I used a mixture of plain and strong white bread flour)

10g salt

80g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

300ml cool water

300g butter

Put the flour in a large bowl or in a mixer. Put the salt and sugar on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. Add the water and start to mix. Go slowly at first, then speed it up, until the dough is quite stiff. Shape into a ball and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle. Flatten the butter to a rectangle the same width and two thirds of the length (so, for example if your dough is 60 x 20 cm, flatten the butter to 40 x 19 cm. Making it a tiny bit smaller will ensure that it doesn’t seep out the edges.) Place the butter over one end of the pastry. Fold the exposed dough over the butter, like so:

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Then fold the other side over, so that you have alternating layers of butter and dough. Put back into the fridge to let the butter harden for an hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll into a rectangle, as before. Fold one third up to the centre, then the other third over the first, so that you have a neat square with three layers of dough. Put back into the fridge for an hour. Repeat this process twice more. Then let your dough rest in the fridge over night or for at least eight hours.

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When you are ready to shape, roll out to a rectangle, and cut into triangles with a longer base than sides.

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Roll up and shape into crescents. Place on a lined baking sheet and allow to rise for two hours, or until doubled in size. Heat your oven to 200 degree Celcius. Before baking, lightly egg wash each croissant to give it a shiny top, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Serve warm with butter, jam and lots of coffee.

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xxR