Thursday 12 November 2009

Val's Apple and Apricot Selby Tart, with an Easy Biscuit Base and Topping

I have a passion for passed-down-through-generations family recipes, and this lovely, easy sweet tart epitomises everything that's good about an ancestral recipe: it's quick and simple to make, it uses ingredients you're likely to have in your cupboard, and it tastes exactly like home.

My mom made this many times during my childhood, and we always knew it as 'Selby Tart'. I don't know where that name came from, but I can tell you that the recipe originally came from a close friend of our family, the late, dear Val Horak. (She was one of those honorary 'aunties' most people have: that is, you think she's a blood relative until you discover, to your astonishment and disappointment, that she's not related to you at all.)

This is a versatile, biscuit-style base and topping that you can make very quickly. There is no need to bake the base of the tart 'blind' to crisp up its base (look, this is a family pud, with not a hint of cheffiness); simply press it thinly into the base and up the sides of a tart or quiche pan, add the filling, grate over the remaining pastry and sling into the oven. And, of course, serve with billows of whipped cream, or cold vanilla ice cream.

I filled my latest Selby Tart with gently stewed fresh, peeled apples and depipped apricots, but, if you're in a hurry, you use any fruit you like as a filling: drained, tinned apples, peaches, guavas or apricots; spicy Christmas mincemeat from a jar, or just a thick layer of lovely strawberry jam.

Val's Apple and Apricot Selby Tart, with an Easy Biscuit Base and Topping

For the dough: 
230 g butter, softened
1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar or white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t (5 ml) vanilla extract
400 g white cake flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder
a pinch of salt
the finely grated zest of a small lemon

For the filling (or use a quick filling; see above):
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar
375 ml water
a slice of lemon, peel and all
an inch-long stick of cinnamon
5 large apples
10 fresh apricots

To top:
3 T (45 ml) granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground fresh cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. First make the dough: put the softened butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, beat well, for about a minute, or until the mixture is well blended. Gradually add the beaten eggs and the vanilla essence dollop by dollop, whisking well after each addition. Don't worry if the mixture looks as if it's going to curdle: all will come right when you add the dry ingredients. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the butter mixture, add the lemon zest and then, using a wooden spoon, gently mix to form a soft biscuit dough. When the dough forms a ball under your spoon, knead it lightly with your fingertips for 30 seconds, and slice the ball in half. Wrap one half of the dough in cling-film and place in the deep freezer, for about 20 minutes, to firm up. Wrap the other half in cling-film and place in the fridge.

Now make the filling (or use an instant filling, as suggested above). Put the water and the sugar into a saucepan, place over a moderate heat, and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Add the lemon slice and cinnamon stick, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to create a clear syrup. Peel and core the apples, chop them into chunks and drop them in the simmering syrup. Halve the apricots, remove the pips, and add them to the syrup. Allow to simmer, on a low heat, for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples are just tender. (Poke the tip of sharp knife through the thickest apple chunk: if there is no resistance, the fruit is ready.) Put a colander over a big bowl, and tip the fruit into the colander, allowing the syrup to drain into the bowl beneath. Set aside to cool slightly.

Take the refrigerated half of the dough out of the fridge and press it, using your fingertips, into to the base, and up the sides, of a shallow tart case or quiche pan, spreading it quite thinly (it should be 3-4 mm thick). Trim the edges of the dough using a sharp knife.

Pile the cooled, drained apples and apricots (or the filling of your choice) into the dough case. Remove the other half-ball of dough from the freezer, and coarsely grate it (using a cheese grater) all over the fruit topping. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake, at 180° C, for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Makes 1 tart, which serves 8-10 as a dessert
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Nina Timm said...

I love the pantry-cupboard kinda recipes....Imagine serving this tomorrow morning for late breakfast tea?????

Jeanne said...

Mmmm, store-cupboard recipes are my favourite too. Wonder if Val was a distant cousin of mine?!

Homemade Heaven said...

This is my favourite kind of dessert - simple and homely, but so good to eat. I can think of very few cheffy things that leave memories like this.

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks for the lovely feedback.

Jeanne, I seem to remember asking you, when we met, if you were related to this branch of the Horaks, and you said no.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, dont you just love the sight of the seasons first little apricots, stored plump and firm in a sort of rosy/golden tottering pile at Spar? Now I have something else apart from chutney to turn them into! Thanks!

Juz said...

It looks so delicious - I just love oven baked desserts.


Anonymous said...

U....m! It makes me go around the table. So good one to chop. Better with a cup of tea... Good time.