Around Christmas we got friends together for a Zoom cocktail party with a custom cocktail class with Tammy’s Tastings (I highly recommend her mix-at-home online cocktail classes. They are super fun and I’ve learned a ton from taking several over the course of this lockdown, now in our 11th month…)
The group was wondering what to do next, and we decided on a Zoom dinner party where we’d each make different courses and deliver them around, then heat them up and eat them together online.
The theme we chose was Alice in Wonderland, and when I saw after a month of sign-ups that no one had taken dessert, it seemed obvious to me I should grab it and naturally I had to make the Queen of Hearts’ Tarts. I don’t believe Lewis Carroll ever specified what kind of tarts the Knave stole from the Queen, but it’s winter, and I have been craving the ripe red summer fruits and berries. This is why we freeze as many strawberries as we can–for just such an occasion.
Next step, order heart-shaped mini tart pans! This turned out to be more difficult than usual because lots of places that sell them were sold out — not sure if that was because of Valentine’s Day or the pandemic, but I eventually found a place that could ship them to me in time.
Then I looked over a lot of different tart recipes. “Tart” seems to mean just about anything that can be called a pie, just smaller. Talking it over with some Pokemon Go playing friends who are into baking, one of them suggested the hip thing because of the Great British Baking show is “bakewells,” a kind of tart that includes a fruit jam and an almond frangiapane. You know how much I love the almond in the king cake, right? This seemed right up my alley.
I thought about trying to develop a bakewell version of my strawberry balsamic vinegar basil pie, but that is really a summer pie and our indoor herb garden doesn’t have that much basil in it right this second (yes, another pandemic project: indoor herb garden — if you think that’s a cliche, wait till you hear all three of us are learning Japanese and Jess taught herself the ukelele).
One of my favorite ways to elevate a recipe, though, is add flowers. Could I make a rose strawberry jam? Turns out that’s such a natural fit there are some great recipes out there for it. I ended up following the one at Completely Delicious fairly closely: “Strawberry and Rose Water Jame with Vanilla Bean” except I doubled the rose water and also put in some dried rose petals from the pink burmese rose buds I have on hand from Aroma Tea Shop. Since I was using frozen strawberries I didn’t have to cut them or crush them because they start to fall apart once they thaw. I also didn’t use bottled lemon juice — I juice a lemon and saved the zest to use in the frangiapane. And I reduced it down for about 45 minutes instead of the 20-30 in the recipe.
For the tart crust, I went with the almond shortcrust in the recipe at The Elegant Econonmist for strawberry rose bakewell tart, but I didn’t use their frangiapane recipe or any other instructions, really.
The frangiapane came from the BBC Good Food website, which has several mini bakewells recipes, but I used one by snugglewuffin, which made just exactly the amount needed to top 16 mini heart-shaped tarts.
I held off decorating them until the next day. I kind of felt like royal icing was gilding the lily, and yet it makes them look quite nice since baked frangiapane looks kind of like the surface of the moon. And it’s traditional. Since the jam didn’t taste that strongly of rose — I might try quadrupling the rose water instead of merely doubling it next time — I thought I could put some rose flavor or scent in here, and so I brewed a rose tea to use instead of water.
As an accompaniment instead of a cocktail, I recommended a strong black tea. The bitter note in the tea cuts the intense sweetness of the tart and vice versa. I went with a high mountain Ceylon I got from Aroma Tea Shop in San Francisco (they mail order). I made a packet of tea leaves for each person.
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