I enjoy experimenting with new tastes - adding a little exotic twist here and there to a cake, combining flavours I'd never have tried before to create all manner of interesting bakes.
But there's something to be said for sticking to old classics. The kind that taste exactly as you remember they should. The kind of bakes that are a constant through the times, holding their place among the newer creations inspired by such shows as The Great British Bake Off.
And who better to turn to for a baking classic, than Mary Berry herself?
I received two lovely recipe books this Christmas, Ruby Tandoh's 'Crumb' (which I very much look forward to trying out), and Mary Berry's 'Absolute Favourites'.
With the spare time that those days between Christmas and New Year leave, I decided to test out a recipe and went for Mary's Mini Bakewell Tarts.
I've discovered I love pretty much anything almond based, and have tried a fair few recipes calling for almonds.
Peach and Raspberry Frangipane | Cherry & Almond Cupcakes (GF) | Almond, Pistachio & White Chocolate Biscotti | Flourless Almond & Coconut Cake (GF)
These Bakewell tarts are simple to make and go down a treat. It's a bit of balancing act, baking at home. Some of the bakes are devoured within twenty-four hours, others hang around for days until I'm sick of eating them just because I feel I ought to. Happily, these tarts fall into the former category.
Tasting exactly as Bakewell tarts should (and I'd know. I've had a Bakewell tart from Bakewell before!), they're sweet but not sickly. The almond mixture, icing, raspberry jam and pastry all work together in perfect unison to make a delicious tea time/ elevenses/ after dinner/ pre-lunch/ post-breakfast/ quarter-past-three/ midnight/ bedtime etc. snack.
I topped half with the traditional glacé cherry and the other half with roughly piped milk chocolate. Ideally I'd have found the right equipment to pipe neat lines... but they didn't last long enough to bother me anyway!
Recipe from Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites
To make 12 tarts you will need:
A 12-hole bun tin and an 8cm pastry cutter
150g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
75g butter (plus extra for greasing)
35g icing sugar
1 small egg
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1/2tsp almond extract
60g raspberry jam (I used roughly a teaspoon per tart)
100g icing sugar
About 3tsp water
6 glacé cherries (halved)
1. Begin by greasing the bun tin. Then chop the butter for the pastry into small cubes.
2. Measure the flour and butter into a mixing bowl and rub together with your fingertips to form breadcrumbs (alternatively, this can be done in a food processor). Beat the egg, then add it and the icing sugar to the mixing bowl and mix everything together to form a dough.
3. Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour, then tip the dough out and roll until about 3mm thickness. Use the pastry cutter to cut out the pastry cases and put into the bun tin. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. While the pastry chills, you can pre-heat the oven to 200°c (180°c fan), place a baking tray in to heat up and wash up! This should still leave plenty of time to make the filling before the chill time is up.
5. For the filling, add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Use an electric whisk or food processor to whizz until creamy. Add the eggs, ground almonds and almond extract and combine everything together.
6. Once chilled, take the bun tin from the fridge, remove the clingfilm and prick the base of each pastry case with a fork. Add a little jam to the centre of each case, then add the almond mixture to each one and spread evenly.
7. Put the bun tin on the hot baking tray in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, looking for the pastry to be baked and the tops of the almond mixture to be golden.
8. Remove the tarts from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, make the glacé icing by slowly adding water to the sugar and stirring until smooth but stiff rather than too runny (you may need less than the 3 teaspoons of water). Spoon the icing onto the tarts and add a half cherry to each one. If adding chocolate, melt the chocolate before making the icing, and have in a piping bag ready. Once the tarts are iced, pipe thin lines of chocolate across, and use a cocktail stick or skewer to drag along the top to create the pattern. Leave the tarts to set, then eat!
I'll certainly be trying these out again, and perhaps creating a single, large Bakewell tart too. Let me know if you try these out!
What's your favourite classic bake?
Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites, Mary Berry 2015, BBC Books